BizMaestros grooming aspiring business leaders
Unilever's flagship business competition, 'BizMaestros' is back for its 12th edition. This time, it will be held in a hybrid format with Rounds 1 and 2 taking place virtually, while Round 3 will be a closed in-person event with a limited audience.
The Top 30 teams from Round 1 will progress to Round 2 where each team will receive gruelling mentor sessions from business leaders. From Round 2, the Top 6 will compete in Round 3 where they will present their ideas and defend them in front of the judges. This year, the esteemed judge panel includes Zaved Akhtar (CEO & MD, Unilever Bangladesh Ltd); KSM Minhaj (CEO & MD, Unilever Consumer Care Ltd); Syed Nasim Manzur (MD, Apex Footwear Ltd); Rupali Chowdhury (MD, Berger Paints Bangladesh).
The winners get to represent Team Bangladesh in the Unilever Future Leaders' League held on the international stage. The winners are also fast-tracked into Unilever's "Future Leaders' Program", the management trainee program – a jumpstart into their business career. The 2nd and 3rd runners-up receive the elusive opportunity to do their internship at Unilever after graduation.
"We don't view BizMaestros as just a business competition," says Mrs Shamima Akhter – Head of Corporate Affairs, Partnerships & Communications. "For us, it's a youth development initiative. Our aim has always been to bridge the gap between academics and corporate life for the young business leaders."
"Presenting in the classroom and presenting in the boardroom filled with business executives who have decades-long experience are worlds apart. Participating in BizMaestros gives students the platform to equip themselves with the practical skills required to succeed in the corporate world. Every year, we share our data and our pain points with the students, and we are constantly blown away by their sheer intellect and creativity," adds Sibat Nuhas, Employer Brand and Diversity & Inclusion Manager.
Not your ordinary business competition
BizMaestros is one of the most prestigious business competitions in Bangladesh. It was developed keeping in mind to give students the "the thrill of real business".
"The part that I loved most about BizMaestros," Rakib Ibnay Hossain, Brand Manager, BAT Japan, and BizMaestros Champion 2016 says, "is that it pushes you to get real. Unlike most competitions, this is organized by an organization about the businesses they manage. Thus, the competition content is more practical, diverse, data driven, and rich with consumer insights. You'll be mentored and judged by people who work on these products themselves. These alone make BizMaestros an incredibly rich experience for any business grad, particularly for the ones who will start their professional lives in a few months."
Why you should participate in BizMaestros
The pandemic has wrecked the job market where highly qualified candidates struggle harder now to find employment, let alone the most suitable one for them. As a new entrant in the job market, becoming a (semi)finalist at BizMaestros adds a big boost to one's CV. Moreover, previous finalists and winners all rave about the impact BizMaestros has had on their transition as professionals.
Md. Ali Zulayed, Co-Founder and CEO, Abelling and the first BizMaestros Champion, credits the competition for preparing him for his transition from undergrad to business and entrepreneurship. "The competition forced us to think like real business owners. I remember we had to come up with a 3-year plan for the recently launched "Pureit": marketing, operations, and finance. Looking back, I realize that BizMaestros was an early 'gym' that helped build the same muscle I've used throughout my career growing brands for Unilever, Heading Product Operations for Uber, and now building my own startup."
Reflecting on what he has learned from winning both BizMaestros in 2015 and the Unilever Future Leaders' League in 2016 (the only Team so far), Ishmam Chowdhury, Price Specialist, Grameenphone says, "I believe the habit of dealing with pressure situations, like being in front of judges, explaining to them your team's idea, in a way to win them over, really translates to solid life skills for both real-life and job life. This includes persuasion as well as being comfortable to approach someone you must persuade. Lack of confidence is a real thing and does affect such negotiations."
How to win
Participating in a monumental competition means that the stakes are higher and so are the nerves when brainstorming case solutions.
Despite the average student's assumption that winning a business competition means putting on a dazzling performance for show, that is not the thought process of actual winners. "My teammates and I always approached competitions as if we were solving the business problem for real. That mindset made the foundation to improve and thrive, not only in competitions but as future professionals," says Rakib.
Ishmam recommends students to observe their surroundings and make notes early on, even doing some grocery shopping on their own. "Ultimately, a lot of products are sold at this end point and seeing the different ways companies try to promote their product, even talking with the shop owner might provide some crucial insight that might not be easily available on textbooks."
Suva Karmaker, BizMaestros Semi-Finalist 2020, advises students to focus on the assessment criteria on each round and the marks allocated in each criterion. This means to put more emphasis on the criteria with the higher marks.
Open for all
This year, Unilever expects to engage with around 600+ final-year students from different universities, including ones in the farthest corners. One of their core principles is respecting diversity and appreciating talent, purpose, and high performance over grades and place of study/residence. Suva is the first person from Army IBA to work here. Despite the lack of alumni support, his sheer will and determination to win business competitions from the first year prepared him well to tackle BizMaestros. "The resources from the Unilever website helped me a great deal, as did the mentoring sessions."
"In fact, once you start working here, you'll be surprised by the level of respect Unilever has for diversity. The only barrier between you and success is your confidence, which can be overcome by participating in as many business competitions as you can."
Is everything lost for students who cannot reach the final round?
"Absolutely not!" says Suva, who is currently working as a Territory Manager, Unilever. "Solving the cases gives you a thorough knowledge of the business operation of Unilever. This means that in the recruitment process, you don't have to do any extra research like a normal candidate might. Ultimately, whether in BizMaestros or Unilever, what matters most is your passion and your dedication to winning."
Sakshi Handa, Unilever Bangladesh's HR Director, is excited about the students' upcoming proposals. "One of our commitments is to support 10 million youths globally by 2030, by equipping them with the essential skills for the modern workforce. We want to invest in the youth for their personal and professional success. As such, BizMaestros is close to our heart," she adds.
In keeping with the current times, the theme for this year's "BizMaestros" is "Navigating the New Normal." The submission deadline for Round 1 is 29th October. The competition is expected to run till the end of November.