Students competing in international business case competitions over the past few weeks have brought home a string of successes to Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). Students from the RSM STAR Case Club competed in four major case competitions during February and March and achieved probably the most successful two weeks in Case Club history, with one outright win and three third places.

Business case competitions enable students to test their skills and knowledge from the classroom in a real-life business case challenge – or a series or combination of short and long challenges lasting from four hours to 48 hours.International case competitions continued online during the Covid-19 pandemic but only recently have students been able to travel to their first in-person international venues for live case competitions again.

The RSM STAR Case Club is currently deep in preparations for hosting its own case competition, the RSMSTAR Case Competition on campus in Rotterdam from 7-14 April.

Well-being in Copenhagen is a winner

In early March, four of RSM’sBSc International Business Administration (IBA) students and students from 10 other business schoolstravelled to Copenhagen Business School (CBS) for the CBS Invitational Case Competition. The week-long competition had two distinct parts – a standalone five-hour case, and then a two-parter: a 16-hour case, and a further 8-hour case to incorporate feedback and pitch it again.

It was quite an adjustment for the students on the RSM team to travel to Copenhagen for a live competition, but the RSM team triumphed. These studentshave done their first year and a half of university studies in lockdown because of the Covid-19 restrictions and so have had none of the ‘normal’ busy social life on campus, but they quickly adjusted to the excitement of the in-person experience and got down to concentrating on the cases presented to them. Team members were: Anton Rzaev (IBA2),Christian Fisch (IBA2), Felix Fuhlendorf (IBA2), andShraddha Qaundinya (IBA1), and their coach was Adri Meijdam, RSM’s executive director of bachelor programmes.

In the first round, they presented the winning pitch for a five-hour challenge based on the Danish-made energy drink companySTATE Drinks. In the second and third rounds, they worked on the Danish beauty retailer Matas and were announced overall winners. Keep reading to find out more about their winning strategy.

Third out of a thousand in the CBS Global

A couple of weeks earlier in February, four RSM bachelor students: Luuk Pessers (IBA3); Julius Kistner (IBA2); Karlo Maloca (IBA1); and Valentin Kellerman (IBA1) achieved third place in the largest open business case competition in the world against hundreds of participating teams, the onlineCBS Global competition, organised by students at Copenhagen Business School. The final, after 24 hours of ‘case cracking’, was viewed by thousands of peopleonline and was in front of a jury panel comprising the CEO of Pandora, the CEO of Microsoft Europe, executives from Carlsberg, and senior partners from Bain&Company.

Masterful strategies in Montreal

Between 27 February and 5 March, theteam of Nina Ljubanovic (IBA2), Phoebe Nadorp (IBA2), Moritz Reimann (IBA2), and Lars Schoningh (IBA2), competed online at the world's largest invitational case competition against 28 topbusiness schools, the John Molson Undergraduate Case Competition (JMUCC) in Montreal. At RSM’s third attempt in this competition, this team made it to the finalsand took third place. They teamsolved cases for Coca-Cola, Sunday.com and Pfizer, and were praised for ‘the masterful execution of their strategies’ by representatives from these companies, as well as by Canadian senators.  The team took part in three challenging three-hour cases and one unique 24-hour case covering a range of industries and business disciplines. The RSM team in Montreal were able to enjoy a series of great social events designed to connect the academic and business worlds. They were guided and coached by their RSMcoach and Krohn In-House Strategy Consultant Nathan van den Dool.

Sustainable fashion at Washington Tacoma

An RSM team took third place at the Milgard Invitational International Case Competition of Corporate Social Responsibility (MIICCCSR), held virtually at the University of Washington in Tacoma on 24 and 25 February.

Four first-year IBA students: Karla Meschkat, Jasper Rijnders, Jin-Kyu Noack and Maximilian Meinickecame third out of 24 teams at the unique competition by pitching a sustainable investment proposal for the fashion industry. The team’s faculty adviser was RSM alumnus and Bain & Co Associate consultant Vincent Jahn, who had been a keen member of thew RSM STAR Case Club while he studied at RSM. The competition recording is available to view online.

What’s the Case Club about?

These fantastic results are the outcome of the hard work that Case Club members put in every week, usually around 8-10 hours, says RSM STARCase Club marketing officer Anton Rzaev. They prepare and practice cases, and invite past members and RSM alumni to give them feedback. Case Club members are invited toexclusive workshops from companies, from RSM faculty members, or from alumni working in industry.

“Sometimes we solve cases at the company’s request, sort of acting as consultants. But for competitions, we select teams carefully and prepare for 10 weeks with ourcoaches to lift everyone’s skills. We choose a team that has a range of skills, for example people who are good at preparing slides and creative thinkers, as well as people with finance, or data analytics or marketing skills because you don’t know if a competition case is going to be about a finance case, or something from retail, or in heavy industry,” explained Anton.

What happens at a Case cracking competition in Copenhagen

Anton gave a more detailed description of how it went at the CBS Invitational competition in Copenhagen in early March. After their top result in the first five-hour case, the RSM team came to the longest challenge of the competition, the 16-hour case based on Matas, a Danish beauty retail chain. The team’s proposals for Matas was also the subject of the third challenge – a further eight hours to incorporate the jury feedback from the 16-hour case and to refine the pitch for the final round.

Rebranding, AI, bundles and booths

Matas is one of the biggest online stores in Denmark and wanted suggestions for a strategy to extend its offering to include health and well-being products and supplements.The RSM team used the theme of ‘beauty from within’ to propose a four-pillared strategy:

  1. Visual rebranding to distinguish Matas’ beauty products from its health and well-being offerings
  2. The introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) personalisation on the website so that personalised health and well-being products would appear as recommendations alongside searches for beauty products
  3. Themed bundle offers to help consumers discover the new part of the Matas brand
  4. Experiential marketing to give Matas a presence with company booths at large events that draw major attention so as to target people who might not otherwise know about the company’s health and well-being offerings.

Their hard work put them into the final three, against the teams from Copenhagen Business School, and the National University of Singapore. They made a 15-minute pitch to the jury and fielded questions in front of an audience of 200 or so people.

Taking the proposals into the store

Team member Anton Rzaev said: “Afterwards we were able to talk to the CEO and other representatives of Metas, so we asked them if they would use any of our proposals. In fact they said they had set aside a couple of days to carefully go through them to see what they could use. It would be very exciting to see some of our solutions used by Metas!”

The finals of the CBS Invitational competition from 24 February can be viewed online. The RSM team at the Copenhagen Business School Invitational were coached and guided by RSM’s Executive Director of bachelor programmes Adri Meijdam.

To find out more about joining the RSM STAR Case Club, see the website.  

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren,communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at harriford@rsm.nl.

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