The Case Centre’s bestselling authors

Debapratim Purkayastha

Debapratim Purkayastha
IBS Hyderabad

"The teaching objectives should be clear, assignment questions should be well framed, and analysis of the case should be thorough. This calls for a lot of time and effort to be spent on fine-tuning the case and teaching note."

The secret to success in case writing is no different from what is required to be successful in any other endeavour: 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. The process starts with understanding the requirements of the topic, then planning the work, and most importantly, sticking to the plan. Also, at the root of this success lies some of the best practices that we have developed over the past decade at IBS Hyderabad. The basic idea is to write good cases that educators around the world would love to take into their classrooms.

Picking up the nuances

While I was doing my MBA, I was exposed to case studies for the first time. Then in my professional life I was exposed to case studies both as a trainee and as a trainer. So it did not take me much time to pick up the nuances of writing a case when I started my case writing career in 2006. In fact, three out of the first five cases I developed became prizewinning cases at the EFMD Case Writing Competition, oikos Global Case Writing Competition and the John Molson MBA Case Writing Competition. Of course, I had the support of senior co-authors, and a very streamlined process of case development at the IBS Center for Management Research (ICMR). Having said that, I must confess that I am still learning how to write good case studies as it is a continuous process.

Essential for success

To qualify as a successful case, the topic should be relevant (to the concepts to be discussed in the class) and the story should be very interesting. The case itself should be focused on a management dilemma or issue, and there should be enough background information in the case to enable a rigorous analysis by the students. The case should not be one-sided as this will hamper the quality of the discussion in the classroom.

If you are writing a case from field research, try to bolster the case with additional research from secondary sources. If you are writing a case solely from secondary sources, be very thorough as your case needs to be much, much better than the competing field research-based cases in order to compete and qualify for classroom use.

Additionally, the teaching note for the case should be very strong. The teaching objectives should be clear, assignment questions should be well framed, and analysis of the case should be thorough. All this calls for a lot of time and effort to be spent on collecting information, compiling, writing, and fine-tuning the case and the teaching note before it is ready to be published.

Personal favourite

One of my favourite cases is 'Gramin Suvidha Kendra': MCX's Corporate Social Opportunity Approach to Inclusive Growth (Abridged). MCX adopted a proactive approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and viewed this as creating 'corporate social opportunities' (CSO). I was particularly pleased with this case study as the topic was very interesting and worth studying by any management student. Moreover, I was able to develop the case well and had unfettered access to the information I wanted from the company. I had access to executives at the top level and the opportunity to closely interact with the person who was spearheading the GSK model while designing and developing the case. These interactions not only helped me develop a very good case but also helped the company to identify some activities for the GSK model.

Another of my favourite cases is Apple Board’s ‘Steve Jobs Dilemma’. The case focuses primarily on the role of the board of directors, the board's relationship with the CEO, CEO succession planning and the board, and the board's obligations to the shareholders. This case won the tightly contested CMA-Alberta Award for the 'Best Case in Corporate Governance' at the North American Case Research Association's Annual Meeting held at San Antonio, Texas, USA, October 2011.

Ethical Leadership: Ratan Tata and India's Tata Group is another case that is very close to my heart. The case deals with one of the major challenges that organisations face in many emerging markets – corruption. It is designed to spark a discussion on whether corruption should be encouraged; whether this is a necessary but transient phase in the development of modern capitalism in emerging markets; what organisations should do to fight the menace of corruption; and whether ethical leadership is the answer while operating in emerging markets.

Most admired

I have enjoyed using Patagonia in my business strategy class for the past two years. Not only is Patagonia’s business model very unique, but the way the case and the teaching notes are written is a pure delight for any educator. I am particularly attracted to the new initiatives of Patagonia described in the case. I had been planning to write a case on Patagonia since 2008 but was unable to do so until now due to some conflicting priorities. I really wish I had written this case! 

View cases written by Debapratim

About the author

Debapratim Purkayastha is an Associate Dean at IBS Hyderabad, India. He teaches business strategy and marketing and his research interests include corporate social responsibility as strategy; inclusive business models; and social entrepreneurship.

An award-winning and bestselling case writer, Debapratim is actively involved in the Case Research Centre at IBS Hyderabad. He has edited over ten management books and his case studies on topics such as business strategy and marketing are taught at leading business schools around the world. Debapratim also runs training and workshops on case writing and learning and is consulting editor of Case Folio, a refereed journal dedicated to management case studies. His prizewinning cases include, The Body Shop: Social Responsibility or Sustained Greenwashing, and Innovation at Whirlpool: Creating a New Competency. His case, Digital Marketing at Nike: From Communication to Dialogue, won an award from The Case Centre in 2014.


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