Parsons MS Strategic Design and Management students win the Rotman Challenge for the third year in a row
Founded nearly a hundred years ago, Canadian Tire is a retail company in Canada that operates in the automotive, hardware, sports, and housewares sectors, among other divisions. The legendary Canadian retailer recently sponsored the Rotman Design Challenge, which brings together top talent from leading MBA and design schools around the world to propose solutions to a complex business challenge facing an innovative company.
For the third time in a row, a team of students from the MS Strategic Design and Management The program at Parsons won the challenge, which included a live virtual presentation and a prize of CA $ 6,000. Jesse Flores, Ra’d Jumean, Rashina Bhula, Savita Singh, Sneha Guntaka and Vasuta Kalra, each with a variety of business, marketing, design and leadership skills, created Bridging the Gap: Embracing a Phygital World A set of strategic recommendations that would help Canadian Tire bridge their physical and digital presence for a more streamlined shopping experience.
“I think everyone on the team will see this as a highlight of our Masters experience!” shared Vasuta Kalra, MS SDM ’21. “Our presentation contained strong strategic recommendations based on an understanding of the customer’s business with a combination of relevant consumer insights and solutions from the strategic design process. We viewed it as a project that should be ready to roll out and that covered the key issues Canadian Tire would need to think about if they decided to start our recommended initiatives right away. “
Highlighting the Parsons approach to design education was an intense collaboration, which meant that each team member was assigned a role based on their previous experience and expertise, and that they would take on new responsibilities at the end of the competition. The group even had an active virtual meeting room so team members could hop on and off to work on problems and brainstorm ideas, much like a design studio in the real world.
“We were thinking about how to make this team almost a year ago and wanted to reflect the skills that any multidisciplinary strategic design team should have,” explains Kalra. “During the chaotic design process, we all wore different hats as needed.”
Although Parsons was far away for the past academic year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the MS SDM students were already well equipped to deal with the virtual environment as many of them were online pre-COVID students anyway. To address the potential zoom exhaustion, the team took an organized approach to all assignments and research, resulting in more productive and effective virtual meetings.
Students, faculties and alumni from across Parsons have recently shown their talents and received recognition and awards from various leading organizations and institutions. Bhavya Gupta, MFA design and technology ’21, won the Schmidt Futures Reimagine Challenge for an app idea that supports migrant women in India Parsons Paris fashion design The student Lara Gerlach won the “Savoy Faire” competition in collaboration with the renowned Italian brand Borbonese.
Although Kalra and her teammate Sneha Guntaka weren’t designers before starting at Parsons, the MS SDM program has given them the opportunity to explore design thinking across a spectrum of industries and applications, and to round off their professional skills.
“The program gave me the opportunity to recognize and safely push back when business assumptions are incorrect or incomplete,” says Guntaka. “I’ve also learned so much from my colleagues and I’m glad to have worked with them not only on the Rotman Challenge, but also on several projects.”
“Method aside, however, I think a big part of the program’s success lies in its ability to maintain the design mindset and the fundamentals of why we would approach a problem a certain way,” Kalra repeats. “This training on how to think strategically about a particular problem is really our core strength.”