Saturday, January 10, 2009

A dose of real-world adrenaline

Stimulating experiences from the simulation game in CBS

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” - Winston Churchill

Holding the above mentioned quote in reference, I must say, we, the students of CBS did grab the opportunity with both arms and managed to squeeze as much as possible out of it.

“Wow! I’m the CEO of my company!”
“I’m the chief marketing officer of my company!”
“What is your company’s market share?”
“Are we utilizing the full production capacity of our plant?”
“Lets invest more in advertising, that should do the trick.”

The whole campus reverberated with typical boardroom conversations for a good four days and any corporate executive dropping by our college would have found a whole lot of similarities between his work place and the environment prevalent inside the campus. The management games conducted by our college opened the eyes and minds of many who had presumed that number crunching, strategizing, accounting etc were not their cup of tea and for those who thought the concepts and theories learnt in various lectures were just a formality, the four day exercise proved to be a rude shock. We taxed our brains, huddled in groups of three and unknown to ourselves turned into the managers of tomorrow.

The game was tough but interesting enough, mean but enticing enough, confusing but intellectual enough. For, along the course of this game, we encountered almost every villain we thought materialized only in case studies, text books, news, etc to torment a business entity. But, simultaneously, we also learnt how to tame them and make them work for us.

Professor Dumblekar, the brilliant game moderator, had a python like hold on the proceedings as well as our minds and made sure that the participants literally sweated it out. He followed a very enigmatic approach in unraveling the secrets of the game. He kept us in the dark most of the time forcing us to go that extra mile in determining a suitable strategy for our business. An occasional, though rare, hint of a strategy from him surprisingly did throw us in more of a dilemma than we would have actually been in. He was very amiable and was also clear with what he wanted but was looking like a tyrant when some of us relaxed a little bit and showed our relaxation on our given job.

The game basically consisted of 5 quarters with quarter 0 being given at the start, on the basis of which we made decisions for the next quarter. The given product was ‘Carz’ who manufactured three different types of products(cars). He also told us the type of customers we could expect with the help of a perception map which helped us determine if the customers were impulsive buyers, brand conscious buyers or price sensitive buyers. In each quarter the game moderator generated a market demand estimate for a particular product initially and two or more products in the subsequent quarters.

The team consisted of a CEO, a CFO, a COO and a CMO. Since there were just three in a team one of us ended up doubling up with another role beside the one we already donned. The job definition for each role was made very clear and we had to stick to our role and not end up immersing our generous fingers in the other’s pie. We had to team up to decide what would be the suitable strategy to follow in meeting the specified demand in each quarter. We had to answer questions like:

“What would be the number of units we would need to produce?”
“Should we use the full production capacity of our plant?”
“What was the total units of raw materials we required to meet the production target?”
“How are we going to price the vehicle?”
“How much were we going to invest in advertising the product?”
“How much commission could we afford to give?”
“What would be a feasible credit sale cut in our budget?”
“How we are going to reduce the variable costs?” and many more.

The answers for such questions proved to be the difference between a successful quarter and a disastrous one. The results generated were given to us at the end of each quarter. The balance sheet, profit and loss, the cash flow and the average market price/market share information said it all.

Some were delighted, some were devastated.

The wealth of some increased manifold, for some it nose dived as much as it could.
The quarter results were an amalgamation of right decisions, bold decisions, wrong decisions, eccentric decisions and sometimes cataclysmic decisions too. These decisions also determined our KPI (Key Performance Indicators) scores which actually determined who made the best decisions and were consistent with their performance. The quarter results were determinants as to what was going wrong and what went right. Analyzing the results took a bit of time but did scream out the various aspects of our decisions which went right or needed improvement.

At no point of time were the teams relaxed as there was cut throat competition between the teams. One wrong decision could result in the top company in one quarter hitting the dirt in the next. Such was the tension that prevailed that few of us didn’t even bother to step outside the hall to have lunch.

Overall, the learning that happened during these four days substantiated all that we had learnt in the last six months. We saw the practical application of most of the concepts that we had encountered and also found if our experiments bore fruit or ended up leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. We realized we knew much more than we thought we knew, which by itself an encouraging factor was. Moreover, even though one of the teams prevailed as a winner in the end, in our hearts we knew, even though we made mistakes we had learnt from it which was more priceless than winning itself.

When our college said “Learning for the real world” is all they wish to impart, we realized in these four days that this was exactly what they meant.

Through these games we saw a surprising transformation of jeans clad, cell phone tampering “dudes” and “dudettes” into ultra serious business professionals. I guess the corporatedom’s roles like CEO, COO, CFO, and CMO played a Herculean part in enticing their young minds into submitting themselves to the rules and regulations of the game.

This was a great simulated experience which literally teleported us in to an imaginary corporate world, yet the business issues being real. Could feel the real pressure of corporate decision-making amidst an environment of hyper competition...and Yes, we are ready for it !

Contributed by Suhas, Marketing Varsity

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