BizMaetros 2019, the tenth edition of the flagship business contest arranged by Unilever Bangladesh Limited, just concluded with Team Nox from Bangladesh University of Professional (BUP) winning the championship.
Unilever Bangladesh Limited is a large fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company of Bangladesh, with a strong distribution network around the globe. BizMaestros is their flagship business competition catered for the final year undergraduate students of the country. The company seeks to obtain the best talents for their talent pipeline through this competition. In addition, they provide the winners an opportunity to represent Bangladesh in the prestigious global contest "Unilever Future Leaders' League (FLL)." They also get the opportunity to participate in the Unilever Future Leaders' Programme, the recruitment of management trainee programme of Unilever.
This year's theme for BizMaestros was "Purpose-led, Future-fit". Participants worked with purpose-driven brands of Unilever Bangladesh with a view to creating future-fit businesses in diverse landscapes.
Rashik Riasat interviewed Shoaib Hussain, Labib Ahsan Rhythm, and Anika Rahman--all studying in BUP-- the team members of the winning team Team Nox. The winning idea was to introduce a minimally disruptive digital intervention using speech-to-text mechanisms so that retailers could better manage business and serve shoppers. The winning team shared its experiences of the competition and plans for the global round.
Question (Q): What do you think set you apart from the other teams to win the contest?
Shoaib: Truth be told, the most important thing we learnt from this competition is that no one team is inherently better than the other. Every single team had what it took to be the champion. It was merely the ability to secure an idea, a winning idea. Even though the ability to do that has a little contribution, most of it is luck-- a winning idea that luckily no other team but we could bring to the table.
Q: Can you briefly discuss the winning idea that earned you the trophy?
Labib: For us, the challenge was digitisation of neighbourhood shops. After thorough analysis, we felt that there was little room for digital intervention in the fast-moving environment of such shops. To invert the situation, we opted for a creative solution that offered to work into existing mechanisms of a neighbourhood retailer and shopper in a highly cost-effective fashion.
Q: What were the biggest hurdles you faced in the competition?
Anika: Every challenge had contexts to which we were very unfamiliar. We had to face situations where we absolutely did not know what to do and we had to brainstorm and come up with solutions from the scratch.
Q: What was your experience of the grand finale?
Shoaib: First of all, the feeling of dread was prominent since we were the last team to present. Then came the feeling of apprehension after the presentation as we wondered whether we had done a good enough job or not. And finally, the one that lasted the rest of the night was euphoria, as our team name was announced a mere 20 minutes after we had presented. It was a glorious night for us, one we will cherish forever.
Q: What are some of the key takeaways of this competition?
Anika: Honestly, this experience changed the way we used to think about business and the corporate landscape. It gave us first hand exposure to real market research and brand insight. We also directly interacted with retailers and customers. The most valuable lesson was that the business and the customers are as unpredictable as they can be. So, being prepared to expect the unexpected is the way to go.
Q: What would be your advice for the future participants of BizMaestros?
Labib: It's easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed with everything. But honestly, you don't need to know everything. In fact, no one even expects you to know everything. Try to cover all the requirements as well as you can and back your claims with data.
Q: How do you think BizMaestros is different from other business competitions that you have participated in?
Shoaib: One of the biggest takeaways from this competition is understanding to the fullest comprehension the importance of the consumer or end-user. No other competition we participated in had this feature. In BizMaestros, we talked to the shop owners and got hands-on experience of market research. We collected insights from both the customers and retailers.
Q: What are your expectations for the global stage and how do you plan to prepare for it?
Labib: Our expectations are honestly very high. Team Bangladesh has always been a team to watch in the Future Leaders' League. We expect to live up to that benchmark, giving it our best and hopefully continue this amazing run for Bangladesh.
The interviewer Rashik Riasat is a second year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. He can be reached at [email protected]