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Network Capital Leadership Interviews - Jaideep Prabhu
Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise at the University of Cambridge
Jaideep Parbhu is Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Indian Business & Enterprise and Director of the Centre for India & Global Business (CIGB). His research focuses on international business, marketing, strategy and innovation. Specific interests include: cross-national issues concerning the antecedents and consequences of radical innovation in high-technology contexts such as banking, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology; the role of firm culture in driving innovation in firms across nations; how multinational firms organise their innovation activities worldwide; the forces that drive R&D location decisions and the factors that influence the performance implications of these decisions; the internationalisation of firms from emerging markets; and innovation in emerging markets.
He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Marketing, the International Journal of Research in Marketing and the Journal of Management Studies. He is an associate editor of Customer Needs and Solutions and BMJ Innovations, is on the editorial advisory board of The Schmalenbach Business Review, and is a member of the senior advisory board of the European Journal of Marketing. He is also a member of the Cambridge Corporate Governance Network (CCGN).
Prior to his current position, Jaideep Prabhu was Professor of Marketing and Director of Research at the Tanaka Business School, Imperial College London; University Lecturer and University Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Cambridge Judge Business School (at the time the Judge Institute of Management), University of Cambridge; Assistant Professor and Fellow at the Center for Economic Research, Tilburg University, the Netherlands; and Visiting Assistant Professor at the Anderson School of Management, UCLA.
What do you do?
I’m a professor of marketing and Indian business at Cambridge Judge Business School. Most of my time is spent doing research, teaching, outreach and administration.
Why do you do what you do?
The flip answer would be because there’s nothing else I can do! As I tell my students: I’ve never worked in my life. Which is another way of saying I’ve never done anything else and would not know how to start now. More seriously: I cannot imagine doing anything else. Being an academic seems noble to me (especially the teaching side of things) and it keeps one constantly learning. It also gives one a great deal of freedom with how one spends one’s time.
What is the one thing you believe to be true but others rarely agree with you on?
Many people believe that innovation is about technology and that it is a necessarily expensive and time-consuming process. I believe that innovation can and should be done faster, better and cheaper. Many people also believe that the role of business is solely to generate profits and returns to shareholders. I believe that business can and should balance social benefit with profit. Indeed, in some cases pursuing social benefit can increase profit.
Which failure or apparent failure set you up for success?
After I finished my undergraduate studies in engineering I toyed with studying philosophy with a view to becoming an academic in the humanities. But several people close to me discouraged me from taking this route, including an uncle who is himself an academic in philosophy. He instead encouraged me to study business. For the first few years after I made that decision I was unhappy, believing that I had missed my true calling. But now in retrospect I can see that business has been a far more rewarding and useful subject to research and teach than philosophy would have been.
What is the best investment you have made in yourself?
Spending time developing my inner life: living the examined life, so to speak, even while grappling with the messy world of business and technology.
Has your career been planned or a function of serendipity?
My career has been a combination of sheer serendipity and a bit of planning. As I say above, I have never done a “real job” and always knew that I wanted to be an academic of some sort. I had planned to study the humanities but was discouraged by others from going down that road. The choice of business was partly advised by others and partly serendipitous. The choice of marketing was purely serendipitous.
What is the role of mentors in your life?
Mentors are always important. The uncle I mention above—the academic philosopher—was an important influence at various points. But as an only child for many years, and one who moved a lot during childhood and adolescence, I have been independent from a young age and have often followed my own counsel, often explicitly avoiding, even shunning the influence of others.
What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
I would advise myself to slow down, not be too ambitious, to be less serious, to invest more time in personal relationships, to be less of a loner, and not set so much store by books alone.
I’m not quite sure, actually. I will probably write a book on business and development.