University of Southern California

MICC Participants Speak Out
Students from Across the Globe Discuss Biggest Challenges Facing Business
March 5, 2012 • by News at Marshall

Students from 30 top business schools around the world gathered at USC for the Marshall School of Business’ 2012 International Case Competition from Feb. 14-18. This year’s competition — the world’s largest undergraduate invitational competition— drew teams of students from programs in the United States and countries far and wide. (For a list of countries, click here )

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a business advisor to many of the world’s leading entertainment and media companies, sponsored the competition and a series of events throughout Los Angeles. The case, developed by USC Marshall Associate Professor of Clinical Management and Organization Michael Coombs in conjunction with PwC, demanded that each team of four supply solutions for improved digital content distribution while ensuring that film and TV content providers were still able to maintain profitability. The case probed students to think about concepts such as digital lockers and “cloud” storage, to consider how entertainment companies would collaborate, and how companies could work directly with the consumer as well as contemplate new business models. Altria, Warner Bros, Southern California Edison and Boeing also sponsored the event.

While Marshall students have a considerable number opportunities to travel to far corners of the globe via experiential learning opportunities—the MICC competition brought the world’s students to the University Park campus to compete in a known creative capital.

Beyond the actual case and solutions presentation, the week’s events also gave participants a chance to network and learn from one another before the official competition kicked off.

            Following a campus tour and during lunch at USC’s University Park Campus on Feb. 16, students from a sampling of international teams shared their perspectives on the business issues facing their countries and their own hopes for the future:

National University of Singapore – Singapore

AJ Goh and Grace Teh spoke about the challenges facing their country.

“Exposure and scalability of our resources are the big issues. Because our corporations are small enterprises, they lack international exposure. Also because we are a small country, we are short on people, on talent. And besides that we only have around 680 square kilometers of land mass, which is a huge issue for us. It’s hard to have huge factories in Singapore,” said Goh.

Teh added her perspective on corporate governance issues in Asia and how Singapore is responding. “Because we are surrounded by a lot of Asian countries that have problems with corporate governance and business practices so I think we are trying to separate ourselves from the herd by instituting very strict corporate governance,” she said.

University College Dublin, Quinn School of Business — Ireland

In Ireland today, Will McMahon, a third-year business student at UCD, said getting capital is a major issue, particularly for small and mid-size companies.

“We had a huge banking crisis where banks found themselves undercapitalized and as a result of that they’ve scaled back lending. So, you have a lot of small businesses struggling to raise capital that they need and that’s a real problem for the economy because at the end of the day the only way we’re going to grow out of this and recover is to gain in employment and jobs and I think it’s hindering businesses at the moment,” said McMahon.

A major issue being discussed in class and elsewhere, fellow teammate Richard Ownes said, is the future of the Euro.

“I’m in the general business degree program and we are talking a lot about the future of the Euro currency and the interest rates of the European Union monetary and fiscal policies as a whole,” said Ownes. “That’s basically all we talk about these days. Every day in the newspaper, every day on the news, it’s all about the Euro and how the currency is doing.”

Despite such issues, McMahon and Ownes were optimistic about the Irish economy – and its ability to provide opportunities for business school graduates like themselves.

“Ireland is going to grow, they have a strong and growing financial sector, so they’re able to bring in a lot of household names. For Irish graduates that’s a pretty encouraging sign because students don’t have to go to London anymore. There are high-quality jobs in Dublin as well,” said McMahon. “I think that’s something to look forward to. There’s more and more and better roles for highly skilled graduates.”

University of Belgrade — Serbia

Serbia’s economic crisis has taken a heavy toll on innovation and prospects for new graduates.

“The economic crisis has influenced everyone a lot and because of it, companies are not hiring at the moment so the lack of fresh ideas from young people can represent a real issue,” said Jovana Dadic.

Unsurprisingly, it’s a topic that has dominated classroom discussion.

“[In class we talk about] what to do to improve the current situation, what to do and what to do in foreign markets to expand and basically what do Serbian companies need to implement to be more successful in international markets,” said Stanislava Bivolarevic.

Despite the current situation, members of the Serbian MICC team were hopeful about the future of their country and eager to play a role in its economic recovery.

“Because of the crisis, people are going abroad and not staying in Serbia and that’s a big problem. But we are excited because we expect the future development of our country so we’d like to be there when it happens,” said Ana Ivanovic.

Added Dadic: “We want to contribute to that development. We’re here to gather ideas and implement them in our country.”

Chulalongkorn University – Thailand

Between ongoing political unrest and deadly flooding, local instability is a major issue impacting the business climate in Thailand.

“Probably the biggest issue my country is facing right now is there’s lots of local turbulence. There are a lot of local protests and that stunts economic development as a whole. It stops businesses from trading around the world,” said Damisa Prompoj. “One of the other major issues is that there is a brain drain. More than ever, a lot are being educated abroad so they have opportunities to stay abroad as opposed to staying in Thailand. So a lot of companies tend to loose out on great people.”

“I’m excited about a more closely integrated ASEAN [The Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community because that’s what’s supposed to happen in 2015, 2020. I feel like there’s going to be so much better opportunities for us because there is going to be a better free flow of human capital and that gives us an opportunity to work abroad and not only that, but we’re going to see a more multicultural, tight-knit region for us,” added Prompoj.

Escola de Administracao de Empresas de Sao Paulo — Brazil

Team Brazil enumerated several factors impeding business in their home country.

“[One of our biggest challenges is] the lack of skilled workers. We need to improve education in order to have a skilled labor force,” said Guilherme Stefanini.

His teammate Giovanna Ortolani concurred: “Our colleges and universities aren’t that well-prepared for providing the human course or human capital enough to compete with other countries that are well-developed.”

“I think another thing that’s really important too is infrastructure,” added Stefanini. “We have a lack of it and need to get better transportation systems. The second thing is government. We don’t think the government sees private industry as a partner, so they put high taxes in place, everything is complicated and bureaucratic in terms of the labor force.”

Given Brazil’s position as a biofuels industry leader – for one it is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol and the world’s largest exporter of the “fuel of the future” in its relation to reducing harmful CO2 emissions – environmental issues continue to inform discussion both inside and outside the classroom.

“Environmental issues have dominated discussion in our classes. Sustainability, and not just environmental but social and economic,” said Pedro Vetoso.

“Yeah, how can you develop your country without destroying your country,” added Ortolani. “It’s something new for Brazil because we’re still developing our country. It’s difficult to create a business plan and enterprises without forgetting this because this is important, it’s a global issue.”

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.