The Top Business Competition That’s as Tough as a Triathlon

A triathlon combines long-distance running, cycling, and swimming. To complete these grueling races, athletes must possess physical prowess, but also mental resilience and a fighter’s spirit. Doing business in the COVID-19 era can feel just as tough, especially with the pandemic significantly accelerating digital transformation. And only entrepreneurs with the resilience of a triathlete will be able to stay in the race.

The Business Triathlon (Biz Tri) is therefore aptly named. It simulates a competitive business environment based on real-life corporate challenges for university students in Thailand. Contestants must demonstrate deep insight, strategic marketing capabilities and a capacity for digital innovation. And over 42 days, they must formulate a strategy for a digital business that will impress the judges.

The Sasin School of Management (of the Chulalongkorn University) pioneered this competition in Thailand, with dtac, Lotus, and Tyson Foods as sponsors for the third edition.

Digital Racers

dtac’s big strength is that it has over 19 million customers. Our challenge to contestants is to find how can dtac leverage the relationship with its individual customers to capture emerging customers’ needs. This can solve customer pain points and allow dtac to grow its revenue from new services beyond core connectivity, such as voice and data services.” Dr. Ukrit Salyapongse, Head of dtac’s Marketing Strategy, Planning and Insights, explained.

dtac serves many customer segments, such as tourists, migrant workers, and the mass market. But contestants were asked to focus on the latter, dtac’s largest segment.

Very few businesses have tens of millions of customers, with the exception of utilities, banking, and telecoms. Of these industries, only mobile providers can communicate and interact with our customers every single day. dtac considers this advantage a key asset to delight customers and generate revenue. In the digital age, dtac can develop all kinds of personalized services or digital payment channels. There’s so much potential,” Panthep Nilasinthop, Head of dtac’s Digital Products and FINN Mobile Division, said.

Biz Tri featured three rounds. After the first round, only 30 teams could go on to Bidding Day. Those teams could visit the facilities of a Biz Tri sponsor before having three hours to make a presentation, which determines the 15 finalists. The final round gave 42 days to finalists to deeply analyze problems, prepare solutions, identify target groups, plan marketing communications, create online channels, and develop prototypes while consulting their mentors and executives of leading firms.

According to Mr. Panthep, the wow factors in the eyes of judges were: 1) Simplicity – their planned product/service must be simple, practical, and responsive to the needs of target groups; 2) Prioritization – It should take just a short time to prepare the launch of the planned product/service; 3) Clear Path of Monetization – The planned product/service has solid business feasibility and commercial potential; and 4) Improvement – Judges also considered if teams improved during the course of the competition.

“Every project we saw was feasible. Every idea presented had the potential to be developed further. Some teams showed amazing improvements based on comments they received from judges. And coupled with great storytelling, their presentation shows well-thought-out solutions. Overall, I’m really pleased with their output and energy. They also demonstrated a sense of ownership, which is a must-have for the digital-age,” Mr. Panthep said.

The Real Deal

Of those taking dtac’s challenge, the winner is “15 Reasons Why”. This winning team—Thaninie Roongsathaporn, Supawis Tangsasom, and Ramil Charoonsak—hails from Chulalongkorn University. Their winning project is “Right Package by dtac”. The idea is to bundle packages to both pre-paid and post-paid customers via partnerships with various applications such as entertainment apps, matchmaking apps, career-themed apps, and design apps, in response to customers’ needs.

“When the challenges were unveiled, we were most interested in dtac’s challenge. We also thought that our potential would be best used for dtac’s use case. Our team has a balance of technological and communications knowledge. We can use our strengths for synergy,” Mr. Supawis explained.

The trio analyzed the situation, identified problems, and looked for solutions. They also validated their ideas based using a Business Lean Canvas, a well-recognized framework to evaluate business opportunities.

“We didn’t have much experience tackling business cases. But we had a clear focus. And thanks to our mentor from dtac, we got good advice, which was useful when we reviewed and improved our idea,” Mr. Ramil revealed.

The team met and talked to real customers but also built realistic offers. For example, they worked with a large amount of anonymized data in order to design personalized packages for customers. Looking back at the Biz Tri, the three contestants chorused that hands-on opportunities like these significantly expanded their horizons and provided the kind of experience that can’t be found in a classroom.