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How IIM Calcutta Fared in Thought Leadership in 2009-10


    For the last two years, its been a ritual for me to lock myself in a room for a week-end and read through the vast output of our faculty during the year. I get immense pleasure  from this and in sharing  with you today what I discovered I hope you will get a similar pleasure. The scale and width of the issues that our faculty have tackled is immense.

For example, why do some alliances between Indian and international firms succeed and others fail? Prof BN Srivastava, of our Behavioral Sciences group, in a paper presented at the Academy of Management meeting in Chicago in August 2009, titled Positive Organizational Scholarship: A Cross-Cultural Perspective from Five Nations used the Positive Organizational Scholarship approach to study this issue and concluded that success is based on the quality of the connection. The quality of connection, in turn, depends on  the emotional capacity to withstand both negative and positive experiences, resilience or capacity of the person to bend and withstand strain and to function in a variety of circumstances,  and the relationship’s generativity and openness to new ideas and influences and the ability to deflect the pressures that shut the generative processes.

We have of late observed the phenomenon of foreigners being hired for top management positions in Indian firms. Prof Rajiv Kumar of our Behavioral Sciences group studied the circumstances under which Indian companies hired such foreign talent and developed twelve propositions about this phenomenon. The desire to learn  superior execution skills from these ‘foreign nurtured talent’, getting their help in managing overseas subsidiaries particularly in dealing with the external environment are two examples of these propositions. He also notes that the Indian companies who hired such managers are ones that have global ambitions in growth and technical excellence. His paper, Foreign Nurtured Talent in Indian Business Houses was accepted for the 10th International Human Resource Management Conference held at Santa Fe, New Mexico in June, 2009.

We have seen the film industries in Hollywood or Bollywood where In independent business elements like studios, producers, directors, actors, technical personnel create a temporary network structure, which is project-based  and inter-organizational in a “system of recurrent ties among the various major participants who usually work under short-term contracts for single films”. Economists have been baffled why they continue this so-called network organization structure even though it has been demonstrated that the transaction costs of such a structure are far higher than a hierarchically or purely market oriented structure. Since networked structures are increasingly evident across many industries, Professor Amit Jyoti Sen of Behavioural Sciences Group with a doctoral candidate, Apalak Khatua, proposed a framework `for understanding the circumstances under which such network structures emerge and their paper, Inside the Interorganisational Network, accepted for Association of Heterodox Economics Conference at Kingston University, Kingston-on Thames, UK, July, 2009.

Outsourcing is what has driven India’s emergence as a global economic giant, yet little organization theory has developed to understand the many different organization forms these outsourcing firms take. In a study of sixty such firms, Professor Leena Chatterjee of Behavioural Sciences Group and Kirti Sharda, a doctoral candidate at that time, proposed five dominant types: Clear Eyed Strategists, Adapting Professionals, Focalizing Artisans, Conservative Controllers and Overambitious Associates. Their paper Configurations of Outsourcing Firms and Performance: Exploring  Organizational Gestalts was presented at the 2009 Academy of Management Meeting held in Chicago during August, 2009.

Businesses have, since the 1990’s gained great benefit from the Business Process Re-engineering movement. Re-engineering  involves a re-configuartion of “core processes” that “set of interrelated activities, decisions, information, and material flows, which together determine the competitive success of the company.” Is it possible to apply such a tool to governmental processes where what is ‘core’ and what is not is often under dispute, the concept of “value” and “value-adding process” are difficult to measure.   Professor Priya Seetharaman  of our MIS Group and Prof Raghabendra Chattopadhyay of the Public Policy Group, based on their study of West Bengal Panchayats, propose a system of ‘process channeling’ in their paper Process Reengineering in Government Institutions: Walking A Tightrope, presented  at the 5th Annual International Conference on Public Administration, 2009 held at Chengdu, China during October, 2009. This , incidentally is a great example of researchers from two different groups, MIS and Public Policy, collaborating on a common research project.

Algorithm-based recommendation systems are all the rage nowadays be it on Social Networking sites where you are recommended people you may like or in eCommerce sites where products are suggested for you. These face a continuous challenge in improving the quality of their recommendation. A paper entitled  by Professor Ambuj Mahanti of Management Information Systems Group has proposed such an improvement in his paper , Improving Prediction accuracy in Trust-aware Recommender Systems,  was presented at the 43rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences in Kauai, USA in January, 2010.

In another paper, also in the broad area of machine learning, Professor Uttam Kumar Sarkar of MIS Group, and his associates used mathematical techniques to locate interesting patterns in the reporting of adverse effects of pharmaceutical products using the US FDA data and presented their findings at the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics conference at Prague, Czech Republic in August, 2009.

Prof Debasis Saha of the MIS Group devised a new protocol to improve the efficiency of Wave Division Multiplexed Optical Networks, and the paper describing this work titled, An Intelligent Destination Initiated Reservation Protocol for Wavelength Management in WDM Optical Networks was presented at the 12th International Conference on Advanced Communication Technology held Republic of Korea, in February, 2010.

Prof Debasis Saha and his collaborators presented a second paper, this one describing a new technique for improving the quality of service when a local area wireless network and a 3G network operate together presented their paper, An Improved WLAN-first Access Scheme for UMTS/WLAN Interworking System, at the ACM Symposium on Applied Computing, University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland in March,2010.
Profs Subir Bhattacharya,  Rahul Roy and others from the MIS group used a Systems Dynamic modeling to evaluate the future of Software-as-Service as a business model and presented their paper Quo Vadis, SAS, at the International Conference of Information Management at Chengdu, China, April, 2010.

Prof Subir Bhattacharya and his co-worker devised a solution for a specific type of financial portfolio selction and presented a paper on this at the Conference on Automation Science and Engineering, Bangalore August, 2009. This paper is an early example where people from the MIS faculty used the facilities at our new Financial Lab and I hope we will see many more such cross-functional research endeavours.
Prof Anup Sen and his collaborator thought up an improvement to the so-called ‘greedy algorithm’  a way of quickly getting an approximate result, and presented their paper at Sixth International Conference on Autonomic and  Autonomous Systems, March 2010 – Cancun, Mexico, and has been subsequently published by IEEE proceedings.

Prof  Rajesh Babu analyses the dilemma of protecting ‘traditional knowledge’ and recommends a way to do that under the existing TRIPs/WTO regime and presented his paper, International Protection of IPRs in Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, at the International Conference on The Challenging issues under WTO at Koh Samui, Thailand, October 2009

The increasing demand for internet connectivity has resulted in access points sprouting up everywhere: in parks, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. Efficient algorithms are needed to connect wireless nodes such as a Laptop or a Mobile Phone evenly to the many Access Points available. Prof Uttam Sarkar of the MIS Group along with his co-author proposed a new algorithm to do this using the emerging 802.21 standard and their paper, Balancing Load of APs by Concurrent Association of Every Wireless Node with Many APs, was presented at the 5th International Conference on Networking and Services in Valencia, Spain in April, 2009.

Prof Asim Pal and others devised a new algorithm for improving the co-ordination mechanisms in e-market Supply Chains and presented their paper, Cooperative Game for Multi-Agent Collaborative Planning, at the International Conference on Operations Research at Hong Kong in March 2010.
To round off the rich work in our MIS Group, Prof Asim Pal, used game-theoretic concepts in another problem area, that of detecting so-called ‘sybils’, pseudonymous entities, that launch malicious attacks on computer networks and his paper, A Discriminatory Rewarding Mechanism for Sybil Detection with Applications to Tor, was accepted  at the ICCCIS 2010 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  in March, 2010

We have all watched in amazement as international commodity prices doubled between 2005 and 2008 and then in a six month period halved to a level that wiped out all the increases. How did this violent fluctuation affect the lives of the 400 plus million people in the Asia Pacific region whose lives are dependant on agriculture. Did the price increase benefit them as producers and since they are also commodity consumers, did it hurt them? Prof Parthprathim Pal of the Economics Group studied this issue and drew some policy implication for developing countries for the ongoing WTO negotiations. His paper, Commodity Price Movements and Their Impact on Human Development: Evidence from Asia and Policy Options, was presented at the 9th International Working Group on Gender and Macroeconomics conference, at Bard College, New York in July 2009.

Neo-classical economic theory postulates that growth rates between countries should ultimately converge because technology, capital and other supply side factors can, in today’s world, freely move around from country to country, but putting this theory to test has posed formidable methodological problems. Prof. Manisha Chakrabarty of our Economics Group and her co-authors presented a paper proposing some methodological solutions to this at the Tenth Islamic Countries Conference on Statistical Sciences at American University of Cairo, Egypt in December 2009.

Basing promotion and compensation decision on a rational and formal Performance Appraisal system is seen as a hallmark of professional and modern companies and is generally believed to be free of political and power and control issues. How does it fare in the Indian corporate situation which is believed to be relatively more paternalistic and relationship oriented than in other cultures?    Prof Amit Diman of our Human Resources Group devised an instrument for measuring the appraises perception of Performance Appraisal Politics and his paper, Performance Appraisal Politics from Appraisee’s perspective: Exploration in Indian Context was presented at the Academy of Management conference held at Chicago in Ausust, 2009.

Industrial Relations theory has largely been a creation of the Anglo-Saxon industrial experience. How does it fit the new paradigm in India in which an old formal economy of heavy industry and public sector enterprises, co-exists today with the new formal economy of IT and Financial Services and the massive informal economy of casual labour and petty trade which forms the majority of Indian employment? Prof Debashish Bhattacharjee and his co-author undertook a sweeping study of both the historical evolution of Employment Relations in India from 1947 right down to the effects of the Global Recession of 2008 as well as an equally magisterial look at how the Indian academic tradition of Industrial Relations has gradually transformed itself into the Human Resource Management movement. His paper, Comparative Industrial Relations Narratives and their Relevance to India, was presented at the 15th Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association meeting in Sydney, Australia in August, 2009.

Our newly formed Public Policy and Management Group has kicked off to a great start.
Profs Bhaskar Chakrabarti and Raghabendra Chattopadhay addressed the problem of developing the right measures for judging the effectiveness of Local Government Bodies and presented their paper, Administrative Reforms for Local Governments in Rural West Bengal at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration, at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil d August, 2009.

The same team presented two other papers, Village Forums or Development Councils: People’s participation in decision-making in rural West Bengal and Local Governments in rural West Bengal, and their Coordination with Line Departments at the Commonwealth Local Government Conference in the Bahamas in May 2009  and a third paper titled, Decentralization of Irrigation Management in India: Problems of Participation and the role of Water User Associations together with Suman Nath at 5th Annual International Conference on Public Administration, in Chengdu, China October, 2009.

Prof Manish Thakur, of the Public Policy Group did one of the few academic studies available on India’s giant National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. He points out that the value of this  scheme should not be judged merely by the preset targets they achieve but also by how they mobilize the poor  and also sets in motion the consolidation of a constellation of interests which for years to come will help the poor articulate their collective rights. His paper, Public Policy Interventions and Social Inclusion, was presented at 5th Annual International Conference on Public Administration, 2009 held at Chengdu, China in Oct 2009.

In his paper, Social Welfare through Business: Study of Home Based Ayah Service for the Aged, Professor Kalyan Sankar Mandal of the Public Policy Group presents an example of how a business can contribute to social welfare. This paper was presented at the 9th Conference of Asia-Pacific Sociological Association at Bali, Indonesia in June, 2009.

Prof Mandal also took a look at the prospect of private sector initiatives helping out in the gigantic task of improving primary school quality in his paper, Towards Universalising Primary Education: A Business Solution presented at the International Conference on Primary Education held at Hong Kong, November 2009.

Last year, the film Slumdog Millionaire, poignantly portrayed the despairing lives of people in our great cities. India now has over 35 such metropolitan areas each with a population of over 1 million. Over a 100 million Indians now live in such metropolitan settings and they live in unequal access to health care and education. Prof Annapurna Shaw of our Public Policy Group studies what she calls “place inequalities” at the metropolitan level in her paper, Metropolitan Governance and Social Inequality in India which was presented at the conference on Metropolitan Inequality and Governance in International Perspective held at University of Southern Californea, Los Angeles in January 2009 and at the 105th meeting the Association of American Geographers at Las Vegas on March  2009.

In a rare look at India’s Small and Medium industrial companies who collectively produce 40% of the industrial output of our country, Prof BB Chakrabarti, presented a paper titled, Capital Structure of SME’s –a Puzzle that Merits Attention: The Case of India, based on a ten-year data set of 1300 such companies and presented at the West Lake International Conference on Small & Medium Business held at Hangzhou, China in  October, 2009.  What is exciting about this paper is that it was produced collaboratively with a business organization, Bitscrape Solutions and is hopefully a sign of more such collaborations that will come in the future.

Banks wooing all of us through SMS barrages on our mobile phone, television advertising, and advertising in newspapers and billboards is a feature of India’s new landscape of a hyper competitive consumer banking scene. Yet , there are few studies on how do Indian consumers judge service quality of banks. Prof. Koushiki Choudhury of Marketing Group took a shot at this and her paper, Exploring the Dimensionality of Service Quality: An Application of TOPSIS, was presented at the 4th International Conference on Services Management at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, U.K. May, 2009.

Complete flexibility in allocating products to manufacturing capacity based on realized demand is the holy grail of modern manufacturing. However, this kind of ‘total flexibility’ where all plants can produce all products can be a costly solution. Could there be an optimum combination of plants and products that maximizes the ability to meet demand and at the same time minimizes various types of costs? Prof. Ashis K Chatterjee of Operations Management Group demonstrates how this can be modeled and his paper, Benefits of Partial Product Flexibility, was presented at the 23rd European Conference on Operational Research, Bonn, Germany in July, 2009.

Signaling a new class of studies where our professors collaborate with those of international universities, Prof Rahul Mukherjee of our Operations Management Group, collaborated with Prof Hong Chang of Chosun University, Korea in presenting a paper, Highest Posterior Density Regions Based on Empirical-Type Likelihoods: Role of Data-Dependent Priors, at New Zealand Statistical Association Conference at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand in  September, 2009.  This paper has since been accepted for publication in the prestigious Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference.

Prof Saibal Chattopadhyay, of the Operations Management Group also presented a paper, Exponential Clinical Trials: Sequential Comparison under Asymmetric Penalty at the same New Zealand Conference.

Professor Bodhibrata Nag’s book titled “Optimal Design of Timetables for Large Railways: a framework to maximise schedule robustness and minimise resource deployment, using a multi-objective mathematical model” has been published by VDM Verlagsservicegesellschaft mbH, Germany in February 2010.

Dealing with the demand uncertainties of short life cycle products such as fashion goods have always posed a challenge.  Prof Balram Avitatthur, of our Operations Management Group with his co-authors, developed a mathematical model to do deal with the associated procurement and transportation discount structures and this paper has been accepted for publication in The International Journal of Production Economics, from Elsevier.

Indian media and policymakers are fond of pointing to India’s youthful population and the demographic dividend.  Prof Janakirman Moorthy looks beyond to the year 2050 when India will have three times more people in the 60+ age group than we have now and tries to draw some implications of this. His paper on this phenomenon was accepted as a book chapter in The Silver Market Phenomenon Business Opportunities in an Era of Demographic Change, Edited by Florian Kohlbacher, and Cornelius Herstatt. Prof Moorthy also contributed , Cross-National Logo Evaluation Analysis: An Individual-Level Approach, to the September 2009 issue of the international journal, Marketing Science, and an article titled, Buying behaviour of consumers for food products in an emerging economy  to the British Food Journal’s  second issue of 2010.

Prof Jacob Vakkayil, co-authored a chapter titled, Conflict Management and Resolution in the book, Doing Business in India, published by Routledge.

He also contributed a paper, Dynamics of Multiple Memories, Reflections from an Enquiry, to the Sage journal, Journal of Management Enquiry. I found it one of the most valuable ruminations I have read in recent years about one of the frontier challenges in the new knowledge economy. Companies try all sorts of methods to capture as organizational Memory what they learn as they go along in business: project documents are stored in databases, case studies are caused ot be written, white papers and best practice documents are created, reviewed by gate-keepers and stored. These are then used in knowledge-sharing sessions. Yet, to new entrants all this seem like just another training session. Knowledge Management efforts in many companies lead only to disappointment. Jacob, then wonders what is the nature of Organization Memory? Is it one or is there a plurality of memories? Are organizational memories messier and more improvised than we think? Are local, relational memories more effective than global ones? Are there communities of practice with two strands, one inside the organization and the other extending beyond into other organizations? Are there tentative, nebulous memories which are more real than the grand schemes of long-term storage and retrieval?

I found these reflections on the very nature of knowledge breathtakingly inspiring and I feel it deserves to be heard beyond the confines of a Sage management journal.

And it is also a fitting book-end to my review today of the exciting intellectual effort going on at IIM Calcutta. I hope you got as much pleasure in listening to this recounting as I did in preparing this summary.

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  1. #1 by Amol Smith

    Interesting to see lots of cool research being done.
    But why is there no mention of Finance research subjects? Isn’t that supposed to be IIMC’s strength?

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