Gems for a jeweller
When presented with the case in this year's Citi International Case Competition (CICC), many of the students taking part were initially flummoxed. Used to analysing companies facing obvious problems or challenges, they looked at Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, the world's largest jewellery retailer by market value, and saw a business that was doing very well.
But, according to Chow Tai Fook managing director Kent Wong, his 84-year-old company was looking for ideas on how to prepare for a sustainable future. "The senior management are always thinking ahead and I hoped the students could provide some suggestions for our long-term development plans," he says.
With the digital era disrupting the retail market, Wong identifies two groups of target customers. "The young people in China who were born in the 1980s and '90s will become the main contributors to domestic consumption, and we have to learn how to communicate with them. Secondly, our middle-class and affluent clients are also growing."
Wong says it was remarkable how the teams performed. "I was very impressed by how smart all the participants were and the way they could provide a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation that described our strengths, our business-development plans and some suggestions on how we can capture customers - all within 24 hours," he says. "I have to congratulate all 18 teams. They are all winners."
Wong singles out the team from Japan, even though they didn't make the final round. "They impressed me because they thought outside the box. They suggested we have some kind of interactive programme with a games company, as young people like to play games and this would be one way we could communicate with them."
And at least one of the ideas from the teams was very much in line with a key company concept. "Some students suggested that each year we launch gold coins that represent that year's zodiac animal, making a full set over 12 years, so we could encourage customers to collect these coins every year and build up their loyalty," Wong says. "This was very close to a marketing campaign we have launched already."
Wong says that to be successful in a company like his, graduates need two key qualities. "They have to be innovative and have to be passionate," he says.