University of Southern California

Thai Team Wins Marshall Cup
Students from Chulalongkorn University take Marshall Cup at the World's Largest Case Competition
March 6, 2009 • by Mike Martinez

The USC Marshall School of Business hosted the tenth annual Marshall International Case Competition on Feb. 21. Known to be the world's largest academic contest for undergraduate business students, it drew teams from 30 universities, 16 of them from outside the United States all of which came to the University Park campus to compete for the Marshall Cup.

This year's winner was an all-women team from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, which participated for the first time. Second place went to McGill University of Canada. Coming in third was Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.

"An unbelievable experience!" said winner Amrita Sachdev, 21, speaking on behalf of teammates Kevalin Puangyoykaew, 20; Naluthporn Srifuengfung, 22; and Saranit Pornsomboonsiri, 20.

"We had the opportunity to make friends with the brightest people from all over world," Sachdev said in an email from Thailand. "But best of all was the unexpected win of the most challenging case competition in the world. Moreover, spending 18 hours on the flight with the trophy made us realize the pride that we would bring to our university."

As in prior contests, this year's case was a real-life scenario: how do you sell Nestlé's candies to a growing health and wellness market? In fact, Nestlé USA is now considering such a strategy, and four of its managers were among this year’s twenty eight judges. Nestlé USA was also a sponsor of this year's competition, along with ExxonMobil, Philip Morris, and Southern California Edison.

By ambitiously hosting the world's largest case competition and using real challenges faced by companies, USC Marshall is affirming its global leadership in the study and practice of business, Marshall Dean James Ellis said.

"It ties into the globalization initiatives of the business school in total," Ellis said. "It really is a chance to showcase who we are." Marshall Associate Professor Michael Coombs faculty adviser, chief organizer of the MICC, and Nichole Fisher, a marketing manager of Nestlé, wrote a 42-page report that served as the competition's case study.

The case was such a difficult proposition that one judge, health and wellness marketing manager Daniel Jhung of Nestlé, USA called it "an oxymoron." In agreement was another judge, group vice president Dean Edouarde of UGM Enterprises of Los Angeles, who observed: "When's the last time you had a healthy candy bar?"

The USC Marshall team fared well enough, but didn't make it to the final round. The members, all juniors, were Siddharth Ramakrishnan, 20, of San Ramon, Calif.; Carly Olson, 21, of Puyallup, Wash.; Kethan Tellis, 21 of Hacienda Heights, Calif.; and Robert Horsley, 21, of Menlo Park, Calif.

The Marshall students spent 25 hours a week for six weeks preparing for the competition. "It's a part-time job," Tellis said.

"It's a huge honor," Ramakrishnan added. "We're selected from a pool of a large number of students."

Winners of last year's trophy were from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. One member from this year's team, Louisa Viall, 20, said the USC event was "very stressful."

"You've got to push yourself," she said.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.