Research Spotlight

Marketplace Literacy as a Pathway to a Better World: Evidence from Field Experiments in Low-Access Subsistence Marketplaces

Prof. Arun Sreekumar
Do you check out newly launched products in the market? Do you compare prices across stores and products? Do you bargain with sellers for a better deal? It is highly likely that you answered ‘yes’ to these questions. As we gain experience as consumers, we develop the knowledge and skills to navigate products and sellers in the market system, helping us develop an intuitive understanding of how markets function. However, a large segment of consumers, particularly in developing countries, do not have access to marketplaces. They live in villages that are far away from the nearest town, usually with poor transportation infrastructure. As a result of poor exposure to markets due to low access, they lack the experiential knowledge and skills to efficiently participate in marketplaces – what we call ‘marketplace literacy’ in a recent paper published in the Journal of Marketing.
As opposed to consumer literacy, marketplace literacy encompasses both consumer and entrepreneurship literacy, enabling comprehensive understanding of the marketplace. In this paper, we propose that the lack of marketplace literacy directly impacts the wellbeing and confidence of consumers and entrepreneurs living in subsistence marketplaces. Further, we suggest that increased marketplace literacy would increase psychological well-being, and consumer and entrepreneurial outcomes related to wellbeing by empowering people with the skills and knowledge to make decisions as customers, and better understand marketplaces to support their own entrepreneurial efforts. Essentially, we made three predictions: 1) that an increase of marketplace literacy would be associated with increase in psychological wellbeing, 2) an increase in consumer outcomes related to well-being, i.e., confidence and decision-making; and 3) an increase in entrepreneurial outcomes related to well-being – the intent or action to begin a micro-enterprise.
The study utilized an already established program as an external intervention to participants, running field experiments across villages in South India and Tanzania, with low to extremely low marketplace access. We found support for their prediction, with an interesting nuance being that the psychological and consumer benefits were higher for those with relatively lower marketplace access, whereas entrepreneurial related benefits were increased for those with relatively higher marketplace access, even within the narrow range of low to very low access contexts studied. An implication of this study is that knowledge and skills to effectively participate in a marketplace are required to improve both lives and livelihoods. We also found that it leads to income generation – in a post-hoc field study in Tanzania, 25% of participants started a micro-enterprise because of this short and scalable intervention.
This study shows that marketplace literacy can assist consumers to make better decisions. Knowing how businesses sell and market to consumers is critical in benefiting consumers and improves wellbeing, especially when marketplace access is an important barrier to gaining these skills. Furthermore, we show that marketplace literacy can also help individuals in subsistence marketplaces develop entrepreneurial skills and intent. As part of this research, we developed a scale for measuring marketplace literacy that can be adopted by governments and NGOs in designing and implementing interventions to benefit customers and entrepreneurs in different geographies. We also developed a short educational programme as part of our experiments that can be offered in-person or digitally to engender marketplace literacy in consumers. Our hope is that this programme can be widely adopted by state and private actors to provide marketplace literacy training to a large number of consumers.
Click here to see the full paper

Space between products on display: the impact of interspace on consumer estimation of product size

Prof. Hyokjin Kwak
Imagine two consumers in a store who have different shopping goals for a juice box: consumer A looks to buy one for a large family while consumer B intends to purchase it for herself/himself. Based on these different shopping goals, their estimates of product size are likely to impact purchasing motivations and decisions. That is, if consumer A perceives that the product on display contains a larger quantity, it is more likely to satisfy the consumer for the sake of the family’s needs, leading to the consumer being more likely to purchase this product. In contrast, consumer B will be more likely to select a product that is estimated to contain a smaller quantity because the purchase will be for only herself/himself. We investigate this consumption context with the introduction of a particular sales promotion strategy that can influence consumers’ perceived estimations of a product quantity, that is, displaying products with (or without) space between them.
More specifically, this research examines the effect that leaving space between products has on consumers’ estimation of product size. We theorize and empirically confirm that when space is left between products (i.e., the display is interspaced), consumers are better able to distinguish the product from the environment, which results in more attention being devoted to the product, and, in turn, larger estimation of the product’s size. Furthermore, we demonstrate downstream outcomes (i.e., consumer choices, purchase intentions) of the effect of interspatial product display on product size estimates; that is consumers react more favorably to products that are displayed in an interspatial product display when their product usage goals require large-sized products. Meanwhile, non-interspatial product displays are preferred when consumers holding a consumption goal geared to a small product size. Finally, we validate and solidify these novel interspace effects in both advertising and retailing contexts via a series of six studies including five different product types (e.g., shampoo, food, water bottle).
Furthermore, our findings illuminating the role of interspace in a product display in consumers’ product size estimates have important practical implications in retail, sales promotion, and advertising settings. In retail and sales promotion settings, both display types (i.e., interspatial vs. non-interspatial) are widely used to manage on-shelf merchandise. For example, displayed products are frequently organized next to and touching each other on retail shelves, whereas in other situations they are displayed at POP in ways that leave space between items. Despite the broad use of these two distinct product displays, our findings reveal that such product displays result in significantly differentiated product size perceptions and thus varied product choices and purchase intentions. For instance, our results suggest that consumers are more likely to choose a brand of shampoo in an interspatial product display because of a desire for a greater volume. Overall, store managers could benefit from employing our findings in shelf layout designs. For example, when consumers search for diet food items, a smaller-sized product might be preferred. As such, marketers appear to be better off promoting these products in a display where the products touch each other. However, when consumers seek a higher quantity-to-price ratio for many frequently used grocery items (e.g., milk, mixed nuts), store managers may wish to use pusher trays to develop an interspatial product display in order to enhance product size perceptions and increase product selection and purchase likelihood.
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How does the adoption of digital payment technologies influence unorganized retailers’ performance? An investigation in an emerging market

Prof. Sourav Bikash
Our motivation for conducting this work actually comes from our interaction with multiple Kirana stores. We have noticed that most Kirana stores have started deploying multiple digital payment systems. However, with multiple new technologies evolving and lack of both technological and human capitals we started wondering are these technologies really beneficial? This question promoted us to raise this question whether, how much, and which digital payment technologies should be adopted by Unorganized Retailers (URs) in Emerging Market (EM)s.
We started our investigation by exploring the challenges faced by EM URs through a qualitative study. We interviewed 31 URs and found that while in general payment technologies may have positive effect on performance, there are multiple contingency factors. Two common contingencies are whether bulk of the customers buy in cash or credit and retailers prioritization of technological investment. As the amount of digital technologies grew, retailers also seemed to be unsure about which technology may lead greater profitability. To answer all these questions, we collected data from 403 URs across nine districts from seven states (Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharashtra) and one union territory (Delhi). We find that adoption of digital payment technologies indeed has a positive effect revenue, inventory turnover and sales per employee. We also find that URs prioritization of technological investments enhance this effect whereas if a retailer provides credit to bulk of its customers the effect is minimized. We also find that card-based and app-based technologies positively impact UR performance. On an average the profitability is maximized when retailers adopt two technologies.
Encouraged by our findings, we went back to field once again. We encouraged 36 URs who have not adopted digital payment technologies to adopt the same. We compared these URs with 36 other similar URs who have not adopted any digital technologies throughout the observation period. We find that on an average adoption of digital payment technologies increases EM URs profitability by 9.6%. This further provides evidence that digital payment technologies are indeed have a positive effect on EM URs profitability.
We believe that major contribution of the paper is to provide some guidance to EMURs. We provide evidence that while it is beneficial to adopt digital technologies, the value that a particular UR can extract depends upon the context they are operating in. Also, we provide some guidance to retailers which technologies should EM URs adopt to maximize profitability. Theoretically, we contribute to the literature on digital payment technologies as well as resource based view of the firm.
Our idea is to bring multiple nuances associated with EM URs. I along with my co-authors want to explore nuances associated with emerging market retail. We are focusing on multiple other aspects related to emerging market retail such as product returns, role of salesperson in EM URs etc. We believe that while there is lot of discussion in popular press about EM URs, there lack a body of knowledge which scientifically investigates the nuances associated with EMURs.
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(Dis)embeddedness and Child Labourers’ Experiences of Depersonalized Bullying in Indian Bt Cottonseed Global Production

Prof. Premilla D'Cruz and Prof. Ernesto Noronha
We have been researching the field of workplace bullying for over a decade and our aims are always to extend the boundaries of understanding, both in the substantive area in general and in relation to India. This paper which looks at child workers’ experiences of bullying in Bt cottonseed production in India realizes these aims in multiple ways.
Through the research which informs the paper, we found that migrant children, working under debt bondage, underwent greater exploitation and perennial and severe depersonalized bullying, indicative of commodification of labour and disembeddedness. In contrast, children working in their home villages were not under debt bondage and underwent less exploitation and occasional and mild depersonalized bullying, indicative of how civil society organizations, along with the state, attempt to re-embed economic activities in the social context. ‘Place’ emerged as the pivotal factor determining children’s experiences. A protective alliance’ of community controls and social power, associated with in-group affiliations and cohesive ties, stemming from a common village and tribal identity, aided children working at home for Bhil farmers. ‘Asymmetric intergroup inequality’ due to pronounced social identity and class differences, coupled with locational constraints and developmental disadvantage, made migrant children vulnerable targets.
The paper is significant on several counts. First, the paper extends insights into the field of workplace bullying on three dimensions: (a) it brings child workers into the substantive area of workplace bullying which has, so far, focused on adult workers. In so doing, it underscores the intersectionality of age, class, caste, tribal identity and gender vis-à-vis workplace bullying; (b) it adds a new sector to the field of workplace bullying by showcasing agriculture, bringing the further accompanying advantage of advancing knowledge into informal work; and (c) it introduces global production networks to the field of workplace bullying, highlighting macro-level contexts in a substantive area where context has often been overlooked.
Second, the paper contributes to the global production networks (GPN) literature by evidencing Polanyi’s hard and soft embeddedness, contrasting earlier research which has focused on soft embeddedness. That is, the paper shows how labour is commodified due to market forces while also being subjected to the dynamics of social institutions, processes and relationships.
Third, the paper relies on drawings, taking forward the use of visual designs in two ways: (a) it underscores the importance of visual methods when researching the experiences of children who may not always be able to express themselves effectively due to cognitive stage and language differences; and (b) it demonstrates the value of the drawings-followed-by-interviews method over the drawings-alongside-interviews method, elucidating the reasons why this is so. Completing the drawing stage prior to conducting the interviews provides the latter phase with an anchoring referral point (i.e., the drawings) around which questions and conversations can proceed.
Importantly, the paper has practice implications. It emphasizes the contribution that civil society organizations, in collaboration with the state, have made to the issue of child trafficking and child labour, while also providing leads as to how interventions can be further developed and enhanced for greater effectiveness.
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Community Activities and Early Takeoff of Open Source Software Products

Prof. Pankaj Setia
The motivation to work on this research goes back a long time. I have been interested in the understanding of open innovations from the very early days of my career. Specifically, I saw early on that open-source software represents a new era in software product development. Core developers of an open-source software product leverage the community contributions, as they co-opt external developers. My first study on the topic captured these dynamics as we unraveled the role of peripheral developers in the enhancement and popularization of an open-source product. Studying these dynamics were seen as a contribution by the journal where we published our first study–Information Systems Research–as the dynamics of community contributions are often unique and not easily visible in the research studying proprietary software development. Notably, community contributions are not amenable to traditional hierarchical controls, nor are they contractually obligated. Our current work was motivated to further explore the role of community contributions, and we focused on the role of community contributions on the early success of an open-source software product.
Much like other products, open-source products exhibit an abrupt and significant increase in downloads, indicating that consumer interest has reached a tipping point. This phenomenon is often defined as takeoff. However, most OSS products fail to reach a tipping point. Separating the early development from the growth phase in the product lifecycle, takeoff is an important milestone in OSS product’s market success. However, it is not easy to discern this early success as the quality of the product is most familiar to the community. Therefore, in this research, we built on the signaling perspective to unravel how the community activities send signals about product quality. Underlining the role of these signals in reducing information asymmetry, we estimate a Cox proportional hazard model using a large sample of OSS products, to unravel how takeoff times are influenced by the presence of community activities. Notably, we unravel that early takeoff depends on two signals: the signal of quality deficiency and the signal of quality improvement. Further, our findings reveal that these relationships are moderated by two open-source characteristics: target audience and product innovativeness.
My first paper on the topic was done with Dr. Balaji, who now is the Dean of Northern Illinois College of Business, along with other colleagues. So for the present study, I teamed up with him again, along with Dr. Barry Bayus. Dr. Bayus is Roy O. Rodwell Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the Kenan-Flagler Business School University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. Notably, he is known for his research unraveling takeoff. It was a great experience working with the team and we were guided very ably by the MISQ review team, led by Dr. Youngjin Yoo at the Case Western Reserve University. The constructive comments in the review process helped us create a very satisfying piece of research work. Over the last few years, I have now chaired a dissertation in the domain of open-source software and intend to contribute to the domain in the future, as many questions remain unanswered, notably related to how organizations may leverage the potential of open-source innovations.

Unpacking the effects of adverse regulatory events: Evidence from pharmaceutical relabelling

Prof. Chirantan Chatterjee
It is well-known fact that consumer demand and innovations in product developments are interlinked. On one hand, a positive shock in the demand side may tend to generate more and more incremental innovations, indicating intensity in the research & development, and research priorities are linked to societal demands. Whereas, on the other hand, several supply-side factors are also found to be associated with the innovation process, such as external technology markets, and increased rate of licensing.
Given the dependency of the product innovations and investments on the innovations on the external demand shock, the policymakers and the firms must understand the source of demand-side shock. In this paper, we tried to evaluate a causal impact of the demand side shock caused by the changes in the product safety regulation in the aggregate demand of pharmaceutical industries and firm-level performances. Previous studies have limited themselves to a single or very small number of therapeutic markets resulting in an inappropriate conclusion about the overall drug market. In contrast, we provide causal evidence relating to the impact of FDA drug relabelling on aggregate consumer demand and firm performance, our data give us free hand to capture inter and intra market substitution patterns and competitive responses. We found on average aggregate demand declines by 16.9% within two years of a relabelling event. Further examination reveals that the decreasing aggregate demands are well associated with the severity of relabelling with a reciprocal relationship (ranging from a decline of 15.6% for the least severe to a decline of 36.3% for the most severe). This pattern of declining in demand is, however, not homogeneous across the market settings. In “low-intensity markets” or those with low levels of relabelling activity declining demands are completely absorbed by intra-market substitution. In contrast, in “high-intensity markets”, after accounting for plausible substitution patterns, aggregate demand declines by 5.0%. Economic losses due to these regulatory policies, may further, be divided into, unanticipated loss in revenues from the affected product and loss in value from declines in future innovation. Our estimated figure suggests that the average unanticipated loss in revenues from affected products stands at $186 million over their remaining effective patent life. Whereas, an unanticipated loss of between $383 million and $696 million, on average, attributable to declines in future innovation.
FDA drug relabelling and policy implications: Though the US pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated and individual drug candidates undergo rigorous clinical trials prior it submitted for FDA approval. During which possible risks and side effects of any individual drugs are identified and become part of the FDA-approved label. However, some adverse effects become known only during the post-approval period. Depending on the situation and severity of the data collected by the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System of such drugs during the post-approval monitoring period the FDA will act and move to change the safety label associated with it (known as ‘relabelling’). The relabelling that FDA includes, adverse reaction, precaution, warning, contraindication, and box warning. In extreme adverse cases, the label changes to a box or black box. In addition to regular FDA approval processes, several other programs try to bring new drugs to the market more quickly, However, drugs approved through these pathways are more likely to suffer from severe safety relabelling. Implications resulted from these regulatory policies not only affect the aggregate market demand but also add another layer of complications for regulators to consider in balancing safety with speed.
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Interplay between Constraints and Rewards in Innovation Tournaments: Implications for Participation

Prof. Swanand Deodhar
The shifting paradigms of information and knowledge flows, enabled by the Internet, are creating novel forms of organizations. A testament to this claim is the increasingly popular business practice of seeking resources outside the traditional boundaries of organizations. Firms spanning several domains such as media and entertainment, retail, finance, and manufacturing are relying on online intermediaries to "on-demand" orchestrate a "Crowd" of globally dispersed individuals, which can provide resources of significant economic value. Given the immediate appeal of this so-called "crowdsourcing" approach (e.g., accessing the long-tail of resource providers), it is not surprising to see its widespread adoption.
One of the mechanisms to organize crowdsourcing is through innovation tournaments, which are essentially pre-defined tasks (e.g., developing a new software functionality or building a prediction model for a complex problem) that need to be completed within a specific time- frame. When packaged as "tournaments," these tasks are expected to attract solutions from individuals who compete with each other to provide the best possible solution. Because crowd members develop solutions independently, the organization is expected to receive multiple solutions from several parallel paths.
However, prior research indicates that attracting crowd members to a tournament is non-trivial. To mitigate this challenge, the organizer can configure different aspects of the tournament. In this study, I examine the interplay between two such features of innovation tournaments. First, the organizer can offer a monetary reward. Although the reward is expected to drive up the participation by appealing to the crowd members' extrinsic motivation, it can deter participation as higher reward creates the perception of a difficult and complex task. Thus, the monetary reward can filter out contestants, reducing the participation, and hence, the parallel-path advantages. In contrast, the organizer can also include competitive constraints that are intended to create a more "level playing field," which, in turn, can attract crowd members. Thus, monetary reward and competitive constraints can be construed as tournament design features with competing implications for participation.
By drawing from a dataset of real-world innovation tournaments, the study presents a tournament-level analysis in which the association between the two aspects (monetary reward and competitive constraints) and participation is estimated. The findings reveal that while the two predictors have the anticipated association with participation, they also exhibit significant interaction wherein competitive constraints can offset the perception of complexity created by high monetary reward. To sum, the study highlights the interplay between two key design aspects of innovation tournaments.
This study is part of a bigger research program around innovation tournaments that my colleagues and I are actively pursuing. We certainly believe that, as the Internet reaches the masses, innovation tournaments, and crowdsourcing in general, are going to be the dominant trends for businesses regardless of industry and geography. As we hope to build on this research paper, we welcome your thoughts about the same.

Covid-19's impact on supply chain decisions: Strategic insights from NASDAQ 100 firms using Twitter data

Prof. Sourav Borah
As the Corona virus pandemic grew across nations, I was extremely concerned about the way supply chain challenges would disrupt the global economy. Part of my concerns were driven by shortages of products in our local grocery stores. I was also approached by many companies and industry bodies which asked me to provide suggestions about how the "new normal" would look like. I started discussing the issue with many of my academic colleagues including my co-authors Professor Amalesh Sharma, Mays School of Business, Texas A&M University and Professor Anirban Adhikary, IIM Udaipur. This was in one of these conversation, we found a tweet from a company in China that had adopted technology to combat the supply chain challenges. This led to our investigation of Twitter data to understand the challenges faced by companies and provide strategic recommendations.
We collected data from 89 firms. We looked at relevant tweets from NASDAQ 100 firms from January 23rd, 2020 (when Hubei province initiated lockdown) to April 30th, 2020. We also collected data from individual users and supply chain experts to have a more comprehensive view. Finally, we had 41,986 tweets from NASDAQ 100 firms, 35,000 tweets from individual users, and 7,359 tweets from supply chain professionals. We analysed the data using word clouds (Figure 1), unigrams, bigrams, and trigrams that provided us required information regarding those supply chain aspects which were getting attention in Twitter.
Figure 1: Word cloud of 100 most frequent words.
Common topics of discussion in Twitter were related to (a) demand supply challenges during Covid-19 (while some companies experienced decline in demand, others experienced a surge in demand), (b) technological challenges during Covid-19 (while many companies have adopted technological solutions to combat the virus, all firms were not at a similar level of technology readiness. Again, there were concerns around data breaches. The data also revealed that companies were looking for solutions which enhance visibility across the value chain, increase efficiencies and last mile delivery.), (c) building a resilient supply chain and (d) sustainable supply chain challenges (our data suggest that during Covid-19, companies were moving beyond economic sustainability and issues associated with social sustainability (e.g., employee wellbeing) and environmental sustainability had also gained prominence).
Based on the themes discussed, we provided some strategic recommendations to firms about how to design a futuristic supply chain. We urged companies to focus on sustainable supply chain, provide a dynamic response (firms need to focus on multiple best practices explored or invented by their suppliers, competitors, and ecosystem), leverage technology (to capture data across the value chain, enhance visibility through technology and monitor supply partners), develop a collaborative relationship with suppliers, diversification of the supply base and synchronize strategic processes (a recent IBM report shows that intelligent workflows will dissolve cellular processes and mechanize processes that can improve efficiencies across the supply chain).
The entire process of understanding the challenges was quite value enriching. This paper helped us to understand not only the supply chain challenges associated with Covid-19, but also the importance of Twitter data. We realized that Twitter data can serve as an effective tool for exploratory research. Identifying themes which were not intuitive may emerge as we explore Twitter data. This research also helped us to provide insight into multiple businesses across markets to combat supply chain challenges during rare events such as Covid-19.