A multinational corporation pays millions to acquire a major electricity provider in the developing South American nation of Guatemala. But when the cost of living suddenly spikes, the Guatemalan people take to the streets—and the government reacts by mandating sharply reduced electricity rates, decimating the provider’s profit margins. How should it respond?
It was this complex and highly nuanced question with which five teams of outstanding McIntire and College students were presented by global professional services firm Navigant Consulting during the 2016 Navigant McIntire Case Competition, held Feb. 4 and 5, 2016, in McIntire’s Rouss & Robertson Halls. The students were not only charged with developing a strategically compelling set of recommendations for the company, but also with clearly communicating their recommendations to a team of Navigant consultants and McIntire faculty members during polished 30-minute presentations. This year’s competition marked the 17th such event the company has hosted at McIntire.
“For nearly two decades, the Navigant Case Competition has offered students a fantastic opportunity to engage in a comprehensive, real-world strategic advisory simulation,” says McIntire Professor Cynthia Fraser, who serves as faculty adviser to the Consulting Group at McIntire (CGM), which played a key role in organizing the event. “We are incredibly grateful to Navigant for its longstanding commitment to and engagement with the School, and offer our particular thanks to this year’s team of Navigant consultants—Scott Davidson (McIntire ’15), Kevin Loeffler (McIntire ’13), Kevin Stephens (McIntire ’91), and Pamela Werly (McIntire ’08)—and Navigant international negotiations consultants—Dushyant Ailani, Yelena Aleksandrovich, and Matthew Shopp—who so generously offered their time, insight, and expertise to once again make the Navigant McIntire Case Competition an amazing learning experience for students.”
First place in the competition was taken by Kenneth Kuan (McIntire ’16), Susan Li (McIntire ’17), Katharina Massenko (A&S ’19), Angela Shen (McIntire ’17) and Srujana Yadlapalli (McIntire ’17).
Second place was taken by Nick Kim (A&S ’16), Yiming Lin (McIntire ’17), Andrew Morton (McIntire ’17), Nan Wang (McIntire ’17), and Melissa Zhou (McIntire ’17). The two runner-up teams were composed of students Fayyaz Chowdhury (A&S ’17), Lily Ouyang (McIntire ’17), Caroline Weakland (McIntire ’17), and Erica Wood (McIntire ’17); and Molly Chheath (McIntire ’17), Greg DeRosa (McIntire ’17), Shray Gupta (McIntire ’17), Zhifan Lu (McIntire ’17), and Ahjeong Yeom (McIntire ’17).
The top two teams were awarded prizes of $2,000 and $1,000, respectively, with the two runners-up earning $250.
A Lot to Think About
Coming up with a recommendation for the company required first enumerating the risks and benefits of pursuing one of three courses of action with respect to the Guatemalan government: arbitration, negotiation, or simply accepting the government’s directive.
Next, the students had not only to engage in the painstaking quantification of those risks and benefits, but then to weigh them against one another: How might the short-term financial gains of an arbitrated rate raise compare to the costs associated with the long-term reputational damage that might ensue from taking legal action? If the company chose to negotiate, what might be the optimal rate hike for which to push, and what might the company offer the Guatemalan government and citizens in exchange? Moreover, how might Guatemala’s particular political, cultural, and economic characteristics influence the likely outcome of each course of action?
Winning team member Yadlapalli says she and her teammates relished the multidimensional challenge presented by the event. “The Navigant Case Competition really helped to sharpen our skills in financial valuation,” she says, “and it was exciting to try to pull everything together—including a presentation—within such a short timeframe.” (Yadlapalli’s group advised the company to pursue negotiation with the government, arguing that the short-term financial gains of taking legal action would be outweighed by the long-term damage of such action to the company’s critically important relationship with the government.)
Yadlapalli says her team’s participation in the competition may well have its own set of long-term positive consequences. “Going into the event, we all had some interest in consulting,” she says of her teammates. “But participating in the Navigant McIntire Case Competition definitely helped to confirm that this is a career we would be interested in pursuing.”
Special thanks to McIntire faculty members Tony Baglioni, Brendan Boler, Bill Kehoe, and Marcia Pentz, who served as faculty judges for the event, as well as to CGM officers Isabel Arnold, Richard Lay, Franciso Gabitan (who served as the competition’s emcee), Marissa Jobe, Natalie Newton, Andy Han, Conner Healy, Madison Holton, Bailey Kreiser, Erin O’Reilly, Osama Saleem, Emily Shu, and Jeremy Wang, who helped coordinate this year’s event.