Professor Jaideep Prabhu

Jaideep Prabhu is the first Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business and Enterprise, which was endowed by the Government of India, and is Director of the Centre for India' Global Business at Judge Business School. With a passion for understanding and promoting India's place in shaping the global knowledge economy, he leads an important component of the University's long-standing partnership with India.

One aspect of the Centre’s research is looking at how business can help improve the lives of people who live on under $2 a day – about 2.5 billion people around the world, many of whom are in India."

Jaideep Prabhu

‘In two decades, the expectation is that India will have one of the world’s largest economies – a result of its escalating engagement with innovation, its service economy and its young and dynamic population,’ explained Professor Prabhu. ‘It’s an incredibly exciting time to be looking at the nation’s role in the global economy, both through the lens of innovation and from a systematic business perspective.’

The Centre for India & Global Business, launched in March 2009 with start-up funds donated by the BP Group, has an overarching research theme of innovation and the role that it can play in India. This stretches from how and why the world’s largest multinationals are increasingly locating their global R&D and innovation activities in India, how Indian firms themselves are internationalising and increasing their global competitiveness, to how organisations are actively innovating with those in India who live below the poverty line to make their lives better.

Professor Prabhu brings to the Centre his extensive research experience gained in the USA, Europe and the UK. As Director, his goal is to create a collaborative platform that draws in multiple stakeholders from India, the UK and other countries. ‘It’s not just the research that counts, it’s also how we promote and guide engagement with innovation in India and, for this, the role of other stakeholders will be crucial,’ he explained. ‘By understanding some of the challenges that lie ahead, we can help to derive solutions that will be of widespread benefit to the global economy.’

What would others be surprised to learn about you?

When I was younger, I was obsessed with fiction and poetry. I was particularly fond of the poetry of Auden, Brodsky and Walcott, and the novels of Saul Bellow. I read widely and went around with all these literary thoughts in my head, imagining that one day I might be a poet. Although I took a more conventional route and ended up studying engineering and business, I’m still fascinated by the written word.

Have you ever had a Eureka moment?

I’ve had moments of dawning realisation that have had a profound influence on me. Probably the most significant of these was after moving from India to the US to study at the University of Southern California in the early 1990s. I was swept away by the intellectual openness and I considered switching from engineering to philosophy. I also saw at first hand how differently to India the US operated in terms of the role of the state versus free enterprise. It was my first introduction to the complexities underlying political economies worldwide.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

When I was wrestling with whether to embark on a philosophy doctorate, my uncle (himself a philosopher) suggested that I choose business instead. Deciding against philosophy was very hard to accept then, but, as it turns out, he was absolutely right. I had grown up questioning why there is inequality in society, in particular why some people and countries are wealthy and others are not. Studying business has given me the tools to think about these questions systematically. I like the fact that business engages with the world and its social and economic prospects, and the fact that there are constantly new questions to ask and diverse theories and methods to use to find answers to them.

What motivates you to go to work each day?

The idea that something I do might in some small way make a difference to people’s lives. One aspect of the Centre’s research is looking at how business can help improve the lives of people who live on under $2 a day – about 2.5 billion people around the world, many of whom are in India. If you think about innovation as the shaping of technology to deliver new benefits for people, then even the most basic innovations will improve lives, provided a business solution can be found to make them viable. Even something as basic as using a mobile phone as a micro-payment system can open up enormous opportunities in a country like India, where 60% of the population has no bank account and, as such, remains outside the formal economy.

What’s your favourite research tool?

It has to be statistics, both conceptually and as a practical, computer-based tool. Without statistics it is very hard to do any kind of systematic social science.

What will the future look like in 2050?

The emerging markets will have emerged. Nations like India and China, as well as Russia, Brazil and countries in Latin America and Africa, will all have a bigger role to play on the global stage. There will be greater movement of people, more diversity at work, increased democracy, and essentially a more connected world. With climate change and population growth, we’ll face significant challenges, especially scarcity in energy, food and water. But necessity is the mother of invention and it is my belief that we will see some significant entrepreneurial and business solutions to the challenges ahead.

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