I am an Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at Rice University's Jones Graduate School of Business. My research primarily concerns the development of new markets and ventures that exist to create social value, such as those that promote products and services that address global health and human development challenges.
I care deeply about the role of businesses in addressing social inequality, environmental sustainability, and international development. Significant support has enabled me to conduct the research I love, including the 2020 Strategic Research Foundation Dissertation Research Grant, 2020 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge Student Grant (with Yun Ha Cho and Reuben Hurst), 2022 Responsible Research in Business & Management Dare to Care Dissertation Scholarship, and 2012 Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowship to India.
Before my doctoral program, I co-founded Essmart, a social enterprise that distributes life-improving technologies to villages in southern India. For my work as a social entrepreneur, I have received recognition as a 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneur, 2016 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice, 2014 Cartier Women's Initiative Laureate, and 2013 Echoing Green Fellow. I received my SB in Economics and SB in Urban Planning from MIT and my Master in City Planning (international development) from MIT. I completed my PhD in Strategy and Sociology at the University of Michigan.
Please use the menu at the left to learn more about me and my work. My CV is here, and you may also email me at email@example.com.
We challenge statistical discrimination theory, which suggests that using all information about job candidates – including social group membership like race or gender – to make predictions. Drawing on heuristics research in psychology, we argue that utilizing less information can be better. We show that even small amounts of decision maker inconsistency and environmental uncertainty can make predictions using group membership less accurate that predictions that do not use this information. That is, using all available information about a job candidate only improves predictive accuracy under a very specific set of conditions, thus suggesting that statistical discrimination often results in worse predictions. By understanding when statistical discrimination improves or worsens predictions, our work cautions decision makers and uncovers paths toward reducing the occurrence of situations in which statistical discrimination benefits predictive accuracy, thus reducing its pervasiveness in society.
We leverage research in development economics and public health to understands why attempts to create markets and businesses for socially beneficial products targeting global health have failed. We provide a research framework for management and strategy scholars who are interested in addressing problems related to both supply and demand in these markets by highlighting multiple points of market failure in the provision and adoption of these products. This book chapter has been foundational to my research, enabling me to identify and test strategies that address these market failures.
We examine two strategies commonly used in practice by distributors in low-income contexts: 1) improving product affordability through discounts and 2) increasing awareness of products’ value. It is found that among low-income, risk averse customers whose ability to pay is lower than their willingness to pay, there are specific trade-offs to implementing these two strategies. The first strategy only benefits the distributor, while the second strategy may be detrimental depending on customers’ ability to pay and risk aversion. Moreover, in this context, the distributor’s profit-maximizing budget allocation often yields the lowest consumer surplus. This misalignment between profits and consumer surplus disappears if customers’ ability to pay is high. Furthermore, the misalignment can be resolved if the distributor offers free product returns. The results of this model are confirmed through a general model and numerical simulations.
I examine whether a market-building institutional intermediary in one country can affect entrepreneurial entry into the nascent industries of other countries. Through an analysis of 109 country-level industries for the innovative product of clean cookstoves between 2013 and 2018, it is found that entrepreneurial entry into the industry is predicted by the number of organizations that operated both in these countries and in countries where an infrastructure-building intermediary also operated. It is argued that the cross-border effects of the intermediary occur through the development of institutional carriers. These institutional carriers take part in a process of inter-organizational evangelism, as they are attracted to the industry-supporting institutional infrastructure established by the intermediary, grow in their acceptance of this institutional infrastructure, and extend elements of this institutional infrastructure to other places where they operate. Empirical analyses additionally show that the effectiveness of institutional carriers on entrepreneurial entry in the nascent industry depends on the carriers’ size and activities, as well as the culture of the countries that receives these carriers. The findings of this research shed new light on institutional carriers and the intermediaries that develop them, and they carry implications for how the growth of industries promoting innovations – especially those that generate health, social, and/or environmental benefits – can be supported globally.
Even though a commitment to improving society and the environment is generally seen as a desirable organizational characteristic, should new ventures always frame themselves in this way? I run a lab-in-the-field experiment with 716 independent retail shops in Bangalore, India and an online experiment with 234 survey takers to test how a venture's use of social impact framing affects the creation of partnerships for selling an innovative water treatment technology. Results show that even within the same stakeholder group, different results arise. In the lab-in-the-field experiment, there was no average effect of the social impact frame, but partnerships decreased when a male representative used it and increased when a female representative used it. In the online experiment, the venture's social impact frame caused an increase in partnerships. To reconcile different outcomes both within and across stakeholder groups, I develop and propose a framework of expertise-based skepticism. This work contributes to growing on entrepreneurial strategy, social claim making, and the legitimation of nascent markets. More broadly, I speak to research on how social issues -- problems and solutions -- can be framed to mobilize support from stakeholders across sectors.
I explore why enterprises led by local entrepreneurs are less likely to receive funding than enterprises led by expatriate entrepreneurs in markets for socially beneficial products. Through an inductive study of emerging clean cooking markets in East Africa, I find that local and expatriate entrepreneurs differ in their familiarity of the lived experiences of their customers and beneficiaries. This possession of deep, local knowledge affects the characteristics and scope of the social problem that their enterprises exist to address, the degree to which their companies are solutions to the identified social problems, and the extent to which customers/beneficiaries are part of the solution as opposed to being recipients of a solution. These contribute to the different choices that local and expatriate entrepreneurs make in terms of the business models they implement and the customers they target. Despite being able to leverage the emerging clean cooking market’s institutional infrastructure to different degrees, both types of entrepreneurs persist in the market – though in different ways. The ongoing presence of both local and expatriate entrepreneurs highlights tensions between the field’s effort to balance social and financial goals and slows market development. However, this creates guardrails for the entire field, making the prioritization of financial goals over social goals much more difficult at the field level, and enables the simultaneous addressing of both immediate and future market needs.
In Fall 2020, I was an instructor of record for Corporate Strategy, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business' core course for senior BBA students (teaching evaluation rating: 4.9/5.0). I taught a virtual class of 71 students and had modules on business strategy, corporate strategy, and strategy and society.
Here is an example of an asynchronous lecture video that students would watch before attending the synchronous virtual sessions, during which we had case discussions and/or live case updates from invited guest speakers.
In a Poets&Quants for Undergrads column, one of my BBA students included my Corporate Strategy class as one of the "5 Most Impactful Business Classes" she has taken at Ross. You can read her reflections, as well as an interview with me about my approach to teaching, here (or in this PDF).
In Winter 2019, I was an instructor of record for Business Strategy, a University of Michigan Ross School of Business undergraduate core course, and taught 81 sophomore BBA students in-person. I have given guest lectures about my entrepreneurial experiences at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, INSEAD, and MIT. I was additionally a teaching assistant for Corporate Strategy in the Chinese Context, an elective for undergraduate students, and a grader for Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate Development, an elective for MBA students.
To the left is a photo of dusty, unopened improved biomass cooking stoves that were supposed to reduce indoor air pollution. I took it in Tamil Nadu, India where I was conducting field research on the distribution of life-improving technologies.
Of the different models that I saw, none were working exceptionally well. Nonprofit organizations gave products away at a subsidized price, and customers didn’t value them. Village level entrepreneurs were difficult to find, unreliable, and hard to scale. Brick-and-mortar stores required too much upfront financing. Most organizations were still pitching these technologies as products for poor people – an unattractive sales strategy.
I co-founded Essmart to address these problems. The social enterprise creates an essential marketplace for these technologies in places where people already buy their goods -- small stores near where they live. We demonstrate a catalogue of products, distribute to local mom-and-pop stores, and facilitate manufacturers’ warranties. From August 2012 to August 2016, I oversaw operations in southern India. To date, Essmart has positively impact over 1.1 million people people through our network of shops.