With the theme of Building Brighter, Better Businesses, the HKGCC's Business Case Competition 2020 challenged young minds to come up with ideas on how corporates can survive and even thrive in the current challenging environment.
We received a fantastic response from tertiary students in Hong Kong. A total of 900 students submitted around 300 proposals to crack the real-life business cases formulated by five Chamber member companies – Citibank, Great Eagle Group, NEC, NWS Holdings Limited and Sino Group.
After two rounds of judging, the top three teams from each of the five tracks made their way through the mentoring phase with the sponsor company. This gave the students the opportunity to gain direct insights from professionals to refine their proposals, tailor their solutions to the corporation's needs, and prepare for the final pitching.
On 22 January, the finalists presented their proposals to the judges from the respective corporate sponsors at the Final Pitching and Awards Presentation Ceremony. This gave the students the opportunity to showcase their confidence on stage, creatively condensing their extensive research and innovative solutions into a short presentation.
"The five-minute pitch was indeed a challenge for the students to get across their desired messages," said the Sino judging team. "But it provides a very good exercise to learn how to convey their salient points effectively, reminiscent of real-life situations."
Each of the presentations was followed by a Q&A session. The judges certainly did not go easy on the students. Despite being interrogated by a panel of industry-leading professionals, the students still managed to respond confidently, demonstrating their detailed research and thorough understanding of the issues raised.
The winning ideas were then ultimately selected based on their innovativeness, relevance, feasibility and impact, as well as the teams' presentation skills. The judges reported that it was a tough decision as all teams were very well-prepared, and they had enjoyed hearing the various proposals.
A New Era of Digital Banking
The digital age is reinventing the banking industry. Citibank invited students to explore opportunities to advance smart banking and also help Hong Kong develop as a smart city. The winning team, GreenBridge Consulting, focused on analyzing clients' evolving needs, and came up with innovative ideas that integrate Citibank's banking services with the non-banking parts of people's life.
The judges were especially impressed with the winning team's idea of a Parent and Children Scheme in their mobile app. The team believe that financial literacy is a life skill that needs to be taught and practiced from an early age, so they introduced an interactive function where young users can receive a designated monthly allowance, while parents can monitor the spending summary of their children. This scheme not only encourages financial education for children, but also helps the bank nurture their potential customers.
Crystal Mak, a member of GreenBridge Consulting, said that the competition has sharpened her hard skills, soft skills and understanding of the business world. "It also equips me with skills to deliver high-quality analysis and allows me to catch a glimpse of how the banking industry has continuously evolved in this rapidly changing market," she said. "This precious experience will definitely continue to bring many new insights to me throughout the rest of my career."
Architecture in Times of Climate Change
Climate is changing. So must architecture. Great Eagle Group challenged the students to design a climate-resilient property development for a sustainable community in 2030 Hong Kong. The winning team, British Army, won over the judges with their residential project proposal using building materials and architectural design that will be able to withstand future climates. They also demonstrated consideration for the well-being of the whole community by incorporating technologies to connect different generations.
"What impressed me the most is the maturity of their project, together with the application of smart technologies to build a sustainable and supportive community," said Samantha Chan, Senior Corporate Communications Manager of Great Eagle Holdings Limited. "That's what Great Eagle is aiming to achieve. The concept of an intergenerational care system is also an interesting way to promote community engagement."
Chan added that she was pleased to see the progress that the students had made throughout the course of the contest.
"All of the finalists put a strong effort in working out the proposals and showed great improvement in the different phases of the competition," she said. "The students fully demonstrated a good sense of business thinking and analytical ability by integrating disciplinary knowledge into the case."
Wellness Living for the Community
Looking at the way people will live in the future, Sino Group gave the students the opportunity to figure out how the real estate industry can shape a positive environment that keeps the community happy, healthy and safe.
Morph's residential project proposal, called The Halcyon, earned the team first prize in Sino Group's track. Their proposal aimed to cultivate a sustainable lifestyle and culture that promotes both physical and mental wellness of the residents, as well as helping to build genuine relationships and connections within the neighborhood.
"Morph has been chosen as the winner as we found their proposal well thought through and comprehensive. They are able to target end-users of different ages by applying technology in a seamless manner for both indoor and outdoor activities," said the judging panel from Sino Group.
The judges also remarked on Morph's cooperation. "The team comprises members from diverse backgrounds and different universities, yet they worked really well as a team and did a nice job in presenting."
Morph's team members explained that since they came from different academic backgrounds including art, computing and accountancy, it took some time for them to combine their ideas and define the direction of their proposal. They said the mentoring phase in particular helped the team to further develop their initial idea into the final full-fledged proposal.
"The guidance from mentors and the exhibition from Sino Inno Lab are also altering my values to provide a living area from the perspectives of designers," said Morph team member Heidi Keung. "In a beneficial living home, the needs and expectations of users from different age levels should be considered."
Preparing for the Next Normal
To crack NEC's case about "next normal" solutions for business continuity in the post-Covid-19 world, the students in this track came up with solutions for various industries including the retail and amusement sectors.
The winning team, HERON, sought to find solutions for the hotel segment, undaunted by the additional challenges to the hospitality sector since Covid-19. Since the pandemic put an end to international tourism, many hotels have tapped into the "staycation" market that targets domestic guests. HERON team members' own staycation experiences inspired them to come up with their winning idea to create a "Hotel Tomorrowland".
"This competition offered us new insights regarding the application of technology in different industries," stated HERON.
So their project aims to leverage technology to improve guest experience in every part of the hotel stay, from booking to check-in and check-out as well as the time spent at the hotel. By making use of unified app platforms, smart check-in system and cleaning robots, they look forward to bringing a safe, contact-free hotel experience to increase customer's confidence.
"The proposed solutions also provided customers with greater convenience and better services to enjoy the refreshing experience," commented NEC's judges.
Shaping the future of HKCEC
The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) industry is another sector that has been hard hit by the pandemic. In NWS's track, students were invited to envisage hardware and software enhancements for the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), which is operated by NWS, to embrace future growth opportunities and help the sector roar back once global travel returns.
"NWS is delighted to have joined the HKGCC Business Case Competition this year, taking on a more active role in encouraging young minds to share their innovative ideas for the development of the MICE industry," said Eric Ma, CEO of NWS Holdings Limited.
With their comprehensive solution, the winning team, Self-empowered Up, aimed to make HKCEC smarter and greener. The team used digital transformation such as incorporating a mobile app, 5G, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enhance user experience. At the same time, these technologies would allow HKCEC to receive real-time data about visitors to enhance event management.
The team also showed their concern for the environment in their suggestions, such as utilizing rainwater, and adopting smart escalators and lighting to minimize energy consumption. The judges especially appreciated the team's ideas to manage food waste by using past data to avoid over-preparation, and to collaborate with community organizations to donate any excess.
Monica Lee-Muller, Managing
Director of HKCEC (Management)
Limited, said she was very happy to see so many potential recruits for the industry and welcomed their new ideas.
"I'm particularly impressed by the presentation of the winning team, Self-empowered Up, who showed their creativity on how to make use of digital transformation to supplement physical events at the HKCEC under the new normal," Lee-Muller said.
Following the success of the HKGCC's first Business Case Competition, the Chamber organized the second edition in 2020. The competition aims to promote the exchange of ideas between tertiary students and businesses. Thanks again to the sponsors for their generous prizes, and for the time they spent reviewing the entries, mentoring the final teams and judging the competition.