The finale of the RB Global Challenge, on 4-5 December, celebrated the sixth set of winners of the title since the initiative began as an India-only competition in 2014. Since then it has grown into a popular, annual international event for university-age students, with participation increasing to 19,000 this year – more than triple the number in 2017, when the Global Challenge was first opened up beyond India.
What marks out the competition is its focus on social purpose. Contestants have to come up with a business idea based on any RB product across its Health or Hygiene Home divisions that demonstrates performance, profitability and purpose. They then present their ideas to judges in their RB market and the winners go through to the global finale in London.
This year’s winners from Bangladesh impressed the judging panel with their idea for a biodegradable lunch box with a hand sanitiser incorporated into the lid. They beat contestants from 13 RB markets and will go on to represent RB at One Young World 2020, the global forum for young leaders. They join 2018’s winners from Sri Lanka, who created a portable mosquito-repellent device for the Mortein brand using vape technology, along with 2017’s four finalists – from India, South Africa, Nigeria and Brazil – one of whose ideas has been tested by RB as a potential product offering.
The freedom to make a difference
Last year, RB made job offers to 52 Global Challenge participants and the company sees it as a way both for students to get to know RB and for RB to stay relevant to young people’s aspirations. Talent spotters look out for potential hires throughout the process and everyone who reaches the finals for their market is guaranteed an interview with RB recruiters.
“This is a way of highlighting to participants and the young generation that doing business that creates impact is really part of who we are,” says Udayan Dutt, HRD-Global functions, Health who joined RB in 2016 and is spearheading the Global Challenge.
“We’re committed to finding people who really want to make a difference and can therefore come into an environment like ours and make a positive impact, both for the business and for the world we live in. That’s something aligned with our employee value proposition of giving people the freedom to succeed.”
Growing enthusiasm worldwide
The organisers have seen the competition gain momentum as the RB teams in each market learn how it works and start spreading the word, especially through social media. In Bangladesh, for example, the RB Global Challenge team gathered students for “Purpose Café”– a session in which RB’s brand managers, current participants and past winners share brand knowledge and experiences.
Meanwhile, previous participants have been recruited to the company and are drawing on their enthusiasm as they run the next Global Challenges – including Saranya Mukherjee. Now aged 26, she was studying for a master’s degree in human resource management at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai when she took part in last year’s competition. Now she is a management trainee with RB based in Gurgaon, India, and has been working on this year’s competition.
“Among the recruiters I saw at my university, RB stood out. The Global Challenge and the values manifested in it made me view RB as my employer of choice,” she says. “I could see that the company takes purpose seriously and that’s something that really sets it apart from all the other players.”
Impressive team spirit
In her new role with RB, Mukherjee made the trip to London for the finale alongside Ankita Chakraborty, global lead for the project. As RB’s lead for talent acquisition and early career development in South Asia, Chakraborty appreciates the effort the contestants put in to what can be a fairly arduous process.
“Each idea goes through a number of gruelling evaluation rounds and I am so impressed by the way the teams stand up and present to subject-matter experts who have been in the field for decades,” she says. “They manage to take on every question, articulating their views so clearly; they really are fantastic.”
Someone who has gone through that experience is Madusha De Silva, 24, one of the 2018 winners from Sri Lanka who says the team’s confidence came from working together and really believing in their idea. All three team members are now trainees with RB in Sri Lanka and have been involved in running this year’s Global Challenge – helping to generate twice the number of registrations for the competition in the country compared with last year.
“We encouraged everyone to participate as we know it gives them valuable corporate exposure and they can practise what they learn in their curriculums,” says De Silva. “We’ve been so impressed by the freedom we’ve been given, not only in terms of the Global Challenge but also working with RB.”
And it’s not just about winning. Dutt remembers being inspired by a team of pharmacy students from Brazil who entered the Global Challenge in 2017 but didn’t make it through. They tried again in 2018 and this time made it to the global finale. “Their interest, tenacity and commitment was fabulous,” he says. “I was so impressed that they believed so much in this that they decided to participate all over again.”
Work on the 2020 Global Challenge will start in January. Each RB market decides whether it wants to take part, depending on its need for young talent – hence the number of participating markets varies annually. What has remained constant across the past six years is just how far the Global Challenge is proving its worth in attracting a new generation of entrepreneurs with purpose.