Michigan Ross PTMBAs Explored New Business Models For Last-Mile Delivery Robots During Mobility Competition With DENSO


Over the summer, students in the Weekend and Evening MBA programs at the Ross School of Business participated in a last-mile mobility competition sponsored by DENSO, the world’s second-largest mobility supplier. The Michigan Ross part-time MBA students were challenged to propose new ideas about how to best approach the rapidly emerging space of last-mile delivery robots. 

For the competition, 14 teams consisting of 70 PTMBA students were briefed about last-mile mobility's growing importance and DENSO’s increasing investment in the space. Teams were then tasked with:

  • Analyzing and assessing emerging business opportunities in the autonomous delivery industry.

  • Developing 1-2 business ideas focused on business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) services that generate recurring revenues.

  • Devising a business strategy and corporate action for implementation.

A panel of two Ross professors and four DENSO employees selected the two winners. The winning teams were selected for their unique approaches, which yielded tech-forward concepts centered on optimized fleet management and autonomous waste collection.

Members of the winning teams included Weekend MBA students: Mara Wittmann, Hussein Dabaja, Caroline Wagner, Ronald Blevins, Nived Karumatt, Gary Chung, Kaustubha Pachkhede, Sammy Nicolas, Yung-Hao Kung, and Badri Yadav. 


Left to Right: Pat Bassett (judge), Denso Vice President; Kara Grasso (judge), Denso Vice President; Sammy Nicolas, WMBA1 student; Gary Chung, WMBA1 student; Yung-Hao Kung, WMBA2 student; Kaustubha Pachkhede, WMBA2 student; Badri Yadav, WMBA2 student; Wally Hopp (judge), Michigan Ross Associate Dean; and John Branch (judge), Michigan Ross Marketing Professor.


"Case study competitions allow our students to apply what they've learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios," said Patricia Russo, managing director of the Part-Time MBA Programs at Michigan Ross. "Working with DENSO is particularly exciting because it forces our students to think beyond the technology of today and to what the future of mobility will look like with advancements around autonomous and connected vehicle technology."

This was the first year that Michigan Ross partnered with DENSO to hold the last-mile delivery competition for the Weekend and Evening MBA students. 

Left to Right: Robert Wunsche (judge), Denso Director; Manji Suzuki (judge), Denso Vice President; Ronald Blevins, WMBA2 student; Carrie Wagner WMBA2 student; Mara Wittmann WMBA1 student; Hussein Dabaja WMBA1 student; Nived Govind Karumatt, WMBA1 student; John Branch (judge), Michigan Ross Marketing Professor; and Wally Hopp (judge), Michigan Ross Associate Dean.


"Working with the Ross School of Business on this competition allowed us to do two things we're passionate about at DENSO," said Pat Bassett, vice president of DENSO's North American Research Engineering Center. "First, it drove creative thinking from fresh perspectives, which is key to our R&D strategy. Second, it offered these bright students real-life examples of how they could apply their talents to an exciting career in mobility."

A portion of the competition also was supported by a gift from the Weekend MBA Class of 2017.