Schulich students win Canadian finals in business competition

“KYsquared” isn’t the name of a new product, Web site or rock group, instead it refers to a group of MBA students from York’s Schulich School of Business. KYsquared won the Canadian final of  a business competition known as the L’Oreal e-Strat Challenge. The team’s members are Richard Kim, Rosana Yanez and Allan Yu.

Left: The team from KYsquared with the president of L’Oreal Canada – (left to right) Richard Kim, Rosana Yanez,  Pierre-Yves Arzel of L’Oreal Canada, and Allan Yu

The L’Oreal e-Strat Challenge is a virtual business simulation game that pits teams of business students against four other online teams run by computer simulation. The teams play the role of a management team of a new cosmetics firm (PRIMA). The teams face new market situations and challenges at each of the six virtual runs (which represent three years in real time). Each student team must develop a strategy for running the company and translate that strategy into critical decisions about all aspects of the company including pricing, production volume and capacity, research and development, marketing, advertising and brand positioning of PRIMA’s portfolio of beauty products. The teams strive to achieve the highest stock price index by the end of the simulation. The entire competition is virtual and is run on the Internet.

During the semi final, the team must develop a business plan. This involves placing all decisions into a global strategic context and explaining how and why the team made the strategic choices they did. During the national final, the finalist teams presented their business plan and defended their actions and strategy to a jury of management and strategy experts in Montreal. This year, 180 teams from Canada, for a total 540 Canadian students, registered to participate in the challenge. After seven weeks competing in the virtual realm, the top five teams nationwide went into the Canadian finals.

KYsquared successfully brought their business plan for a virtual company to life before a panel of L’Oréal executives at L’Oreal’s company headquarters in Montreal on Feb. 24.  Also competing in the final of the Canadian title were teams from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, and HEC-Montreal.

The finals tested each team’s ability to effectively communicate their strategic vision that made the difference. “KYsquared distinguished themselves by providing real substance and relevance. Their presentation was logical and their delivery excellent,” commented Heidi Strohl, vice-president of Lancôme Cosmetics and a member of the judging panel.

“Participating in this business case competition was an extremely rewarding experience. It allowed us to apply many classroom lessons to a real-world environment. We have learned a lot about the importance of innovation and positioning in the beauty industry, as well as the importance of teamwork and effective communication,” said Schulich team spokesperson Rosana Yanez.

“We believed in each other,” said the group in an e-mail following the event.  “We were able to integrate the provided market information into our decisions and we observed and learned from the results. The e-Strat Challenge gave us the opportunity to use what we have learned of marketing [including price, promotion, place, product and target segments and additionally we were able to make management and strategic decisions to run PRIMA.”

Now in its fifth year, the online contest continues to grow in popularity. International registration was at its highest this year with over 36,000 students from 125 countries and 2,190 schools, making it the largest and most international competition of its kind. Of the 1,500 teams selected to play, 24 per cent were enrolled in MBA programs and 76 per cent were undergraduate students.

The L’Oréal e-Strat Challenge is not only a business simulation game but a strategic and innovative recruitment tool. The strength of the simulation is that it prepares participants for the challenges faced by the company on a daily basis and allows students to compete against their peers around the world. Currently L’Oréal uses a similar tool to train new marketing recruits and continues to integrate the simulation in university course curriculum.