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It was 8 PM. “Is it time for dinner yet?”, asked Max suddenly looking up from his laptop screen after spending about 2 hours creating a rough implementation timeline for the next two years. Dinner wasn’t supposed to be served for a few more hours. In Spain, the standard time for dinner is not until 9 PM. Our stomachs, much too accustomed to the American dinner schedule, were not too happy about it, but our minds were too preoccupied to care.

We were in Barcelona, Spain representing Booth at an international case competition organized by Roland Berger, a global strategy consulting firm. Students from about ten schools from across the world had congregated at IESE Business School to participate in this truly international competition, with participation from Hong Kong University (HKUST), NUS Singapore, CEIBS Shanghai, IESE Barcelona, ESADE Barcelona, London Business School, University of Michigan-Ross, Dartmouth-Tuck, Ivy Business School-Canada, and of course, Chicago Booth.

Regional Round in Chicago

Our Chicago Booth team was made up of Cheryl Yu, Ronald Hui, Max Hamm, and myself (Pranav Sohoni). We were excited to go to Barcelona mid-February for the final round of the competition. Our team was selected through a first round case competition held at Roland Berger’s Chicago office. We were given a week to work on a revenue growth case for a commercial bank. After spending the Thanksgiving week reading through a 75-page case document, we presented our findings to Booth alumni and senior executives at Roland Berger, advancing into the finals.

Pranav Sohoni at La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Off to Barcelona for the Finals

The competition spanned from Thursday to Saturday, but I decided to go a few days early to explore the historic and culturally rich city of Barcelona. I got a chance to visit some of the architectural masterpieces of Antoni Gaudi including the La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila. I also explored the historic gothic quarter and visited Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona FC. 

Store visit for case research in Barcelona

The Case

The competition started with introductions followed by a case briefing. We were to develop a growth strategy for a travel company named Pangea. They specialize in unique travel experiences such as a safari in South Africa or visits to temples in Myanmar. Pangea does not have an online presence and all bookings need to be done in their stores in Madrid and Barcelona. We got to visit the store in Barcelona and learn more about the company. Located in the heart of the city, the Pangea store was one of the coolest stores I have ever been to. Equipped with VR headsets, you could take a tour of your travel destination or read a book in the library. You could speak with one of the several tour specialists, buy travel essentials, or refuel at the café. The store visit helped us understand the business model of the company and conceptualize some possible growth strategies.

Left to right: Ron Hui and Max Hamm

The Preparation

After the case was handed out, we had a day to prepare for our final presentation. Our team quickly got to work in the conference room assigned to us at the beautiful IESE Business School campus. Each team was assigned a 30-minute review session with a Roland Berger consultant to discuss their approach. We do not remember how time flew by that day, but soon it was time for dinner. We were taken to a rustic Spanish restaurant where we networked with the other teams and RB consultants. Dinner included Spanish delicacies such as Calcots (Catalan green onion) and Pan Con Tomate (Catalan style grilled bread with tomatoes) to name a few. Post dinner, the team went back to working on the presentation, which went on till the wee hours of the night. This whole exercise was a great simulation of real-world consulting projects, where one has to solve complex and ambiguous problems with limited time and information.

Team Booth at IESE Business School
Max Hamm, Cheryl Yu, Ronald Hui, Pranav Sohoni at IESE Business School


The day of the case presentation was upon us and the team recommended a growth strategy and presented its findings to the judges- two partners from Roland Berger. All the preparation from the last 24 hours was packed into a 15-minute presentation and the team did a great job articulating it. And before we knew it, we were done! We had 2 very intense and action-packed days, and the work we did was exhausting but very rewarding. Despite the limited hours of sleep and the jetlag, the team was driven by the sheer excitement of the competition. And of course, a lot of coffee.

Post Competition Celebration

Team Chicago Booth, unfortunately, did not win the competition, but learned a lot from the whole experience and put forth its best effort. We received some good feedback from the judges as well. Congratulations to the team from HKUST for winning the competition! Roland Berger invited all the teams for an evening of celebration after the grueling 2 days. We started the night with wine tasting, followed it up with some delicious Paella, and ended it at one of the many clubs in Barcelona. Although exhausted, everyone was ready to wrap up the trip with a final blowout and reveled till the early hours.

Back to Home Base

Looking back, it was a one of a kind experience and a highlight of my life at Booth. We got the opportunity to apply what we learn in school and made a trip out of it. The people I met and the lessons I learned during this competition are invaluable. An MBA is not about what you learn in class, it is also about applying these learnings to solve real-world problems, making close friends, pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and having a lot of fun along the way.