Clash of the Consultants

By: Emma Livingston, Staff Writer

“Did you do an analysis on how much this would cost me as a CEO? I would have liked to know that.” “What are you going to adopt, and how are you going to adapt?” “What is the value proposition?” “Go back to the slide where you misspelled ‘real estate…’”

These were some of the questions and comments hurled by a panel of judges at the four teams of consultants competing in Thunderbird’s 7th Clash of the Consultants case competition. The event was held Friday, February 27, in front of a large audience. The four teams presented their different strategies for supermarket giant Tesco to enter the Indian market. But though the presentations were all interesting, by far the most fascinating part of the afternoon were the comments by that panel of judges you heard from at the beginning of the article.

Professor Michael Finney asks a question (Photo courtesy of Sunil Joy)

The four judges were Stewart Swayze, a consultant for the GE Corporation, and three Thunderbird professors: Rick Baer, Professor of Global Marketing, Ralph Kimball, Professor of Finance, and Michael Finney, Professor of Global Leadership and Management.  Their questions were challenging and probing, and all the students I talked to appreciated their candor.

Ashu Malik, first-year MBA student who participated as part of the team ‘Global Gurus’ said, “The best part about the experience was getting feedback from the judges who were more like CEOs and investors and less like professors.”

The teams had just 48 hours to read the case, conduct research, come up with a strategy, and develop a 15-minute presentation to convey their strategy. Vince Vu, first-year MBA student from team ‘Linchpin’ felt the experience offered great insight into the life of a consultant, “Through the competition, I had a chance to experience a highly intensive working pressure of consulting life, while at the same time going through the forming and storming phase of a new team working together for the first time.”

Excited audience members watch the Clash

The learning opportunity was not the only reward for participating in the Clash. The winning team, ‘Pragmatics’, was awarded $750, while the runner up, ‘GloConsultants’, got a $350 prize. I asked second-year MBA student Steve Luna, one of the members of the winning team, the secret to his team’s success: “We had clearly defined roles that helped reduce overlap when conducting research,” he said.  “Also, we challenged each others’ assumptions, which helped fully flush out our ideas. Plus the wine at the meetings helped with creativity.”

The Pragmatics, the winning team

A special individual prize was given for best presenter of the afternoon. This award went to second-year MBA student, Mayank Sharma who gave a passionate description of Mumbai traffic as part of team GloConsultants. I asked him how he would describe his presentation style: “When I am presenting, I ask myself am I engaging the audience? Body language, voice modulation and emphasizing on target points are certain things which I pay special attention to.”

Mahesh Deshpande, president of Thunderbird Management Consulting Association, the student club that sponsored the event, said it was the best Clash of Consultants of the three he’s attended. “The event was much bigger, better organized, had good mix of participants and deeply involved audience members.”

Deshpande said that Clash of the Consultants is a keystone event for the Thunderbird community. “It’s the only case competition at Thunderbird, which leverages the essence of the Thunderbird mystique. It represents the best of T-Birds working at something just to get better at it.”


Participants and judges of Clash of the Consultants

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