January 2015

The GSB team are competing for the third year in the John Molson MBA International Case Competition in Montreal this week (4-9 January 2015). Coach Johannes Schueler provides a daily update below on their progress through the various rounds of the competition.


Our thanks once again to the Canada Southern Africa Chamber of Business and Hatch for their support of the team.


After a fews days of acclimatisation and additional case preparation in New York City, the team arrived safely in Montreal on Friday. In line with this year’s “sustainability” theme, we were fetched from the airport in Elon Musk’s brand new Tesla - the world’s most modern fully electric high performance car. This car can reach up to 450km before charging, recharges in 20min at zero cost at ca. 300 recharge stations (number growing at 100% per 6 months) in Canada and the US and accelerates faster than most sports cars. It is completely silent and has too large trunks, since the motor is of the size of a water melon and it doesn’t require a clutch or gearbox. What an experience!

Sunday saw the opening ceremony, with the 36 participating business schools being divided into 6 clusters - more info below (*). The UCT GSB has joined cluster A and will compete against University of Sherbrooke (Canada), FIA (Brazil), National University of Singapore (NUS), HEC Montreal (Canada) and Kent University (USA). Both HEC and NUS have been incredibly strong in recent years and will be hard to beat. It appears that UCT landed in the toughest cluster this year… The temperature difference to Cape Town is now ca. 53 degrees but the team is in best spirit and ready for the competition.

Day 1 Monday started with a case on Warby Parker, an eyeglass manufacturer that successfully disrupted the industry through a vertically integrated delivery model and unique product offering with a socially responsible element to it: Every pair of eyeglasses bought results in a free pair of eyeglasses given to someone in a developing country. The challenge was to come up with a sustainable growth strategy for the company. UCT was up against the University of Sherbrooke, who presented in French. UCT suggested an expansion of the currently successful USA market into the UK, an operationally efficient “last-mile” delivery concept via pop-up stores as well as operational adjustments in the delivery of its impact creating services in the developing countries. An excellent presentation was rewarded with a clear win for UCT, 8-3 in points. Go Cape Town!

Day 2 Tuesday saw UCT up against the National University of Singapore (NUS) in case 2 and FIA Business School (Brazil) in case 3.

Case 2 dealt with Paris’ long standing soccer club St Germain, challenging the students to develop an effective turnaround and growth strategy for the previously prestigious club. After years of inconsistent leadership, poor game performance, safety problems due to hooligans and changing shareholder structure (thus misaligned strategic objectives), the club had lost its former glory. The stadium fill rate was less than 70% on average, income through sponsorship and broadcasting was at an all-time low. The groundwork for change in game performance had been done by hiring an excellent coach and 4 star players but this and not yet translated into higher visitor numbers. Team UCT recommended a very smart “love-local” re-brandig strategy that would focus on linking local Parisienne fans back to an experience of passion for Paris and soccer, leveraging the global trends of urban identification and city patriotism. Also, a strong emphasis on friendly but tight security was required. Outstanding presentation, the judges couldn’t stop applauding the team for a spot-on performance. This was rewarded with another clear 8-3 win for UCT.

Case 3 was a short case, allowing for half of the preparation and only 15min instead of 25min presentation time. The case was a classic CEO email inbox assessment centre-type situation. A CEO had just come back to his office after a week’s leave and finds 27 new messages in his email inbox, including new business opportunities, shareholder requests, a key staff member threatening to resign, union issues, supplier problems, customer requests, etc. The challenge was to prioritise and delegate the issues according to their urgency and importance. It was impossible to come up with a highly differentiated presentation strategy in this scenario. UCT delivered well and so did FIA. The decision was made in slight favour of the other team (5-6 result).

In the evening, we were invited to attend (and official welcomed via the bill-board) a rocking Ice Hockey match in the famous ever-sold-out Montreal Bell centre.

After 3 cases, team UCT GSB is now leading its cluster! With two more cases to go, the Cape Townians are in best spirits to continue competing for the semi finals. Today will see UCT competing against HEC Montreal.

Day 3 Today’s case was presented live by the founders of Lufa Farms, a successful Montreal based Urban agriculture project that required an expansion strategy to take the company to US$100 million turnover within the next 5 years.

Lufa farms grows organic vegetables in glass house farms that are primary located on urban space roof-tops. The farms’ close location to its customers can offer a longer ripening time before picking and thus a fresher quality product with longer post-purchase shelf-life.

Team UCT came up with an accelerated but organic growth strategy, backed by 4 investors. The expansion would be rolled out both in Montreal as well as other locations such as Boston. The strategy was backed by a well thought-out financial plan as well as a very sound implementation strategy. This was an absolute rock-star performance - extremely well thought-out strategy and a top class presentation. The judges seemed to be of a similar view and awarded UCT with a very clear 8-3 score against a generally strong HEC Montreal. Well done, team UCT!!

After 4 cases, UCT is the clear leader in its cluster and is now only one case away from the semi-finals. The team is in high spirits.

Day 4 Case 5 dealt with the Quebec-based pharmaceutical retail chain Brunet that required a defensive strategy against American big box chain Target entering the Canadian market. Target was selling pretty much everything, including prescription drugs, at very competitive prices. Brunet’s history spanned over 150 years, mostly relying on a traditional value proposition of good service delivery via knowledgable staff as well as excellent store locations in highly frequented areas. Team UCT recommended an enhancement of Brunet’s service offering trough the use of online technology as well as a customer-profile targeted above- and below-the-line communication concept. The moderate expansion objective was to be achieved via a slightly accelerated new-store development plan, increasing Brunet’s portfolio by 45 additional stores over the coming three years. Once again, a well-thought-out strategy and excellent presentation delivery. The judges awarded a wipe-out score of 9-2 for UCT.

After 5 cases, the Cape Townians hved won their division and will be competing against Porto Business School (Portugal) and the John Molson School of Business (Canada) in this afternoon’s semi finals! Well done UCT, go for gold!

Day 5 Congratulations to Porto School of Business for making it into the finals. All 3 teams presented well and we know that the judges decision was a very close call.

To our team UCT GSB: From your coach’s perspective, you have been absolutely phenomenal. I can hardly think of a more rewarding experience than being part of your journey from April 2014 to today. Certainly, the quality of your presentations at this competition has been absolutely outstanding and left many judges, team coaches and participants in awe. It is very clear that you managed to build some serious skills and competencies for life and that you will be able to tackle many complex business scenarios with confidence from here.

Johannes Schueler, Team Coach

More info on the competition: 36 teams have been split into 6 clusters of 6 teams each and are currently competing in round-robin style. Similar to a soccer world cup, these initial 5 round-robin cases per cluster always see two schools directly competing head-on-head.

To determine the winner of each round-robin case, 11 points are distributed to the two competing teams. Possible outcomes are thus 11-0, 10-1, 9-2, 8-3, 7-4 or 6-5, with 11-0, 10-1 and 9-2 being highly unlikely results. 8-3 is considered a very clear win by one of the teams, 7-4 still a relatively clear win and 6-5 a more balanced result with one of the teams slightly better than the other. The winning team receives an additional 30 bonus points.

After the round-robin, only the top team of the 6 clusters plus an additional 3 schools (= 9 teams in total) are then competing in 3 groups of 3 teams each in the semi-finals. The 3 winning teams of each group are then facing each other in the finals.

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