Jindal School MBA Team Wins National Sustainability Case Competition
Feb. 26, 2016
UT Dallas students (from second left) Gopinath Palanisamy, Rajarshi Roy, James King, Richa Bagaria and Wenet Wu placed first at the Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Sustainability Case Competition. They showed off their awards with Wayne Balta (left), IBM's vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety, and Dr. Gerry Susman (center back), Emeritus Klein Professor of Management at Smeal.
A team of five Naveen Jindal School of Management MBA students took first place and won $10,000 recently in a national sustainability case competition focused on helping IBM’s Corporate Environmental Affairs staff manage growing global responsibilities.
The Jindal School team emerged ahead of 27 other teams from 18 other universities in the second Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Sustainability Case Competition on Dec. 3 and 4.
Their trip to the top started with a case analysis and executive summary submitted last October. Competition materials said IBM’s corporate environmental affairs staff had to evaluate suppliers to provide nonhazardous and hazardous waste disposal as well as end-of-lifecycle product materials services.
“Such suppliers needed to be constantly evaluated for environmental compliance and thus presented numerous challenges in both developed and developing countries,” said Palanisamy, the team’s captain.
Teams had to determine an effective and financially feasible solution for all the problems, one that would balance business considerations with cultural and environmental concerns.
Preliminary-round entries were stripped of identifying features and judged by a panel of five Smeal faculty members and an emeritus professor.
“We were able to play off each other, answering questions as one cohesive team showing the judges we had thought through the logistics of implementing our idea as a real business solution.”
“Our presentation was very polished,” King said. “The graphics were professional, and the flow made the answer clear.”
The team was limited to using a maximum of 10 slides. King said that each slide told the story with both words and media — static images, animation, videos and more.
Each finalist team gave a 30-minute presentation, then fielded questions for 15 minutes.
The team created a video clip, which played right before Bagaria kicked off the presentation with an introduction and statement of the problem.
“IBM’s vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety Wayne Balta (said) before the winners’ announcement that mentioning the problem statement was very critical to the presentation,” Bagaria said.
“One of the people involved in writing the case said that the winners — we hadn’t been told we had won yet — separated themselves out by having three or four solutions that IBM was actually going to implement,” King said.
But Wu thinks the team made its strongest impression during the question-and-answer session.
“We were able to play off each other, answering questions as one cohesive team showing the judges we had thought through the logistics of implementing our idea as a real business solution,” she said.
“We planned well, worked hard and executed flawlessly,” Roy said. “We were highly appreciated and congratulated by all judges and Penn State faculty members.”
After winners were announced at a banquet, Bagaria said IBM executives asked the team to stay in touch with them.
IBM, which has a representative on Smeal’s Sustainability Advisory Board, was one of the competition sponsors, and had four of the six judges at the finals. The other two judges were from SKF, a global supplier of bearings, seals, mechatronics, lubrication systems and services headquartered in Sweden, and PepsiCo, respectively.