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Management team takes second in close-fought case competition

Screenshot of U of T Scarborough team member Vingston Satgunam, from the presentation video for Unishop, a web and social media platform to showcase all of Unilever's products. The proposal was part of the Unigame case competition, held annually by Unilever.

After a tight finish, a U of T Scarborough Management student team won the $5,000 second prize in a national business case competition that drew 132 submissions from universities across Canada.

The three UTSC team members were Osama Siddique, a fourth-year Management co-op student specializing in Strategy, Darshil Pandya, also in fourth year in the same program, and Vingston Satgunam, a second-year Management student who plans to specialize in Strategy.

They competed in Unigame, an international business challenge mounted by the U.K.-based consumer products giant Unilever. The first-prize winners, from the University of British Columbia, will compete in a global final in London.

“We were told that our team was very, very close to the other team,” says Siddique, UTSC’s leader. “The judges actually had to deliberate longer than expected to come to a final winner.”

The UTSC team got support and coaching from Management Professor Kristina McElheran, who has taught Strategy to Siddique and Pandya and was delighted by the win.

“They clearly internalized the course material and figured out how to apply it, which is what every professor wants to see,” she says. “They also wanted as much feedback as possible. They wanted to be pushed hard, and I’m sure that attitude is why they were successful.”

McElheran, who is also a Digital Fellow at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, was an especially good fit as a coach given the topic of the challenge.

Unilever noted that its products are as diverse as Axe deodorant, Mazola corn oil and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. So amid the online retail revolution, the company asked teams how it might “efficiently, effectively and most sustainably reach these digital consumers with our products and platforms.”

In a three-minute video edited by Satgunam, the UTSC team proposed UniShop, an online web and social media platform that would showcase and sell all of Unilever’s disparate products and promote cross-selling among the brands, gaining valuable customer data at the same time.

“Currently the brands have their own sites but there is no central platform,” says Siddique.

Once chosen as one of five finalists, the team refined its video and prepared an in-person presentation delivered at Unilever Canada’s Toronto headquarters. After the judging, Siddique says the team got insightful feedback from the company’s CEO and other senior executives. “Interacting with the C-level leadership team was more valuable than any of the cash prizes,” he says.

McElheran notes that such real-world experiences are part of the value of business case competitions. “It’s also great for students who may not understand their own quality and the quality of the education they receive at UTSC, until they take it out onto a broader stage.”

© University of Toronto Scarborough