April 6, 2023Print | PDF
Earlier this year, four students from the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University were awarded first place at the 2023 University of Navarra International Case Competition (UNICC). As part of the Laurier Case Team, Hassan El-Essawi, Georgia Bryson, Vivek Bhardwaj, and Kyle Chang travelled to the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain for the competition. They were supported by Lazaridis School’s Associate Professor Sofy Carayannopoulos and alumna Samantha Sells (BBA/BMath ’19).
During the competition, which ran March 26 to 31, the team took part in two three-hour business case studies, followed by a larger and more complicated 12-hour case. Case study subjects included improving talent acquisition for Certest, a bio-technology diagnostic tool company; integrating luxury wines with high-quality art with a mission to increase sales through an international expansion strategy at a local winery; and identifying an expansion strategy with new product offerings for a telecom company in Latin America.
We are proud to celebrate the success of our students on the international stage and had the opportunity to hear more from the team about their experience in Spain.
Sofy was pivotal to our success at the University of Navarra International Case Competition. Her experience and success in international case competitions is unparalleled. Having travelled with the team at UNICC for several editions before covid, her advice was particularly valuable in our practices. Sofy’s insights on the questions we might expect to be asked, in addition to the scope and feasibility of our proposals, were key to our success at the competition.
Along with case-specific feedback, Sofy was our personal tour guide in Pamplona and Madrid! She knew a lot about the history and main sites of each of the cities, plus she had fantastic restaurant recommendations!
The first three-hour case question involved improving talent acquisition for Certest, a bio-technology diagnostic tool company. We were asked to develop a strategy to attract and retain young talent, while positioning Certest to be the most attractive employer. We recommended Certest support masters programs by providing Certest’s tools to these students and showcase their work on behalf of the firm at international trade conferences.
This was then followed by a very interesting three-hour case from a local winery called Bodega Otazu. The case requested an international expansion strategy. What was unique about this case was Otazu’s value proposition of integrating luxury wines with high-quality art. We pitched an expansion into the Chinese market while including augmented reality NFTs on the packaging of the wine bottles. One of our judges was the CEO of the winery which made it a valuable experience to hear his questions and feedback!
The 12-hour case company was Telefonica, and specifically, its Latin American phone network, Tuenti. The question was to identify an expansion strategy with new product offerings for Tuenti in Latin America. Our solution proposed targeted Ecuadorian consumers with no phone access and the creation of the MiTuenti ecosystem which would combine Tuenti’s existing phone services with mobile payments. Inspired by a similar successful strategy in India, we recommended Tuenti to give away free phones to the target market while addressing their key pain points such as a lack of perceived value for phones and limited digital skills to create loyal customers. To expand across Latin America, this strategy would start in Guayaquil, Ecuador and grow across 14 cities with the aid of a partnership with Banco Pichincha, a major Ecuadorian bank.
For the competition we traveled to Pamplona, where the competition was hosted, San Sebastian, a beach town one hour from Pamplona, and Madrid, the capital of Spain.
During free time, we ate pintxos (small appetizer common in the area), visited Bodega Otazu, the case company for the second three-hour case, and spent a full day in the seaside town known for its pintxos, San Sebastian. It was great to socialize with many of the other case competitors from around the world!
The competition was held at University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. We competed against: University of Southern California, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Concordia University, American University of Beirut, University of Navarra, Technological University Dublin, University of South Carolina, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, University of Alberta, McGill University, Norwegian School of Economics, University of California - Berkeley, University of Porto, Maastricht University, and HEC Montreal.
As a group, we joined the Laurier Case Team for a variety of reasons. Firstly, we were excited about the opportunity to collaborate with other students and learn from their unique perspectives. We were drawn to the idea of being part of a community of like-minded individuals who were all passionate about business and eager to succeed. We knew that working alongside motivated and talented individuals would help us grow both personally and professionally.
Another reason we decided to join the team was because we wanted to apply our business knowledge to real-world situations. We felt that case competitions offered a unique opportunity to develop practical problem-solving skills that could be applied in a variety of contexts. We were eager to analyze complex business problems and come up with innovative solutions that could make a positive impact.
Lastly, we were drawn to the idea of being part of a supportive community. We knew that being part of the Laurier Case Team would mean working closely with others towards a common goal, and we were excited about the prospect of being part of a team that was so committed to success. The team culture was important to us, and we felt that being part of a close-knit community would help us grow both personally and professionally.
Since joining the Laurier Case Team, we've had the opportunity to compete in several competitions. We've learned so much from our teammates and have developed valuable skills that will serve us well in the future. Being part of the team has been a great way to challenge ourselves, build our confidence, and grow as a team. We're excited to see what the future holds and can't wait to continue working together.
We estimate roughly 160 hours of work per team member goes into the preparation for a competition like this, plus countless hours of practice.
Our success in case competitions would not be possible without the commitment of our faculty advisor, Sofy, along with our alumnae coach Samantha Sells, who was a member of the Laurier winning team at UNICC in 2018. Sam shared a lot of advice as a former competitor, and she is someone that our entire team looked up to while preparing for and during the competition.
On Sunday afternoon before the competition, Sofy took us to Bar Gaucho in Pamplona to try foie pintxos. By complete chance, we ran into the University of Porto team. A couple of the competing members from the University of Porto organized a case competition that Kyle and Vivek competed in back in November. It was a lot of fun to reconnect with them, and Kyle will be returning to Porto later this year for vacation. He’ll be sure to visit the Porto team - they have become fantastic friends!
Also, some of the coaches’ reactions from other universities after our final presentation were quite amusing and flattering. We were told that one of them wanted to “steal us” for their own team, while another said that we had “ruined case competitions” because of the quality of our presentation!