Case Studies

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SBS Transit

By Assoc Prof Lau Geok Theng and Mr Ben Sim (NUS student)
Case for NUS International Case Competition

In September 2014, Mr Woon Chio Chong, Executive Vice President, Bus Development of SBS Transit, was wondering what changes to the organisation, strategies and operations of SBS Transit should be made to improve its profitability and pole position in the public bus transportation business in Singapore. This was following the announcement by the Singapore Government in May 2014 that public bus transportation was shifting from a privatised to a government contracting model. The bus service industry was defined by its yearly profits, service standards and safety records. Previously, the concern of profitability by bus operators resulted in neglect of routes and offerings deemed as unprofitable. The privatised model was dominated by two basic bus operators, SBS Transit and SMRT Buses. SBS Transit had a market share of 75% before the change in model and operated 5 different bus services. Formed in 1973, it evolved from a bus company to a multi-modular transport operator, retaining bus operations as a subsidiary.  Both companies kept each other in check by acting as the benchmark for the other’s performance, in the areas of service quality, reliability and punctuality. However, profits had been steadily declining with rising costs of fuel prices and labour expenses.

The government contracting model would see ownership of buses and bus infrastructure being transferred to the government, while operators vie for the rights to ply various bus routes through competitive bidding. This would lower the barrier of entry to the market and attract more bus operators into the market, increasing competition for SBS. While the initial phase of the new model would guarantee the incumbent operators an 80% of bus services, more bus services will be tendered out over time. More stringent bus arrival timings have come in place in recent years, under the Bus Service Reliability Framework, placing pressure on bus services to ensure high service standards. In the face of future competition and increased demands from the government, Mr Woon would thus have to position SBS to best tackle the challenges ahead.

Malaysian Airlines

by Assoc Prof Lau Geok Theng and Ms Wong Wan Ting (NUS student)
Case for NUS International Case Competition

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is the national airline of Malaysia. It runs both cargo and passenger services. The airline is also a member of the One World Alliance and serves destinations in over 80 countries. In 2014, two Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flights met with mishap, flight MH370 went missing in March 2014 and flight MH017 crashed in July 2014. MAS had been losing money for three years prior to 2014 as a result of high cost and stiff competition. The airline’s largest loss in its history occurred in 2011, to the tune of RM 2.52 billion. Unprofitable routes were cut and cost cutting measures implemented. However, the tragedies of the missing and crash planes led to high number of cancellations and decline of long haul travel on the airline. Mr Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, Group Chief Executive Officer of Malaysian Airlines (MAS) was wondering what strategies MAS should adopt to reverse the impact of both tragedies.

International air travel had been growing steadily between 2009 to 2014. Revenues of the air travel industry have been increasing as well and 2013 saw an estimated $710 billion in revenues. However, higher fuel prices has made the market challenging. With increasing competition between airliners, MAS was able to differentiate itself by being one of just seven airlines nominated by Skytrax as a five-star airline. Its competitors include other five-star airliners, such as Singapore Airlines, All Nippon Airways of Japan and Qatar Airways, among others. However, the twin tragedies of flights MH370 and MH017 quickly overturned any progress MAS was making in bringing back profits. Should MAS shrink its business and eradicate most of the international routes it flies, to focus on the more profitable routes? Should it rebrand itself and if so, how?

Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE)

by Assoc Prof Lau Geok Theng and Ms Serene Tan (NUS student)
Case for NUS International Case Competition

In  August  2013,  Mr  Chanratha,  Director  of  General  Education  & Community Development,  Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE),  was wondering what  specific  social  enterprise  programs  could  be  developed  and implemented  to  help  the  sole  bread  winners and/or wives of families relocating  to  SMILE  Village in Cambodia to first  replace  income  derived  from scavenging, and through skills  training, to gradually become self-supporting. Cambodia was one of the world’s poorer nations, the country having been racked by civil war in the latter part of the 20th century. Approximately 4 million people lived on less than US$1.25 per day and 37% of Cambodian children under the age of 5 suffered from chronic malnutrition. More than 50% of the population were less than 25 years old.

PSE was founded by Christian Des Pallières and his wife, Marie-France in 1995. PSE was committed to improving the livelihood of children in Cambodia, specifically those living in the slumps. They provide basic education, vocational training and support services to children from the most impoverished families. The SMILE village project was aimed at finding sustainable solutions in addressing the inhumane living conditions of families of PSE students in order that these children might be educated, and every family might break the bonds of poverty.  The key challenge was to help the poor families relocating to the SMILE village, build the capacity to establish a stable source of income, manage their families and grow as a community. The help of 12 student consulting teams were sought to develop feasible social enterprise ideas for the first smile village and to provide implementation plans for these social enterprise ideas.

Inverted Edge

By Ms Yao Dianchen (NUS student) and Assoc Prof Lau Geok Theng
Case for NUS International Case Competition

In April 2013, Debra Langley, CEO of Inverted Edge, was evaluating how Inverted Edge could enter the China market. Founded in September 2012, the company aimed to take talented independent Asia-Pacifc designers global. They identified the problem that these designers did not have the time, people or resources to sell internationally. A growing number of independent female customers who were looking for uniquely designed styles also provided an attractive market to tap into. To that end, they created an online platform that catered to international orders. Inverted Edge focused on a niche market strategy which targeted customers looking for unique and specially designed wearable styles with good quality and reasonable price. To differentiate itself from competitors, the company aimed to provide a curated selection of styles to its customers while infusing an unexpected journey of discovery of new products on its website.

China’s luxury market has been on an upward trend and is forecasted to take over Japan as the largest luxury market in the world by 2014. Its designer apparel market was also reported to have a 20% growth. Internet retail was also projected to grow by 36.8% over the next 5 years. These factors made the China market very attractive for Inverted Edge to expand their business into. However, it has to contend with strong competition from home grown China fashion online e-retailers such as Dong Liang Studio and Triple Major. Local design labels such as Exception were also starting to make their mark in the Chinese market. Debra therefore wondered how Inverted Edge could reach the target market in China, compete with local and international competitors, and gain penetration and market share in this large market.

Fiett™ Pte Ltd

by Assoc Prof Lau Geok Theng and Ms Janet Ng (NUS student)
Case for NUS International Case Competition 

In September 2012, Charmain Tan, founder and CEO of Fun in Ecological Tech Textile (FIETTTM) faced the issue of having to raise funds required to expand the business. The start-up company specialised in producing eco-friendly, cutting edge tech textile goods. The company’s pilot product, ISGLOVESTM, were a pair of hybrid gloves that could be used to operate touch screen devices while keeping the users hands warm in the cold climate. Gloves of such functionality were unavailable then. The product was manufactured in China and targeted for sale in the Scandinavian countries. FIETTTM had been relying on support and funding from the Singapore government and private initiatives since its inception. To bring the business to the next level, additional funding from other investors were required.

FIETT™’s vision and mission is to go beyond existing frontiers of textile application towards the synthesis of technology and fashion into the creation of new and innovative apparels to add value to consumer experiences of comfort, convenience and style in an ecological way. ISGLOVETM was positioned as a differentiated product from its competitors, focusing on attributes which competitors were not able to satisfy and avoiding competition on mainstream features. Furthermore, the eco-friendly market, touch screen technology market and the Scandinavian glove market all showed great growth potential. For an upcoming presentation to investors, Charmain knew she had to articulate the company’s international sales and marketing strategy for ISGLOVESTM and its global sales potential. She also had to share the long term vision of the company beyond its gloves products.

Singapore Mass Rapid Transit: Going Off Track

by Prof Vivien K.G. Lim and Mr Nikodemus Jaya (BBA Hons graduated student)

Publication Date: 19/02/2015

In January 2012, Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) Corporation’s chief executive officer resigned after two major breakdowns on the North-South Line in December 2011. SMRT was a public transport operator in Singapore, with a transportation network that comprised buses, trains and taxis. The two breakdowns were arguably the largest public transportation incidents in Singapore’s history, prompting public outrage and heavy criticism of the CEO’s qualifications and personal style. However, it was uncertain whether she, as CEO, bore primary responsibility for the train breakdowns. To what extent did her gender and unconventional style affect the public’s perception of her effectiveness as a leader? How much did the media influence the public’s perception? Could the train breakdowns have been averted if a CEO with an engineering background or industry-specific experience had been in charge?

For NUS Business School: (Faculty only)
To obtain a free copy of the case, please contact Ms Kwok Siew Geok (

Precena Strategic Partners: Staff Relocation Cost Minimization

by Assoc Prof Singfat Chu and Mr Takahisa Takada (participant, Asia-Pacific Executive MBA Intake 23)


Publication Date: 14/01/2015

A Japanese management consultant company seeks to relocate some of its instructors for a period of between one and three months to Singapore in order to conduct its flagship course catering to Japanese expatriate managers. It must determine which instructors to select in order to minimize relocation costs while taking into account their productivity and availability and the number of courses booked over three future months. Cost minimization is crucial due to the expensive service apartment rentals in Singapore. The firm must develop an optimization template in order to make the best possible decision.

For NUS Business School: (Faculty only)
To obtain a free copy of the case, please contact Ms Kwok Siew Geok (

Focus Media Holding Ltd. (2014)

by Dr Emir Hrnjić, Ms Lianting Tu and Assoc Prof Pedro Matos (Darden School of Business)

Publication Date: 19/12/2014

In November 2011, Muddy Waters, a U.S. short-seller fund, accused Focus Media of overstating the size of its business. Focus Media's stock price fell sharply at first but then rebounded as the company countered the attacks. In March 2012, however, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched its own investigation and pressured Focus Media to amend some of its filings. A few months later, CEO Jiang partnered with a group of private equity (PE) firms, to take Focus Media private in a deal valued at more than $3.7 billion, China's largest-ever buyout. In the following months, several Chinese companies followed suit and delisted from the NASDAQ. In mid-2014, the PE firms in the consortium wanted to cash out of their equity positions, and Jiang faced the difficult decision of what to do next.

Alibaba's IPO Dilemma: Hong Kong or New York?

by Dr Emir Hrnjić 

Publication Date: 04/12/2014

In April 2014, Alibaba’s impending initial public offering (IPO) projected to be among the world’s largest IPOs. Alibaba faced many choices regarding ownership structure, trading location, IPO pricing and IPO timing. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange seemed like a natural fit for its IPO due to geographical, cultural and language proximity. Furthermore, 86.7 per cent of Alibaba’s revenues originated within China. However, Alibaba insisted on “partnership governance,” while the Hong Kong Stock Exchange did not allow listing of companies with dual-class share structure. In contrast, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ did not object to Alibaba’s proposed ownership structure. While the Hong Kong investors knew Alibaba’s business better, the New York exchanges provided more liquidity and visibility. Against this backdrop, Alibaba needed to make difficult decisions regarding its IPO.

For NUS Business School: (Faculty only)
To obtain a free copy of the case, please contact Ms Kwok Siew Geok (

GlaxoSmithKline: Rebalancing Excessive Workloads

by Mr Ronald Kleer (participant, Asia-Pacific Executive MBA Intake 23) and Assoc Prof Singfat Chu

Publication Date: 21/11/2014

End-of-month account closure at many firms often requires long work hours, which may lead to staff fatigue and attrition that will affect productivity and quality of work. This is true for GlaxoSmithKline’s Record to Report Finance team in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August 2014. The company is a science-led global business that researches and develops a broad range of innovative products in three primary areas: pharmaceuticals, vaccines and consumer health care. The team in Malaysia has 40 employees who provide services including month-end accounts closure, financial reporting and analytics to business units operating in the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. At the end of every month, the team must perform within five days a sequence of 17 activities requiring varying man-hours. The activities must follow a specific flow according to information availability and must, for internal efficiency and quality control reasons, start and end on the same day. Is there a method by which management can help the team achieve work balance or minimize the number of work hours per day?

For NUS Business School: (Faculty only)
To obtain a free copy of the case, please contact Ms Kwok Siew Geok (

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