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IU Northwest Marketing professor awarded coveted Fulbright grant

Subir Bandyopadhyay to promote consumerism, competitiveness in India

Monday Mar 16, 2015

In highly developed countries like the U.S., consumers are demanding, expecting high levels of service from the companies they do business with. Those companies, in turn, spend an abundance of resources to understand consumer expectations and remain competitive in the marketplace. This process of consumerism and competition is a trait shared by the strongest of world economies. But, in emerging economies like India, the process has not yet taken root.

Indiana University Northwest’s own Subir Bandyopadhyay will soon be at the forefront of this endeavor. As a Professor of Marketing, he has done much research in consumer behavior in the U.S. for more than 19 years, and is a recognized expert in this field, enough to garner him a coveted Fulbright Scholar Program grant.

Recognized as one of the most prestigious academic honors worldwide, the Fulbright Program is an educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Government that began in 1946 as a way to foster understanding between the people of the U.S. and that of other countries.

Beginning in the summer of 2015, Bandyopadhyay will spend four months in India to conduct research, outreach and training to promote consumerism. 

India is what is known as a Big Emerging Market (BEM). Its quickly developing economy is going through a phase of economic liberalization that has enabled the Indian private sector to grow, while exposing it to greater competition from foreign competitors. At the same time, India’s large middle class of approximately 350 million people have witnessed an explosion of brand choices, but their expectations for the services provided to them are low. 

According to Bandyopadhyay, the key for businesses to remain competitive in this growing and dynamic economy is to understand Indian consumers. But, achieving this understanding is first dependent on educating consumers about what quality service means.

This will be the focus of Bandyopadhyay's research. His project, “Promoting Consumerism in India: How to Empower Indian Consumers through Information on Quality of Indian Services,” will identify the factors that underlie Indian consumers’ service needs, and train consumer groups and businesses within the service industry on how to use that information to their advantage.

Bandyopadhyay said that the project is important for Indian consumers because it will educate them on how to evaluate the quality of different service alternatives.

“Many consumers in India, especially those who live in rural communities, are accustomed to limited services from government-run banks and other entities, so they have low expectations for quality service,” he explained. Enhancing these expectations is important for Indian businesses because it will make them strive harder to deliver high-quality service. This will help them thrive in a newly competitive market.”

On the technical side of the effort, Bandyopadhyay will partner with Indian researchers and faculty at the Institute of Management Technology in Ghaziabad near New Delhi, to develop an Indian version of SERVQUAL – a well-adapted survey used in the U.S. to measure quality of service. His research team will interview business executives and a random sample of consumers to develop a set of questions that will comprise a scientifically valid scale against which to measure service quality in India.

Once the survey is complete, Bandyopadhyay and his colleagues will then hold training workshops for consumer advocacy groups so that they can raise consumer awareness about adequate service standards. The team will also meet with private and public sector executives within the banking, hotel and restaurant industries to influence them to use the scales for employee training on service quality.  According to Bandyopadhyay, the program will “hopefully improve the overall quality standard in India.”

“By identifying the different facets of service quality used by Indian consumers, organizations will be able to focus their attention to improve service quality, prioritize their efforts to improve customer satisfaction, and systematically assess their progress so that they can develop goals and strategies for improvement,” he said.

As if this endeavor is not sufficiently ambitious, Bandyopadhyay also hopes to work with India’s private sector to develop an Indian version of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The ACSI, which is released in the U.S. every fiscal quarter, monitors customer satisfaction for various industries and companies within those industries. Wall Street, which awaits the ACSI’s release, often sees stocks rise and fall based on the results.

Yet, when asked about what he is most looking forward to in carrying out his research under the Fulbright award, Bandyopadhyay referred to the original scope of his proposal.

“I look forward to working with Indian executives and researchers to develop the service quality perception scale,” he said. “I believe it will go a long way in creating consumer awareness for service quality and, ultimately, lead to vibrant consumerism in India.”

Although the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program has its largest presence in India, the grant selection process is among the most competitive, thus enhancing the noteworthiness of Bandyopadhyay’s accomplishment.

Bandyopadhyay is the third faculty member at IU Northwest to receive a Fulbright award. Chancellor William Lowe was a Fulbright Scholar for research in 1990 at Trinity College in Dublin, and Professor Zoran Kilibarda received a Fulbright grant for teaching in Montenegro in 2013.

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