MBA team takes 1st in UC Berkeley competition

Author: Carol Newswriting

Experts predict that two of the five largest world economies will be in Latin America by 2050. This forecast makes Mexico an essential market for companies to consider in their plans for growth and development.

A team of Notre Dame MBA students from the Mendoza College of Business won first place in a case competition held March 20-21 for their solution for a human resources staffing company looking to grow in the Mexican market. Paul Sari, Rohit Jacob, Balakrishnan Rangan, Gerardo Garza-Delgado, Pedro Gimenez and Giancarlo Ferrara took home $4,000 for winning the 1st annual Latin American Business Challenge hosted by the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley.

Other participating MBA programs included Georgetown, the University of Chicago, the University of California-Los Angeles, the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the University of California-Berkeley.

The event was hosted by the Latin American and Hispanic Business Association for the purpose of bringing together students from top MBA programs with corporations that have interests in Latin American and Hispanic business. ManPower Mexico, a human resources service, and ice cream company Dreyer’s Inc. were sponsors for the competition. The case centered around ManPower’s position and growth in the Mexican market, particularly in view of recent competition from international firms and lower-cost staffing services.

“What we found intriguing about the case was trying to incorporate not only our knowledge about the Mexican market, but also the team's overall knowledge of other cultures and best practices,” said Garza-Delgado. “The biggest challenge was to understand and communicate the cultural and operational frameworks Mexico has, compared to other countries, and how to create or adapt particular ideas to address the specific market.”

Teams were judged by a panel of corporate executives and Haas faculty members on the quality and creativity of their recommendation, their oral presentation, and their performance during the Q&A period.

With the exception of Jacob, who graduates in 2009, the Notre Dame team was comprised of first-year MBA students. The Latin American Challenge was their first opportunity to compete together as a team.

 “Being the first ‘all-international’ team in a case competition representing Notre Dame, we felt pretty good working together for the first time and actually sitting down to discuss everything as a team,” said Garza-Delgado. “Although we understood the business issue, the key was understanding the client's point of view and really putting ourselves in their place.”

As with any case competition, the pressure was intense since the time to analyze the case and arrive at a proposed solution is so short. Adding to this was an untimely crash of the laptop that held the Notre Dame group’s final presentation, which left about 10 minutes to recreate the slides.

The team presented three solutions to ManPower’s goal of increasing market share, each with separate financial forecasts, said Jacob. These included partnering with the career development offices in Mexico’s top 10 universities, working with local government and technical education providers to train employees in ManPower’s unique payroll system, and a business-to-business solution designed to promote networking with international companies.

Key to winning the competition was presenting solutions that were innovative as well as implementable, said Jacob. “During the presentation of the B2B idea, two of the judges looked at each other and very loudly said that it was a great idea.”


By: Carol Elliott, Director of Newswriting
Mendoza College of Business
March 31, 2009

More Wins for Notre Dame MBAs
Notre Dame MBA students racked up two additional case competition wins in the last couple of weeks, including:

The TCU 2nd Annual Neeley Sales & Marketing Strategy Case Competition (March 28, 2009). Sixty MBA students from 23 universities across the United States competed in randomly assigned teams of six in front of Sony Electronics executives, who presented the case and acted as judges. First-year Notre Dame student Balakrishan "Balki" Rangan was on the winning team, which was awarded $6,000 in prize money.

The Notre Dame Financial Restructuring Internal Case Competition (March 27, 2008). The team of Drew Hill, Trevor Bradna, Chris Ziener and Margot Woolley took first place honors in the event, which was  organized by the Notre Dame MBA Consulting Club and open to all Notre Dame MBA students. The competition was sponsored by the New York City-based global consulting firm of Alvarez & Marsal.  Four teams advanced from the initial round of the competition on March 20 to the final event held in Chicago.