Three BCom Financial Accounting students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) – Anisa Matshikiza, Penuel Nkosi and Gracia Randri – impressed the judges and made it through to the India, Middle-East and Africa (IMEA) finals, of the annual P&G CEO Challenge.

The CEO Challenge is an initiative of multinational consumer goods company, Procter & Gamble (P&G), who produce popular household products like Ariel, Always, Gillette, Pantene and Oral B.  The Challenge offers students from across the globe a unique opportunity to experience what it would be like to be a key decision maker on a billion-dollar brand. 

The first worldwide CEO Challenge in 2018 was a huge success with more than 23 000 students from 40 countries applying. 

Zibu Rala, HR Manager Talent Practice at P&G South Africa said, “This year 508 team entries (comprising 1 524 students) were received for the first round across the IMEA region.  We were proud to see a team from UCT go through to the IMEA regional finals competing against stellar entrants and were very impressed with the calibre of entries overall. The challenge is an ideal opportunity to give students a true sense of what it would be like working at a global company such as P&G and at the same time, provides us with an interactive and engaging platform to connect with the wealth of diverse talent we have here in South Africa.” 

Gathering the team

When asked why they entered, Anisa said, “I really enjoy entering these types of challenges as I believe they allow you to test your analysis and critical thinking skills.” Echoing Anisa’s thoughts, Gracia also added that she “loved working with people who have great minds and are good at putting ideas together.”

The experience

The challenge includes three rounds: national, IMEA regional and global. The national round takes the form of an online case study, which needs to be completed within a certain time frame.  According to Anisa, the key learning here was to be very strategic with how you use your time and (human) resources when completing all aspects of the case study to ensure you give due attention to all the deliverables asked. The top 3 teams from each country are then required to complete a video submission of one of the case study questions. 

The winning team of the first round then progresses to the second (IMEA regional) round, which offers the opportunity to connect virtually with teams from other countries. Each team is given 48 hours to solve a case study on one of P&G’s brands – this year the focus was on its oral hygiene product, Oral-B.

When asked about her experience, Anisa said ‘’We learnt more about P&G as a company, which was my favourite part, and it was helpful to guide us in what the company would be looking for and how we could tailor our strategy to better suit the company and its values, which included sustainability elements. Ahead of us having to present back our strategy to a panel, which was made up of different organisation heads including specialists in HR, Marketing, Logistics and Finances, P&G gave us training sessions which included presenting and writing skills which was helpful.’’

Penuel, who entered the challenge last year, shared lessons learnt “My team last year were prepared individually but not as a team, which meant we didn’t have a holistic view of our strategy. This made it difficult to answer the judge’s questions. This year our team practised more together and made sure we each understood the whole strategy and its functions so when asked questions, we were able to help each other and work as a team.” 

Gracia added, “If you join the challenge be prepared to be open minded. As we are all in the same field of study (finance), having a team which includes different people from different areas of studies and interests may have assisted us. I’ve also learnt that P&G has a real interest in its communities. I was really intrigued to find out that they have a lot of vision and goals that they want to achieve, not just for themselves but the world at large.” 

The regional round was won by team Egypt, who now move through to the global round. In this final challenge they will be expected to compete in a business simulator that requires them to make company decisions as the CEO.