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Going once, going twice: Students consult for eBay

January 9, 2004

Image of eBay representatives, SFSU students and Professor Sanjit SenguptaFive students from SFSU's MBA program won a bid from eBay during the fall semester -- not to buy anything, but to sell their marketing ideas to the San Jose-based company known as "the world's online marketplace."

The students were asked to design a marketing strategy that would grow eBay's health care category -- from a small group that grosses merchandise sales of $15 million annually to a stand-alone category that would reach annual sales of $100 million. On eBay, health care is housed in the business and industrial category, which also includes products for construction, offices, restaurants, textiles and apparel manufacturing, printing and graphic arts, farming and semiconductor manufacturing.

The first-ever eBay and SFSU partnership was initiated by Sanjit Sengupta, a marketing professor who specializes in business-to-business marketing and the increasing importance of the Internet and globalization. In August Sengupta began discussion with the eBay client, John Anderson, associate category manager.

Students from Sengupta's class, Electronic Business Marketing Strategy (Marketing 872), were assigned the project according to their job descriptions and skills. The group consisted of three working professionals, Beth Rogozinski, Mike Marrich and Michael Yap, and two full-time students, Chris Chu and Fang Wang.

In eBay's health care category, sellers are mainly small businesses, used equipment dealers and corporate asset liquidators. The buyers are medical professionals with their own practices. The students were charged with devising a marketing plan to reach out to both buyers and sellers in the health industry, convincing them to use eBay as an alternative trading place.

The group found that small but growing areas such as dermatology and esthetician, home health care and the dental market are prime targets for eBay's health care category. In addition, the students included market penetration strategies for each of the target markets.

It was not an easy task, but the project provided a great learning experience for the students. "I spent almost 26 hours a week on this. I looked at it as a part-time internship," Chu said. “It's real, not just a class project where the only concern is grades."

Sengupta sees this as an excellent opportunity for his students.

"This is what marketing professionals are expected to do if they were to join a company like eBay," Sengupta said. "The project gives the students a chance to apply their learning in order to formulate and implement a marketing strategy."

Throughout the semester, the students met with Anderson to discuss their ideas and were in constant e-mail communication with prospective buyers and sellers in the health care industry.

"Working with a real client has been a great motivation. You know that someone's job is on the line and it's amazing to be able to work with an expert in the field like John (Anderson of eBay)," adds Rogozinski, a consultant with her own business, Systrum Media Consultants.

Anderson was full of praise for the group.

"I truly enjoyed seeing how the team's ideas developed over the course of the semester. eBay is not always intuitive, and the students were able to think strategically to generate valuable ideas," he said. "Most importantly, the information they gathered and recommendations they made will be important input to the development of eBay's health care equipment strategy."

-- Public Affairs Student Writer Audrey Tang with Matt Itelson


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Last modified January 9, 2004, by the Office of Public Affairs