by Jad Nohra, MBA Candidate – Class of December 2013.
“We are happy to confirm to you the participation in our BASF event “reality loves visionaries” on October 28 and 29, 2013. Join us, BASF management, representatives and students from all around Europe for two interesting and exciting days in Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg, Germany.”
Those were the exact words of the email I received; along with 13 other IE MBA peers, as a confirmation to attend the largest chemical company’s yearly event.
As I was checking in at the lobby of the Mariott Hotel located in the beautiful historic town of Heidelberg, around 20 other students were waiting in line. A few hours later 100 students from various European business schools were gathered in the lobby; we met with the organizers, grabbed our name tags and lunch boxes and headed to Ludwigshafen in two buses, where BASF is headquartered.
Our first stop was at the manufacturing facilities. In fact it was more of a bus tour in order to cover the 10 million square meters (the area of 1,400 soccer pitches) of plants and facilities, where 1,600 production plants and 2,000 buildings are sited. BASF operates what is by far the largest chemical complex in the world, operated by one single company. BASF has 35,000 employees on site, covering 4 shifts of 12 hours each. The site also comprises 3 ports for transshipping. We heard of the word “Verbund” for the first time during the bus tour, and our guide explained it as follows: “an integrated production where residuals and waste from one process are used in other processes”. For example the incineration complex burns waste and steam energy is then reused as the main source of power in many processes.
Following the site visit, we were transported to a kind of chemical “museum” and then crossed the street to the company’s Casino where all big events and dinners are organized. We had a few drinks and the opportunity to network with executives from the company. Then we entered the dining room where the event was officially launched by the head of European recruitment and a dinner speech was given by Wayne Smith, member of the board of executive directors.
The seating was arranged in a way where each table had 2 BASF executives to give students the opportunity to network. The board member gave an overview of the company and introduced all senior executives present at the dinner. He explained that “Verbund” is a major source of competitive advantage for the company, and answered all kinds of questions from finance, to employee and business development, to GMOs. Following a tasty dinner we headed to a nearby room for 3 hours of open bar and live singer and DJ get together; mainly to mingle with other attendants.
Although we went back to the hotel around 1:00AM; we had to check out at 8am (after enjoying an amazing breakfast buffet) the next day to head to a kind conference hall. The first session of the morning was the highlight of the 2-day event. Our key note speaker, Sanjeev Gandhi, the president of Intermediates from India, shared details about his journey at BASF. With more than 6 different countries and 5 different functions, he is today the only Indian President at the company and board member at many partner firms.
Later on, we moved to a “marketplace” hall with information booths about the different field of job opportunities at BASF. It was a very interesting to network with employee from all the business areas and functions. After enjoying a mouth-watering lunch buffet, in-depth presentations were conducted by top managers from different BASF business areas in the form of 3×3 parallel sessions. All the sessions I’ve attended were enriching and managers always underlined the value of the “Verbund”, even in terms of employee management and overall efficiency.
At 04:00pm, the event was closed by the head of recruitment and buses were waiting to transport us to the airport in Frankfurt, thus ending an impressive journey of BASF “Verbundization”.