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The Malaysia Star: Shell sets tough test for talent of the future

THE Shell Gourami Business Challenge was set up by Shell as an entry requirement for graduates who want to join this multi-national energy corporation.
Participants are given a chance to run an energy company based in the fictional island of Gourami. The objective is to present a business case that would secure an investment of up to US$1.5bil (RM5.5bil) from shareholders.

The programme culminates in a presentation to the shareholders who are represented by senior managers from Shell.

According to Ragu Subramaniam (pic), head of Shell Attraction and Recruitment over the last 10 years, Gourami has been held across the world to simulate the full range of technical and commercial issues that international energy groups face in developing countries.

Besides Gourami, which is open to undergraduates in their final year of study, there are two other routes to Shell – the Shell Recruitment Day and via Assessed Internship.

“Gourami was adapted to the Asia-Pacific market in September last year with over 1000 applications received,” said Ragu, who added that 47 undergraduates were selected.

Among those selected for Gourami in Langkawi last year were 16 Malaysians.

“It was the biggest Gourami ever organised and also the most successful to date,” Ragu said.

“Three out of four participants were found to have met Shell’s recruitment criteria.”

In Malaysia, Shell is looking to hire at least 130 to 140 graduates this year, he added. As such, Ragu is encouraging graduates to apply for Gourami.

“We are looking for talent for the future, which makes the selection process stringent and difficult,” he said. 

For more information on the Shell Gourami Business Challenge, visit Closing date for this year’s challenge is Aug 17. 

Game for a Gourami challenge?

WANT to know if you have what it takes to be part of a multi-national company?

Then apply for the Shell Gourami Business Challenge, which promises to provide participants with an authentic working environment to test their skills and capabilities.

In the five-day programme, which will be held at Phuket, Thailand from Sept 21 to Sept 26 this year, participants will get to test their various skills as they go about formulating and executing a business expansion plan.

Sounds intriguing? It is, as past participants of the Gourami can attest. The challenge sets you out on a path of discovery where you can see what Shell can offer you and what you can offer Shell. 

Gourami graduate Jonathan Kohn, who is now the Human Resource Director of Shell Malaysia, said he considered the challenge as a way of finding out what he was choosing as a career option.

“Many people choose their jobs based on brochures and marketing,” he said. 

Gourami tries to get beyond that, to the actual picture, by for example providing a real business challenge such as working alongside the kind of people who are likely to be recruited by Shell. 

Participants are also mentored by people who have worked in Shell for between five and six years and senior managers. 

“This would be a five-day condensed version of the taste of life in Shell. While it could be likened to The Apprentice (an American reality show), Gourami is a lot more realistic.” 

Kohn admitted that he did not know what to expect from the Gourami challenge when he took it up in the early 1990s in the UK.

“I thought it would be more of a management game but Gourami wasn’t like that. The focus is on capacity, achievement drive and relationship. Each team has six to seven participants working together in different aspects of the business.

“And it is not like Survivor because we choose people we hope that we are going to recruit.”

“If we had a Gourami where every single person is recruited, that would be fantastic,” Kohn added.

When he first joined Shell 13 years ago, Kohn, now 37, started off as a human resource recruiting officer and was involved in different sections of the company. He later ran Gourami from 1997 to 2000, expanding it from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom to other countries.

At the end of the Gourami, successful participants would get a job offer from Shell.

Gourami graduates Ewe Toong Yu, 37 and Shiv Prakash echoed Kohn’s positive sentiments about the challenge. 

“I went for the challenge with no inkling of what to expect but to find out if this company was suitable for me,” Ewe said.

And it obviously was, as Ewe has been with Shell for 14 years now.

For Ewe, the key lesson he learnt at Gourami was that as an engineering student at that time, the role of others is equally important in a project.

Ewe was also the only Malaysian in that challenge and was working in a team comprising British and Dutch participants.

“I had to jive with the others to make the relationship move forward and also blend with the many cultural differences,” Ewe recalled.

Exploration geologist Shiv, who is based Miri, initially thought Gourami was a great paid holiday in a resort.

“However, when I read comments on the Shell website, the experiences people had seemed very vivid and I anticipated a great challenge,” he said.

The challenge provided him with the unique opportunity of self-discovery. 

“It was there that I realised that I had the ability to motivate participants in achieving a common goal,” he said.

On the personal side, all three agree that the cross-cultural environment prepared them to work in a multi-national company because they learnt to be aware of each other as people from different backgrounds.

And the most important tool when attending the Gourami?

“Be yourself,” they said. and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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