By: Michael L. Jackson
Fall break may not have gotten off to a relaxing start for nearly a dozen Kelley School of Business students, but it certainly was profitable for one group.
Seniors Usman Chaudhary, Payne Chestnut, and Roshan Selladurai took first place and pocketed $1,000 at the second-annual Celadon 24-hour case competition. The win was the second this year for the group, having also garnered first place at the IUPUI student pitch competition in March.
“We had a big win for Kelley during the pitch competition, and we really wanted to carry that over,” Chestnut said. “We always want to be the best in the room every time we go in.”
The team was one of three from Kelley to compete this year, along with two teams from the University of Indianapolis and one from Butler. Other Kelley competitors included the team of Andrea Robbins, Christopher King, Dennis Oman Mukobe and Usuf El-Hafy; and a third team comprised of Trent Harvey, Shelbey Fields, Dylan Kiley and Derek Eash.
Though the decision to enter the competition and represent Kelley was easy for Chaudhary, Chestnut and Selladurai, staying in it through the presentation phase would prove to be more difficult.
Competitors arrived at Celadon on Friday morning and were presented with the case. They would evaluate five companies and recommend two for acquisition. Though the company names were fictitious, the case was modeled on Celadon’s recent M&A activity.
After spending the morning at Celadon, where they were given the opportunity to question company executives, the group returned to campus around mid-afternoon to dig deeper into the case.
“We have learned a lot about each other and the areas where we’re strongest,” Chaudhary said. “With just 24 hours to work on the case, we were able to divide the work into the areas that suits each of us best. We trust each other to get the job done.”
While Chaudhary and Chestnut would handle the qualitative analysis of the trucking industry and the companies under consideration, Selladurai focused solely on the financial analysis, never reading the corporate executive summaries.
“By having (Roshan) only read the finances, he didn’t get any bias toward the companies under consideration,” said Chestnut, who also competed in last year’s competition. “If he would have read the executive summaries, he might have said, ‘I like this one,’ and then he may have been biased while looking at the financials. That strategy paid off for us. We had someone who really knew the numbers, and could present us with an objective analysis of them.”
The problem for the team began to arise early Friday evening. Since winning the campus pitch competition in March, they had been working diligently to get their start-up, Foodraisers, up and running. And after a pitch to a potential client was pushed up, they knew they needed to devote some time preparing for the upcoming meeting. So, after a couple of hours of heavy lifting on the Celadon case, their attention turned toward Foodraisers.
It was midnight before they were once again ready to tackle the Celadon case. At that point, feeling exhausted, they were unsure if they could continue. They had two options: 1) Work through the night to finish; or 2) Drop out the competition.
They persevered, pushing through until Saturday morning on power naps and caffeine.
“We were studying the slides in the car on the way to the presentation,” Chestnut said.
Added Selladurai, “The worst part of it, because I didn’t read the executive summaries, was that I didn’t even know the names of the companies. I was really struggling.”
They did not have long to think about how unprepared they may have felt after arriving at Celadon. They were the first of the six teams to present their recommendations. A 12-minute presentation preceded a 3-minute question-and-answer session, and then they waited.
Before announcing the winning team, Celadon execs revealed which two companies they had acquired. The trio had gotten one right. The other was “completely wrong.”
“We looked at each other and were sure that we had lost,” Selladurai said. “Out of all the companies, we picked that one as the obvious one not to buy.”
As it turned out, it would not matter. The depth of their research, thoroughness of the financial analysis, and knowledge of both Celadon and the industry ultimately won over the judges.
And with another win in hand, it was back home for some well-deserved rest.
“It actually ruined our whole fall break because we spent the rest of the time catching up on sleep,” Chestnut said. “Last year’s case was not this much work. My emails piled up. Foodraisers stuff piled up a little bit more. But that’s OK. It was worth it.”