A time to remember

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The promo for the Sant’Anna Business Game says, ‘A unique experience which will leave you with a lifetime of memories.’ This is so true. I came back from the competition in Pisa with a bag load of them.

The “Sant’Anna Business Game” presented by “Jebe”, the student-led Junior Enterprise Business & Engineering non-profit consulting organization, is a unique opportunity for 60 talented students from the best universities in Europe and beyond to network with representatives of leading companies. It is held every year at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa.

The competition presents real-life business challenges on marketing, organizational strategy and operational management. Students enrolled for a bachelor’s or a Master’s degree program can enrol for the game and take an online pre-selection test before they go for a higher challenge set by one of the corporate partners (Bain & Co. this year) of the event.

Always interested in business plan competitions, I cracked the online challenge and got selected for the two-day round in Pisa (I am a 4th year B.Tech student of Electrical Engineering). I landed in Pisa on April 8 afternoon and promptly set forth for my BNB accommodation.

What should have been a 20-minute bus ride, took hours because I had clambered onto a bus marked ‘Lam Vardi’ when I should have taken one marked ‘Lam Verde’. Such are the vagaries of foreign travel for the uninitiated. Had it not been for the kindness of a lady, who provided me the internet hotspot (I had no internet as the SIM I had carried along wasn’t working), I would still be roaming the streets of Pisa.

After bonding with my BNB owner over Bollywood (yes, she is a great fan), Phoebe from that cult soap ‘Friends’ and Maggi, cooked my style, I went around Pisa that evening strictly following her directions.

The competition was early next morning. The business game this time was partnered by Luxottica, Bain & Co., Generali, IBM and Amplifon. Each company provided a challenge for which the 60 participants were divided into 12 teams of 5 each. We were given three hours to work on the challenge and then we had to give a 5 minute PPT presentation.

On the first day of the competition, the challenges were set by Luxottica and Generali. The Luxottica challenge mainly focused on recruitment problems. Generali asked us to ponder on the role of an insurance company in a world dependent on Internet of Things (IoT). We were to gauge how the scenario of the insurance industry will change once IoT penetrates into the general life of more and more people. This challenge required a good understanding of the insurance sector and required innovative thinking about ways to integrate insurance and IoT.

The next day, IBM asked us to create a chatbot, and implement it in an area which we thought was best suited for it. After understanding how the interface works, we were required to model, train and implement our chatbot to enhance human experience in real life sectors. As an engineer with fairly good coding skills, this challenge was one where I contributed the most to the team.

The Amplifon challenge was about the marketing of a newly-launched mobile application. Since the company targets a customer base above the age of 55, the major obstacle for it was to get people of this age to use this application. The target was to boost digital adoption by customers.

I didn’t win but my overall experience of the competition is amazing as I got to learn a colossal amount of things. The exposure to different kinds of people and performing together as a team despite language barriers and different perspectives was one of the most valuable takeaways from the event.

The other takeaways are obviously the sights and sounds of Italy. I wonder if anyone can beat the nail-biting finish to my sojourn – all thanks to me.

I missed my train early morning train to Venice the next day as I had overslept. The breath-taking beauty of Venice more than made up for the 123 Euros that I lost. But my exultation over the magnificent views, all of which I shared non-stop with my family and friends, soon landed me in a mess. When I landed in Pisa Centrale at 11.30 in the night, my battery was dying and I had still to make my way to my BNB.

The 30-minute walk took hours as I walked aimlessly in the dark, not knowing the route. A taxi I stopped asked for a sum I couldn’t afford. I ultimately had to plead with a beer-joint owner, who was about to shut down, to give me a few minutes’ time to charge my battery (it didn’t sustain though), and then, after taking many a turn in pitch darkness, I reached my destination taking a tree as my pole star.

I am back at KGP intact, with my bag full of memories – just as the game organizers had promised.

Pictures: Ritik Chachan



Graphics : Suman Sutradhar

By Chirosree Basu

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