As Unilever Africa concluded the 2018 edition of the Ideatrophy competition, a development initiative designed to create an ‘out-of-the-classroom’ learning experience for undergraduates, Raheem Akingbolu writes on its impact on participants and the brand
Seven years after its flag-off, the Unilever Nigeria Ideatrophy challenge has continued to be a knowledge base initiative and developmental project in Africa. Last week, the company concluded this year edition with the theme: “Freedom to Explore, Freedom to Experience, Freedom to Grow”. From day one, Unilever management has stated that the competition was initiated in furtherance of its commitment to develop human capacity and talents among the African youths.
Through the initiative, the company has not only deepened entrepreneurial competencies among students, it has helped talented young Africans to realise their potential.
After an interesting round of competition, Team Banga from Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) has emerged the winner of the seventh edition. The competition targets undergraduates across universities in Nigeria and challenged them to come up with unique ideas based on the years’ theme. Participants are provided opportunities to develop ideas on real-life business scenarios, which will be reviewed by a panel of judges. The exercise is aimed at achieving Unilever’s objective of grooming and developing young talents with great minds who are capable of moving the fortunes of the continent to the next level.
Speaking on this year’s event, the Managing Director, Unilever Nigeria and Ghana, Mr. Yaw Nsarkoh said the company is glad that the Ideatrophy contest has sustained its tempo of nurturing great minds. Congratulating the participants, Nsarkoh admonished both the winners and runners-ups to expand on their ideas and ensure that they utilise the knowledge gathered extensively in their future endeavours.
“This year’s theme for the Ideatrophy challenge ‘Freedom to Explore, Freedom to Experience, Freedom to Grow’ reaffirms Unilever’s ambition for sustainable growth and our sense of social purpose. As Nigerian youths explore the opportunities, they have the potential of gaining the needed experience that will make them grow. It is believed that such growth can bring the desired change that will impact positively across our societies. The world is interconnected and the symbiotic relationship that exist therein meant that our youths across Africa should not be left out,” Nsarkoh said.
He further added that the company believes in a brighter future – a world where everyone lives well and exists within the natural limits of our planet. “We are pioneering a new, more sustainable way of doing business because we recognize that change is essential if we want our planet, our consumers and our business to thrive. I congratulate the winners of this year’s contest and advise them not to rest on their oars to reach great heights”, he added.
This was affirmed recently during grand finale of the 2018 edition, where, after a keenly contested competition, Team Banga emerged the overall winner of the edition. The initiative, which is in line with the company’s quest to groom young talents in Nigeria and Ghana, last year accommodated undergraduates from both countries at the 6th edition held in Lagos.
While the competition lasted, participants from various teams appeared as business strategists, who have come to proffer solution to how to deepen penetration of different brands. Aside exposing members of various teams to core marketing challenges, the platform also offered participants networking opportunity with many experts, who were already masters of the game
In his reaction, the leader of the winning team, Ezeoguine Chuka thanked Unilever Nigeria for an opportunity to explore their talents on a global scale. “This competition has been a life changing experience for Team Banga. It has enabled usto explore our innate business abilities and further exposed us tothe realities of doing business. The competition has given each member of the team a leap to achieve greatness in life and we sincerely hope to take it further from here,” he said.
Launched in 2010, USLP is driving value for the Unilever business, their people and consumers, while also creating sustainable growth through brands and purpose, cutting business costs, reducing risks, helping to build trust and to generate long-term value for the multiple stakeholders.
The competition has been designed to develop young talents, mostly undergraduates across universities in Nigeria and Ghana along the lines of personal, leadership and entrepreneurial competences. The boot camp for the 2018 edition was opened in Lagos, where contestants were exposed to Unilever activities in sales, marketing, finance and supply chain. The participants were assigned to mentors who are seasoned business professionals, to guide them in the development of their business plans in preparation for their presentations whilst also engaging in other recreational activities.
The grand finale was attended by over 400 undergraduates from different Universities across the country. In addition to the competition, the visiting undergraduates were taken through series of employability workshops on how to prepare for interviews, writing of CVs and networking for career development.
Speaking at the event, Nsarkoh, reiterated Unilever’s commitment to touching lives every day through its products and social missions. He appreciated the efforts of all the participants and advised them to be persistent in the drive to achieve their goals. He also encouraged them to develop their knowledge and skills to meet up with global standards.
Though it has been described as corporate social responsibility(CSR) initiatives by some analysts, IdeaTrophy competition is a unique intervention programme that government and other corporate entity should encourage to develop talents and prepare Nigerian youths for the future. One of its benefits is the free mentorships from top-notch achievers within the business cycle, which the competition offers to participants annually.
One of the judges, Mr. Olalekan Olude, who is a co-founder of Jobberman, captured the essence of the exercise, when he described it as an eye opener and intervention programme that would help the students realised their potentials.
“With the initiative, Unilever has touched positively on a sensitive area in innovation and strategy development. Without doubt, this intervention programme has given the students opportunity to put into practical, some of the things they have learnt in their various schools. So far, it has been a rare opportunity for the undergraduates to make real impact. Human capacity building and talent development are key to national development, hence the need for stakeholders to buy into such initiative,” he said
Olude, however, called on participants in the competition to build on the experience garnered while the challenge lasted, as they look into bright career years in marketing.
His position resonates with the declaration of the company when journey started six years ago, when it was stated that that the company’s investment in Idea Trophy went beyond just doing good, but actually doing good business within Nigeria’s social and economic environment.
“Driving and sustaining our business is hinged on the quality of our people, and that is why Unilever Nigeria has remained committed to discovering, uncovering and developing talent at different levels, not just for now, but also for the future,” the company had stated.
Unilever has been going into the Universities to stimulate thinking amongst undergraduates and challenge them with real life business cases. This is with the intent that these students will develop intellectually and begin to have a view of what lies ahead after University life.
Until last year when Ghanaian students were involved alongside their counterparts in Nigeria, the IdeaTrophy competition used to be a national competition in the country that called on University undergraduates to respond to a business case presented by Unilever Nigeria. These undergraduates are to form teams of three people, and come up with an idea that will address the business case presented, which they will get the opportunity to develop. However, the team of three people model is still retained.
As a challenging and creative experience, where students need to figure out how business works in real life while developing their own skills and competencies, the company has been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the initiative is actually a business challenge and not a game because it appears too real to be a game.
Among other criteria, judges in the challenge look out for participants’ excitement and passion, creative ideas built on an innovative strategy, great fit with the project brief, and applicability to real business life and appeal to the adopted case study.