An article written by Sharaf Momen
Photo source: (Dwth.dk, 2016)
A chocolate bar has 8 blocks.
This chocolate bar is distributed among 10 students, where one student gets each block of the bar.
How many students are left without chocolate?
Please do not say, “None”, and then divide 8/10. The answer is 2!”
This is what the business world today looks like, except substitute the chocolate bars with opportunities. There is only a limited number of them and the business world tests who can reach these first. Unlike the ratio of the receivers of chocolate to non receivers, the number of people who actually find and make use of these opportunities is infinitesimal in comparison to those who are not as lucky. Moreover, the chocolate bar was just handed out. A better analogy would be if the chocolate’s location were to go completely unknown, and after one student finds the chocolate, more students arrive to take a block for themselves. Maybe, the smartest of them would even take the whole bar for himself.
Finding such opportunities is catalysed through the recent marketing competition held by the sponsorship under FedEx partnering with Junior Achievement, at Singapore Polytechnic on the 14th of May (right after the grade 11 exams). Junior Achievement looks at finding potential ideas by young entrepreneurs, whereas FedEx is a company known worldwide for its strong transport systems. Together, they brought forth a competition for students around the world that tests their marketing techniques. To grab hold of some opportunities, some students from ISS, including I, have participated in their first workshop, held within the Singapore Polytechnic Business Department… And I have to say:
There is so much challenge in a classroom; what challenges could possibly lie on a global scale?
With around 100 students that day, the volunteers that decided to represent FedEx and aid us in our acquisition for knowledge on market strategies divided our groups from ISS among Poly students. Not many of our students had cooperative Poly students to work with, but I was lucky. My teammates were smart. They were precocious in their learning: they read the people we targeted without seeing them, they saw the possible implications in every detail, the future was turning in their hands, but what really impressed me the most – was us. A year ago, without any business knowledge whatsoever, we were somehow now at par or perhaps above, in comparison to these Poly business students. We were proactive, used our terms favourably and impressed the judges with our determination and answers – we’ve represented the business spirit of our school with pride and power.
Within 4 hours, groups were provided two sets of statistics, one looking into Vietnam, and the other into Poland. The sets included maps, the countries’ demographics, social and environmental issues and many more, and our task –
Was to devise an entire business out of this.
Pressed with little time, we felt the seconds accumulating on our shoulders, growing heavier (by the second). My group chose Vietnam, and our chosen issue of concern was water pollution. With such little time, we decided to go for what many businesses do today: improve what already exists. We decided to market an oceanic filtration system to the Vietnamese government. But the judges did not let us stop there. They kept throwing questions, they demanded details. They needed to know there was certainty in holistic success – in image, profitability, social outcomes. And the list went on, and we were drowning in doubts, because for every solution we thought of, there were more disadvantages to swim out off. There were waterfalls of ideas that were disposed out to the sea. There were times we were directionless rivers, spouting out advertising techniques, what retailers to sell it to.
“Improve what already exists.”
“I think wholesalers would be better distributors.”
“The Government never buys capital goods from wholesalers.”
“Who are we even targeting?”
“Why would they even buy our product?”
“Because they government would clearly be pressured after the Vietnamese population finds out there is a way to improve their lifestyle and hygiene through social media advertisements. Then we can step it up with more expensive advertisements targeting international governments too.”
We could not swim in the river forever, because we had to even prepare for when we push ourselves to the brink of oceans. In the business world, we were taught that oceans are not even the endpoint in our journey. They’ll be plants to explore too. What scares me is that, if they expected us to morph an entire business idea in 4 hours, what are we to do for the actual competition, requiring us to repurpose old jeans into innovative products and bring it to the Indonesian market. We have an entire month – what are the other competitors considering? What research and unique initiatives will separate their success from ours?
At the end of the workshop, a few students were asked to present their business ideas. My ears were ringing when one of the groups stood up to present – the details of their product sounded similar to ours. Their pricing strategy. Distribution channels. Their promotion tactics. Everything. Except the name they gave it. “Water Bin.” This was the group that sat beside us as my group talked stormy thoughts into a calm consensus. They had copied every single detail right down to the bone of the business idea we were burning eagerly to pitch. But what was I expecting – they got the last block of chocolate before us.