I am a PhD candidate in Strategy and Sociology at the University of Michigan. I study social businesses and markets for products and services that address global health and human development challenges. I care deeply about the role of businesses in addressing social inequality, environmental sustainability, and international development.
Before my doctoral program, I co-founded a social enterprise that distributes life-improving technologies to villages in southern India. I received my SB in Economics and SB in Urban Planning from MIT and my Master in City Planning (international development) from MIT. Throughout my career, I have been able to do what I love with significant support, including the 2020 Strategic Research Foundation Dissertation Research Grant, 2020 Kauffman Knowledge Challenge Student Grant (with Yun Ha Cho and Reuben Hurst), 2019 Dow Doctoral Sustainability Fellowship, 2012 Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellowship to India, and 2013 Echoing Green Fellowship.
Please use the menu at the left to learn more about me and my work. My CV can be downloaded here, and you may also email me at djuerjs[at]umich[dot]edu.
Discrimination is a pervasive aspect of modern society and human relations. Building on judgment research, we develop a model that explains the mechanisms driving discrimination and describes situations in which discrimination is more likely to occur because decision makers benefit from increased predictive accuracy. We develop a behavioral theory of discrimination by contextualizing existing statistical discrimination models, in which decision makers substitute group averages in the absence of reliable information about individual ability. Specifically, our model incorporates two additional parameters into the decision-making process: environmental uncertainty and decision maker inconsistency. We find that uncertainty severely dampens the costs or not discriminating and that inconsistency, in addition to always reducing the costs, can also overturn them. Our model implies that decision makers must acknowledge that discrimination is only beneficial under a very specific set of conditions.
An earlier short version of this research was published in the Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings (2018).
Novel life-improving products such as solar lanterns and energy-efficient cookstoves address essential needs of consumers in the Base of the Pyramid (BOP). However, the profitable distribution of these products is often difficult since BOP customers are risk averse, their ability to pay (ATP) is often lower than their willingness to pay (WTP), and they face uncertainty regarding these products’ value. We examine two strategies commonly used in practice by distributors in the BOP: (1) improving the product’s affordability through a discount, and (2) increasing awareness of the product’s value. Our results identify BOP-specific operational trade-offs in implementing these strategies. We find that strategy (1) can only benefit the distributor, while strategy (2) may be detrimental depending on customers’ ATP and risk aversion. Additionally, in the BOP, the distributor’s profit-maximizing budget allocation often yields the lowest consumer surplus. This misalignment between profits and consumer surplus disappears if customers’ ATP is high. Moreover, the misalignment can be resolved if the distributor offers free product returns. We confirm the robustness of our results by examining a more general model through numerical simulations.
This article shows that institutional carriers, which are organizations that move elements of institutional infrastructure to different places, can affect entrepreneurial entry into a nascent industry in countries where institutional support for the industry is low. Through an analysis of 109 country-level industries for the innovative product of clean cookstoves between 2013 and 2018, it is found that entrepreneurial entry into the industry is predicted by the number of organizations that operated both in these countries and in countries where an infrastructure-building intermediary also operated. It is argued that the cross-border effects of the intermediary occur through the development of institutional carriers. These institutional carriers take part in a process of inter-organizational evangelism, as they are attracted to the industry-supporting institutional infrastructure established by the intermediary, grow in their acceptance of this institutional infrastructure, and extend elements of this institutional infrastructure to other places where they operate. Empirical analyses additionally show that the effectiveness of institutional carriers on entrepreneurial entry in the nascent industry depends on the carriers’ size and activities, as well as the culture of the countries that receives these carriers. The findings of this research shed new light on institutional carriers and the intermediaries that develop them, and they carry implications for how the growth of industries promoting innovations – especially those that generate health, social, and/or environmental benefits – can be supported globally.
Iterations of this work has been presented/workshopped at the following: Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy (2017), Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society Junior Scholars Forum (2018), Mitsui Symposium on Comparative Corporate Governance and Globalization (2018), and USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy Philanthropy and Social Impact Research Symposium (2019).
Firms often engage in strategic framing contests to appeal to stakeholders' interests, shaping their beliefs and expectations of the industry and the firms themselves. One type of strategic framing that has only been recently explored is the strategic framing of social impact. In this study, I study the effect of social impact framing on the exchange partners of a socially responsible firm that is asymmetrically dependent on these value chain intermediaries (e.g., retailers) to create value for end customers. I pursue the following questions: 1) To create and appropriate value, can a firm use social impact framing to persuade exchange partners to not only participate in the market but also relinquish value while doing so? 2) How do exchange partners react to the perceived misalignment of social business’ profit-seeking with social impact? 3) How does the emphasis of a social impact frame affect these responses? I attempt to answer these questions through a lab experiment and a lab-in-the-field experiment.
Iterations of this work has been presented/workshopped at the following: Non-Market Strategy Research Community Doctoral Conference (2021).
The development of markets to address social problems has become an increasingly popular model of international development. This study examines the effect of funders’ evaluative practices on entrepreneurs who produce products that address social problems. Through an inductive study consisting of qualitative archival data, interviews, and field observations, I document the development of emerging markets in East Africa and present findings of how entrepreneurs react in different ways to common evaluation criteria utilized by funders. I then comment on how this has affected the trajectory of the emerging markets by dividing the field of entrepreneurs and creating obstacles to the collective action that is critical to legitimating the new markets.
Iterations of this work has been presented/workshopped at the following: Academy of Management Annual Meeting (2020).
Low-income populations around the world frequently face an environment characterized by high levels of pollution and environmental contaminants. Improving access to products that protect them – like water purifiers that reduce the risk of waterborne illness and improved cooking technologies that reduce exposure to indoor air pollution – is a critical objective for social inclusion and sustainable development. However, even though there exist many of these environmental health products that can benefit poor users around the world, attempts to create markets and business models for their provision, diffusion, and adoption have failed. We provide a research framework for management scholars who are interested in addressing the adoption problem, highlighting multiple points of market failure in the process of consumer adoption and product provision.
In this Master's thesis, I discuss previous failures in social impact technology dissemination, beginning with the Appropriate Technology movement and continuing with the efforts of multinational corporations that have tried selling to low-income "base of the pyramid" customers. Through field research in southern India, I then analyze the efforts and experiments of small and medium enterprises. Finally, I describe my experiences co-founding a social enterprise that distributes social impact technologies in rural areas.
In Fall 2020, I was the primary instructor for Corporate Strategy, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business' core course for senior BBA students (STRATEGY 390; teaching evaluation: 4.9/5.0). This class of 71 students was taught virtually and had modules on business strategy, corporate strategy, and strategy and society.
Here is an example of an asynchronous lecture video that students would watch before attending the synchronous virtual sessions, during which we had case discussions and/or live case updates from invited guest speakers.
In a Poets&Quants for Undergrads column, one of my BBA students included my STRATEGY 390 class as one of the "5 Most Impactful Business Classes" she has taken at Ross. You can read her reflections, as well as an interview with me about my approach to teaching, here (or in this PDF).
In Winter 2019, I was the primary instructor for Business Strategy (STRATEGY 290), another Ross undergraduate core course, and taught 81 sophomore BBA students in-person. I have given guest lectures about my entrepreneurial experiences at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, INSEAD, and MIT. I was additionally a teaching assistant for Corporate Strategy in the Chinese Context, an elective for undergraduate students, and Mergers, Acquisitions and Corporate Development, an elective for MBA students.
To the left is a photo of dusty, unopened improved biomass cooking stoves that were supposed to reduce indoor air pollution. I took it in Tamil Nadu, India where I was conducting field research on the distribution of life-improving technologies.
Of the different models that I saw, none were working exceptionally well. Nonprofit organizations gave products away at a subsidized price, and customers didn’t value them. Village level entrepreneurs were difficult to find, unreliable, and hard to scale. Brick-and-mortar stores required too much upfront financing. Most organizations were still pitching these technologies as products for poor people – an unattractive sales strategy.
I co-founded Essmart to address these problems. The social enterprise creates an essential marketplace for these technologies in places where people already buy their goods -- small stores near where they live. We demonstrate a catalogue of products, distribute to local mom-and-pop stores, and facilitate manufacturers’ warranties. From August 2012 to August 2016, I oversaw operations in southern India. To date, Essmart has positively impact over 300,000 people through our network of 1,400 shops.