Article contributed by Pravin Raj. Nanyang MBA participant, Class of 2018.
When my classmate Katja first approached me to participate in the Bangkok Business Challenge competition, I thought to myself, “Why not?”. Although I was a little concerned as to how much spare time I had on my hands to commit to it, I always found it difficult to walk away from a challenge or a potentially enriching experience. Also, having previously worked with Katja before on another group project, I was confident we would work well together.
The Bangkok Business Challenge, Thailand’s only global intercollegiate post-graduate startup competition, was created in 2002 to encourage students in post-graduate programs across the globe to become more entrepreneurial. Teams do not only compete for the most prestigious prize of all, Thailand’s H.M. The King’s Award that was originally and kindly bestowed by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX), but also have the opportunity to acquire over US$ 60,000 in cash prizes. The judging committee, comprised of leading entrepreneurs, professionals, and investors, look for the most attractive start-up ventures based on submitted written business plans, live pitches, and venture exhibits.
Fast forward a few weeks later, we had already formed our team. Katja, Ella, Jaime, Vikrant and I decided to join forces; combining our experience in Research & Development, Project Management, Operations, Finance, Marketing and Business Analysis. We stayed up late to submit our application to join the competition just before the deadline by completing the Executive Summary and the 60-second pitch video for our business plan. Our business plan revolved around the idea of bringing a novel building block for drugs to the market. This novel building block can make drugs more efficient and cheaper by reducing the rate of failure during the drug discovery phase. Although we were reasonably confident in our business idea, since a team from NTU had not made it to the finals in recent years, it was still both a shock and a pleasant surprise that we were one of the 15 teams selected to travel to Bangkok out of a total of 112 teams from numerous international business schools.
From then on, it was “all hands on deck”. We worked on the Written Business Plan for the competition in parallel with detailing it in class for the Entrepreneurship module taught by Professor Vijay Sethi. As most of us did not have a pharmaceutical or medicinal chemistry background, it took us a while to figure out the best way to communicate our value proposition and business plan to others. We found that the class sessions helped us detail our idea, test it out with our classmates and learn from the experience of fielding questions in a class setting. All this combined to put us in a good place and gave us the necessary confidence prior to travelling to Bangkok for the competition.
Despite our hectic schedules, Ella and Katja did a fantastic job designing the posters and sourcing the props for our venture exhibit, while Jaime and Vikrant worked tirelessly on defining our financials and products clearly in the business plan presentation. In the end, despite the changes we had to make on the fly, late night discussions and lack of sleep, it all came together well.
From a personal perspective, I was a little nervous when presenting the 99-second pitch in front of national television as I was determined to do well for my entire team who had put so much effort into this right from the beginning. Looking back, I think we can all honestly say that we gave this competition our best and are glad we decided to participate in it, as the learning experience has been tremendous. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Professor Vijay Sethi for his guidance and constant advice as well as all our classmates who helped us improve on our business plan through the feedback and assistance they gave us. In addition, we would like to convey our gratitude to Lokesh Gupta, who was our group member for the class project but did not participate in the Bangkok competition due to other commitments. Lokesh’s contributions were valuable in helping us finalise the business plan presentation for Bangkok.
Needless to say, it was great that we managed to win the second prize and add to the Nanyang Business School and Nanyang Technological University brand. We strongly encourage prospective students to consider participating in competitions such as these as it without a doubt enhances the learning experience you get from the Nanyang MBA.