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Marketing professor recently returned from India on Fulbright Scholarship

Subir Bandyopadhyay, an expert in consumerism, helps Indian business community work towards improving quality standards

Tuesday Feb 23, 2016

Known the world over as one of the most prestigious academic honors worldwide, a Fulbright Scholarship 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.

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.

Having studied consumer behavior for more than 19 years, Bandyopadhyay’s contribution to his native country this past summer and throughout the Fall 2015 semester was to help consumers and businesses cultivate a culture that lends itself to a better overall standard of quality. He explains that by educating Indian consumers about their right to expect quality service, while also helping business owners measure consumer satisfaction, a culture of competition will develop among service providers that will lead to better services and more choices for consumers.

Bandyopadhyay explains that India’s 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 is the focus of Bandyopadhyay's research. His project, “Promoting Consumerism in India: How to Empower Indian Consumers through Information on Quality of Indian Services,” served to 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.

“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,” Bandyopadhyay 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 partnered 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.

Using the survey, Bandyopadhyay and his colleagues then conducted training workshops for consumer advocacy groups in order to raise consumer awareness about adequate service standards. The team met 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. 

“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.

In addition, Bandyopadhyay worked 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.

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