Eat. Sleep. Do business competitions. Repeat. | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 21, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:22 PM, October 24, 2016

Eat. Sleep. Do business competitions. Repeat.

It's about carrying your institution's reputation on your shoulders. It's about keeping the legacy going. It's something every first year BBA student dreams of. Business competition: the biggest buzzword in the life of a business student that somehow convinces us to voluntarily prepare slides and practice presentations, despite knowing very well the verbal assault from judges that awaits us.

With thousands of students investing countless hours into these competitions, the question arises: Are local business competitions really worth doing? Here's a brief analysis.

THE PROS

1. Time management

These competitions are designed to test your grit under pressure. More often than not, you will find yourself working deep into the night to meet impossible deadlines (let's just ignore the part where we procrastinate). However, after a couple of attempts, you get a good understanding of how you react under the pump, which will eventually help you go a long way when facing tougher challenges in life.

2. Presentation skills

Local competitions give you multiple opportunities to present in front of large audiences, which play a crucial role in increasing confidence and overcoming fear of public speaking. Kazi Raihan Abser, a sophomore at IBA-DU says “We only got two opportunities to present in class during our first year. These competitions provided an additional platform to practice and develop our on-stage skills.”

3. Money, fame (and swag?)

If you manage to win a major business competition in Bangladesh, you will become a local sensation, even if it's just for a week. You will see your proud face in social media, local newspapers and even television. Your Facebook timeline will be filled with wishes and demands for treats from seniors and juniors alike. Apart from all the fame, business competitions are definitely a good platform to represent your institution in a positive way.

4. CV content

At the end of the day, winning business competitions does not guarantee a job. But it will add a lot of weight to your CV. Akib Moin Arka, senior at IBA-DU and winner of Brandwitz 2014 says, “It shows that you were proactive, and utilised your time doing something productive. It also shows that you are a team player and have the ability to convince people—two valuable skills most companies want in their employees.”

THE CONS

1. Lack of practical learning

In most local business competitions, we have no other option but to assume a lot things. For example, how logical or realistic is it really for a second year student to estimate a detailed financial plan for “Re-branding Bangladesh Biman” campaign? And it’s not only a matter of whether all of it’s theoretical or not. What's worse is, most of the innovative ideas that are presented during the competition will end up in the shelves, only to be used again in a similar competition. We learn how to ideate in a virtual world, with little concern over practical implementation. When research shows that implementation is 90% of the work, from a strategic point of view, are we learning much at all? This brings

2. Lack of transparency

We all have that friend who gives a stellar presentation and receives the best feedback from the judges, but ends up getting knocked out of the competition. Parashar Saha, senior at IBA-DU and winner of HSBC Business Case Competition 2014 says, "The organisers are often biased towards teams from the host institute. Sometimes, the judges are from completely different sectors and they don't even read the case or brief that they are supposed to judge the teams on.” This not only puts the credibility of the competition under scrutiny, it also has negative impacts on the confidence of the participants. After working so hard, a deserving team often ends up feeling below-par. 

3. Lack of variety

Most business competitions in Bangladesh are pretty similar in terms of expected content and judging criteria. Target market, a big idea, an alternative solution, feasibility, financials—the structure is always the same. While a lot of universities are adding new twists to the format, the eventual expectation in terms of content structure is still no different.

MORALE OF THE STORY

As it currently stands, business competitions are one of the best ways to utilise time for a BBA student, particularly in the early phase of one's university life.  After a certain point (third year perhaps) these competitions will teach you very little in terms of skills.

The exposure and experiences you gain will help you grow in confidence and motivate you to do better things. However, it's time we use those learnings, skills and motivation to do something significant for ourselves, and for our society. Performing well in business competitions reflects that we have the potential. It's time we use that potential to make our country proud.  

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