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The WBS Merchandise Brand Store: A Case of Missing Exclusivity*

CASE STUDY, ENTREPRENEURSHIP & STARTUPS
ET Cases - FLAME, 11 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Prof. Siddhartha Saxena, Faculty, BKMIBA, Ahmedabad University

Case Preview

The WBS Merchandise Brand Store: A Case Of Missing Exclusivity

 

WBS (WISE Business School) merchandise was one of the four shops (Alumni Store, The Entre Store, Mr. Bhargava’s Initiative and The WBS Store) based on the same concept, of selling personalized merchandise, in WISE B-School. WBS Store was the result of an entrepreneurial initiative in 2002 at a very small level mentored by the B-School Professors, but in 2010, this successful initiative was established as an exclusive souvenir shop of WISE B-School and with time the functioning was outsourced and the profit was shared with the institute.

Until 2010, the WBS was functioning smoothly, until one of the contractual research staff member, Mr. Bhargava started selling products possessing the institute’s logo, the problem of having multiple payers offering the same product escalated in 2013. WBS was charged by one of the alumni of the institute as she came to know about more than one channel offering products in the institute. Many concerns were raised which led to an ugly spat on emails and personal confrontations. Later, the move from WBS backfired and they lost their exclusivity, as there was no action from management to protect their exclusivity, they had paid for. Multiple MDP programs of the institute were ordered to take material/products only from Alumni shop rather than WBS. Mr. Bhargava also took a feedback (Annexure I) from the business school community, which led to negative publicity of WBS and its owner. At the end of 2014, the shop was closed and was abandoned by the owner. Management didn’t take an action against Mr. Bhargava and it led to the owner abandoning the shop in between. The Merchandise business continued at WBS B-School but by another permanent staff member raising many questions to ponder upon unanswered areas, which again led to such drastic steps taken..................

Personalized Merchandise of the B-School

Promotional merchandise, items, products, gifts, or advertising gifts, sometimes nicknamed swag or Schwag too, are articles of merchandise (often branded with a logo or printed with a slogan) used in marketing and communication programs.

They are given away to promote a company, corporate image, brand or an event at trade shows, conferences, and can also be used as part of marketing campaigns. The growth in the market for personalized printed products is driven largely by getting consumers to think of traditional products in new ways, which is encouraged not only by the ability to personalize products but also by the availability of new designs and new ways to create and order these products.........

Examples of Customized Products

Many of the prominent B-Schools in India also deal in personalized merchandise (Exhibit II), crafted for certain events or college festivals. Generally, the personalization is outsourced to local vendors or also sometimes to players like www.hungrygift.com and www.printavenue.com to name a few...........

The Entrepreneurship Angle

The personalized products generally are in demand during college festivals, induction time, farewells, etc. Indian B-School culture is highly affected by US-based B-Schools’ culture and therefore personalized products like in US B-Schools are prominently made available here also...........

Prominent Merchandise Shops in India and Indian B-Schools

The alternative business models have included opening up of E-commerce channels and providing customized products through companies like eSparSha, the only renowned online store serving almost all the Business schools and Engineering colleges.........

Customers

Customers of the stores are both internal customers and external customers. The stores sell both customized and standardized products. Students who enroll with the institute buy multiple products as they become a part of their identity both at the institute level and outside as well. Many of these stores customize products for various events and festivals held in colleges and universities...........

Merchandise Shops at WISE B-School (2010-2014): The Four Competitors

• Alumni Store

The Alumni Store offered standardized products like T-shirts, Cups and Souvenirs. They had very limited product range available, due to which the Alumni Store was not a very prominent player.

• The Entre Store

The students’ entrepreneurship club managed The Entre Store. The store used to cater to the specific needs of the students and used to introduce

......................................

The Conflict Begins

Business was smooth until 2012 as the WBS Store and The Entre Store functioned collaboratively, symbiotic in functioning, which resulted in both the stores being profitable. On the other hand, Mr. Bhargava was not promoting his products beyond staff so it was not in direct lines with students’ markets...........

Mr. Bhargava’s Point of View

Mr. Bhargava joined WISE B-School as an Associate in Business Policy Area in 2010. At that time there were only two souvenir shops in the campus. Alumni Store dealt with few items and the rest was through The Entre Store. Alumni Store was having limited items to offer while Entre Store was offering varieties of item like pen, pen stand, mug, key chain, gift set, sweat shirt, etc...........

The WBS Store

The WBS Store enjoyed exclusivity, like many of such initiatives that used to run in B-Schools across country used to sell the products at higher price, it was a common phenomenon as the exclusivity of products made them stand out and in return stores used to charge a premium. The variety and range of products were also wider, as per the initial contract of running the store...........

The Aftermath

Alumni Store

The Alumni Store got prominence in 2014 and they got the exclusive rights from management to procure t-shirts and mugs from the MDP office itself..........

The Entre Store

The Entre Store also did well in that particular year, Mr. Bhargava was exposed by the WBS Store (Exhibit IX) through certain emails as he sold inferior products.........

Souvenirs of the Institute

The questions remain for the upcoming year what now and what next, as no one was having any exclusive rights and lacked collaboration..........

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Corporate Merchandise

Exhibit II: Prominent B-School Stores

Exhibit III: Mr. Bhargava’s Opinion about WBS Store

Exhibit IV: Email Response from WBS Store

Exhibit V: Mr. Bhargava’s Response

Exhibit VI: Mail from Administration to Mr. Bhargava

Exhibit VII: Mail from Mr. Bhargava to Institute Notice board

Exhibit VIII: Management’s Response to Closing of WBS Store

Exhibit IX: Revelation by WBS Store

Annexure

Annexure I: Feedback for WBS Store on Price, Quality and Products Feedback

Teaching Note Preview

The WBS Merchandise Brand Store: A Case Of Missing Exclusivity

 

Synopsis

Merchandise of B-Schools is popular among the students of respective B-Schools, they not only consider that as a brand but also as souvenirs for memory. The WBS Store was one of the established students’ initiatives for past 10 years in the B-school. It enjoyed exclusive rights of providing souvenirs and also produce merchandise for various programs, events and fests in the institute, at times it received some special orders too. Since last three years, the store was facing tough competition from other mushrooming initiatives by students and also from staff members of B-School, which was not completely legal, but the business was going on smoothly for WBS until the first month of 2014. Within a year, matters took a few bad turns and it turned out that in December 2014 the store announced its closing amidst of chaotic atmosphere. The entrepreneur who had purchased the rights left it midway due to personal and business reasons, but was it just that or other issues as well.

Expected Learning Outcomes

The case study focuses on the following learning outcomes:

  • • Need for exclusivity and the processes which could have been used to patent the Intellectual property by WBS Store
  • • Managing students initiatives to start entrepreneurship
  •  • Which target audience needs to be considered and the understanding of the operations which would be helpful for WBS mechandisers
  • • Implementation of appropriate rules, understanding the business model of WBS and initiatives taken by the students and staff members
  • • Understanding of the importance of networking in any business venture

 

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study is useful for the entreprenuers for whom intellectual property and the symbols that respresent the brand of a object/institution plays an important role. The case study will help educational insitutes understand and compare their business model with WBS, also help in understanding the issues that may turn up with Branding of Merchandise.

Assignment Questions

This case can be discussed in the class or in MDP’s by considering the following points:

  • I. Discussing about WBS store and its performance.
  • II. Mr. Bhargava’s initiatives and reason for his initiatives.
  • III. Reason behind the conflict
  • IV. .................

 

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Abstract

**ET Cases – FLAME Young Case Writer Award - 2015

Award Winning Case Study
Merchandise of B-schools is popular among respective B-schools students. The merchandise is not only considered as a brand but also as souvenirs. The WBS (WISE Business School) merchandise shop was one of the established students' initiatives for past 10 years in the B-school. It enjoyed exclusive rights of providing souvenirs and also produce merchandise for various programs, events and fests in the institute, at times it received special orders too. Since last three years, the store experienced competition from other mushrooming customized products makers - initiatives taken by students and few staff members of the B-school, which were not legal completely though but the business was smooth for WBS until the beginning of 2014. Within a year, matters took a bad turn and in December 2014, the entrepreneur who had purchased the rights called it quits and the WBS merchandise store announced its closing, owing to chaotic atmosphere. The reasons for closing were many - lack of management, multiple players targeting a small segment and misunderstanding regarding consumer needs and demands, etc. The case study deals with the importance and need for exclusivity to promote entrepreneurial culture within B-schools for initiatives to grow. The case study also enables an insight into how lack of proper rules affects business and the brand credibility.



Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand the necessity of exclusivity and the processes, which could have been used to patent the intellectual property by WBS merchandise shop
  • To identify target audience and the understanding of the operations
  • To implement appropriate rules, understand the business model of WBS and initiatives taken by the students and staff members
  • To understand the importance of networking in any business venture

Pedagogical Objectives

This case study is useful for the entrepreneurs for whom intellectual property and the symbols that represent the brand of a object/institution plays an important role. The case study will help educational institutes understand and compare their business model with WBS, also help in understanding the issues that may turn up with Branding of Merchandise.

 


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