Our journey to success – NIBS Worldwide Case Champions 2018


DIT BSc Marketing students, Orlaith Keys, Keith McCabe, Shaun Spelman and Hamaad Sajid share with us their experience at the Network of International Business Schools (NIBS) International Case Study Competition 2018.

To begin our story, let’s look at what a case competition is. It’s where a team aspire to develop the best solution to a business case study within an allocated time frame, typically with teams of two or more individuals  battling against each other in a head-to-head challenge. Teams deliver their presentation to judges who then decide on an overall winner.

The case study formula is certainly something we were familiar with as DIT students, having worked through case studies right from our first year in college. It gave us great insight into real life business problems, and more importantly the task of assessing and analysing the situations facing an organisation and developing solutions and recommendations.

The team celebrating their win at DIT College of Business, Aungier Street.

Our journey to Guetamala 

In October 2017 we qualified in our college competition, the next big task was to make it through as one of the top teams at the NIBS Case Competition in Guetamala. With eight hours to upload a 1500-word case study report of all our findings, the pressure was high!

We were thrilled when the news came through that we had made it to the final of the NIBS International Case Study Competition and certainly proud to represent DIT as four BSc Marketing students. We were one of 16 teams from an initial entry of 44 Business Schools who entered the prestigious competition.

When the excitement settled, the hard work began. We decided to cut our Christmas holidays short and returned two weeks early to college, we tasked ourselves with tackling two cases a week in preparation. Happy with our progress, we felt more than prepared as we embarked on our journey to Guatemala.

NIBS participants group photo 2018

Day One- Our first day in Guatemala

We arrived in Guatemala the day before the event was to begin which gave us time to familiarise ourselves with the area and explore. We were introduced to José Chang Borsoi, our team ambassador for the week. José took us to visit some of the city, we visited La Cayala, a beautiful modern village with fantastic views of the city which showcased the old and new style evident in Guatemala, we also made a trip to Grados Norte, one of the city’s trendy areas with a more hipster vibe.

Day Two- Opening Ceremony

The Opening ceremony took place on our second day in Guatemala, at the host University- Universidad del Istmo, one of Guatemala’s leading academic institutions. After an anxious wait, the teams who we would be competing against were revealed- Carleton University of Canada, Rotterdam University, Netherlands and Southwest Missouri, USA. We were seeded second overall, among the 16 teams so we pretty happy and surprised.

The team looking confident as they prepare for their first presentation.

Day Three- Competition Time

When we received our first case we were quite confident with it, but as the hours went by our confidence wavered and niggling doubt set in, now unsure of our presentation we had prepared the past four hours. As we walked to the presentation room, tension was high.

Before we went in, we huddled and reminded ourselves of our motto- to be ourselves and let our personalities shine through. As we made our way in, we were surprised by the heaving room and the amount of teams who came to watch our presentation, this added more pressure as we wanted to make our mark. Overall, we thought the presentation went well and we got our point across. It was just a waiting game then for the results. We received good feedback and the moment had finally arrived. We won narrowly, 6-5.
In the second round that afternoon, to our delight, we were given a marketing case on the brand, Asics, where we were required to create a marketing strategy for them going forward and for their 2020 vision. This is an area we were confident in and had practiced a lot at college so we knew we’d smash it. The atmosphere in the room changed, there was a positive vibe, the confidence was sky high.

After we received our individual feedback, we had to wait 10 minutes for our final result. We got told our strengths and weaknesses, which we will use to our advantage tomorrow. We got called in for the results and our final score was 7-4.

Day Four-  An Emotional Roller-Coaster of a Day

From our best to our worst presentations, we are still wondering how we got to where we are now. We knew today that five points would secure automatic qualification to the quarter final.

There was a sense of anticipation, today was D- Day, a make or break. Although we were in a comfortable position sitting at the top of the table, we still knew we had to focus on the job in hand.

Our first case in the morning was on Davine, the beauty care product. From the feedback and also our own evaluation we felt it was our best presentation to date. It was a very nervy wait for the results as we were in the most competitive category with very thin margins. Unfortunately, we lost 6-5, because we missed the cash flow element in our finances and also we were up against a very solid team, Rotterdam. Although we lost, we qualified in second position with 18 points.

In the Quarter final, to our shock, we received a case of death, there was a sense of disbelief and our confidence vanished. We decided we would give it our best shot as we had nothing to lose. We were up against Guelph Humber, another strong opponent from Canada. Tensions were high in our prep room as we tried to make sense of the case on Sembcorp utilities. We weren’t confident at all with the presentation we prepared.  We felt the dream was over. We presented our case as best we could hoping our personalities and charisma would be enough to take us through. To our surprise we ended up winning 6-5 and we went through to the semi-finals.

Day 5 – Touring Guatemala

After a long and very draining day we were delighted to have a rest day and we headed off to the beautiful ancient city of Antigua, about an hour and a half from Guatemala City. We first went to an amazing viewpoint over Antigua, with the amazing backdrop of a huge volcano, you would swear we where standing in a post card.

The team with coach Roger Sherlock exploring the local culture.

Day 6 – Semi-Final & Final

We headed for the bus at 6am to take us to the competition, unlike earlier in the week the bus was half empty and there was an eerie sense of quiet and nervous tension for the day ahead.

First up  on the day were AVANS School of Applied Science from the Netherlands. This team were top seeded from the group draw the previous Sunday and we knew full well the caliber of opposition we were up against. We received a case on VOX Capital investment fund based in Brazil. We presented our case to a panel of five excellent judges which was an increase from the usual three. After an anxious wait, we found out our fate. We won by 6 points to 5 points!!!!

This result meant that we had reached the grand final, a stage DIT or any Irish university in fact had never reached before, we were ecstatic to say the least! Now began the final prep for NIBS 2018 against Bishops University, Canada.

We waited side stage, mic’d up as it was a large venue, trying to steady the nerves and keep calm in view of a packed auditorium. None of the group had ever presented on such a scale before, it was certainly a very professional and exhilarating experience.

We were delighted with our performance in the final, we felt we showcased our personalities and engaged with the crowd, even receiving a partial standing ovation, an extremely humbling moment. Now the long wait until the results were announced at the Gala ceremony that evening.

The moment of truth….

WE DID IT! We won by 6 points to 5 points. The dream was now a reality. After all the months of preparation, we had reached the promised land, NIBS Champions 2018.

One of the best weeks of our lives had come to an end, we complied all the moments of the week into a short video to share with you our experience, enjoy!

The journey was over, or so we thought…

The response we received when we arrived home was humbling. We were invited to participate in radio shows, featured in various national and local newspapers and gave talks at our old schools and College Open Day about our NIBS experience. Also, to our utter excitement, we were invited by the Honorable President Higgins, to a summer event at Áras an Uachtaráin. As we finish our final year in college and embark on our careers, the future is looking bright… 

The winners with coach and mentor Roger Sherlock

Shaun Spelman, Orlaith KeysHamaad Sajid and Keith McCabe are all final year DIT Bsc Marketing students from the School of Marketing, DIT College of Business.

The team were coached to the final by Roger Sherlock & Gerry Mortimer, along with the help of lecturers at DIT College of Business– Tara Rooney, Alan McCormack, Serge Basini, Siobhan O’Regan, Paul Donnelly, Donnacha Ryan, Lesley Murphy, Michele Crepaz and Aileen Kennedy. 


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