There we were, after presenting our ideas to company leaders, strategy executives and HR managers. The huge auditorium where the announcements took place were filled with excited people and you could feel the vibration of energy in the air after two day’s intense and concentrated work. The time has come to introduce all the winners of the very first HEC Business Competition.
But… how did we get there?
It didn’t take long to decide that we would like to be part of the HEC Business Competition where more than 20 countries, 33 universities and 150 of the best students were present.
From the beginning the competition was fierce, exemplified by the numbers: 250 people applied and 150 got selected to take part based on the results of an online test. Having passed the first hurdle, next thing we knew was that we have only a few days left to complete the first challenge from home.
The Online Challenge provided by Gameloft tested our skills in a very interesting industry: online gaming. If you know something about Kim Kardashian, then you probably also know that there is a mobile game where you can become a superstar under her coaching and take over the whole world. Our task was similar: we had to find a celebrity and construct a mobile game that would be the new hype. 3 long days followed and not long after sending in the final version, we were already on our way to Paris to dive into the vibrant atmosphere of the competition.
The first day on the beautiful Friday morning of April 10 began in a fully authentic manner where croissants, orange juice and coffee were served. As soon as the effects of caffeine kicked in, the hall started to fill up with cheerful and excited voices and apparently the location topic served as a perfect ice-breaker among people. Almost everyone had an interesting story about his/her adventurous trip to the HEC Paris campus, located 30 km from Paris. Some people’s flight got cancelled, some got lost in the city, yet everyone found their way eventually, even when it took them the whole night.
The day started off with the Negotiation Challenge from Credit Agricole and not having any finance background it was a challenge in the word’s true sense. Our team of 6 that was randomly put together had a big fight with numbers when setting the value of a company that we later had to sell. In the first 2 hours we did the calculations and in the last 2 hours we had to negotiate with another team of 6 that took the buyer role. Although we ended up receiving 3 times the real value of the company after selling it thanks to the great negotiation technique, valuing the company correctly and coming to a “fair price” was more appreciated by Credit Agricole.
The second – Business Development – Challenge was organized by Lufthansa. Our new team of 6 again put a bigeffort on the task to find a completely new revenue stream in 4 hours based on the Lufthansa Group’s Big Data. Having very limited information about the company’s actual Big Data, we truly had to use our grey cells and come up with an innovative idea that they haven’t thought of before. As we later found out – while talking to the company representatives – the limited information was exactly the trigger to come up with any kind of craziness without constraints. The process of randomly throwing in crazy ideas and killing them 2.5 hours long finally brought us to one very good one that no one could to criticize.
The first day ended with a lot of impressions from getting to know and working together with many new people, through enjoying the sunbath during lunch, to the friendly evening talks with always refilling beer glasses in our hands.
Saturday came sooner as we wanted and Lufthansa posed us the second challenge of the day (the first being the waking-up process). 6 people were randomly put together again, for the Innovation Challenge and we had 4 hours to find out what the future’s workplace would look like and how Lufthansa can be an attractive employer in the future based on this. The 4 hours flew away leaving us concerned and with the learning point that one shouldn’t leave the Powerpoint presentation for the last minutes.
Finally Lagardére’s Strategy Challenge was a real life task on how to change the company’s strategy to make it profitable again. Since no one from us knew the company before – although you meet them on almost every airport – they have such a broad and complex business model, that we could have spent weeks only finding out how their business worked. Yet we had only 4 hours again. This time we had worse luck with the crazy brainstorming session as we trashed as many ideas as we had created and were left with minor ones that didn’t meet our initial expectations.
In the last part of the day the best teams got to present their ideas to the company representatives. We made it to the top 9 teams for the Online Gameloft Challenge and to the top 5 teams for the BD Lufthansa Challenge, while the Strategy Lagardére Challenge required everybody to present their ideas.
So there we were in the huge auditorium, everything set and done, waiting for the results….
Our heart basically jumped out from its place when the winner of the Online Challenge was announced. We won!!! There was not even time for returning and processing all the information, 5 minutes later we found ourselves again on the stage: we took the second place at the Lufthansa BD Challenge!!! At this point the blood was pumping in our veins like never because we knew that there were only 2 other teams that got awards in 2 challenges. Yet the overall winner announcement came only after this… the air was chilly around us… we came with no expectations but huge energy and determination. And at this point we got to know how hard work paid off: we WON the overall competition!!! Unforgettable moments and two unforgettable days were behind us, but the celebration had yet to come: we treated ourselves to a wonderful Eiffel tower visit in the middle of the hot Paris spring.
The HEC Business Competition is something you don’t want to miss as an ambitious student. Apply next year and gain a truly international experience where you can show how to work & play hard!
Olga Szafonov & Anita Török
Winners of the HEC Business Game 2015