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.
I received my SB in Economics and SB in Urban Planning from MIT and my Master in City Planning (international development) from MIT. Before my doctoral program, I co-founded a social enterprise that distributes life-improving technologies to villages in southern India. 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 C.K. Prahalad Research Award, 2019 Dow Doctoral Sustainability Fellowship, 2015 Forbes 30 Under 30: Social Entrepreneurs, 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 is here, and you may also email me at djuerjs[at]umich[dot]edu.
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: USC CPPP Philanthropy and Social Impact Research Symposium (2019), Mitsui Symposium on Comparative Corporate Governance and Globalization (2018), Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society Junior Scholars Forum (2018), Social Entrepreneurship Conference (2017), Ivey/ARCS PhD Sustainability Academy (2017)
Discrimination is a pervasive aspect of modern society and human relations. Building on statistical discrimination theory and drawing on heuristics research, we develop a model that uncovers mechanisms that drive the unequal treatment of equally productive individuals. By incorporating three parameters that increase the behavioral realism of statistical discrimination (environmental uncertainty, decision maker inconsistency, and diagnostic bias), we demonstrate that the predictions of statistical discrimination can be overturned. That is, whereas statistical discrimination implies that more accurate predictions about job candidates can be achieved by using all available information about an individual (including group characteristics that are correlated but do not cause performance), our model demonstrates that in most situations, more accurate predictions can be achieved by ignoring this non-causal information. Our model implies that statistical discrimination as conceptualized in economics only improves predictive accuracy under a very specific set of conditions. Our work also uncovers paths toward reducing the number of situations where discrimination is beneficial.
An earlier short version of this research was published in the Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings (2018).
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 (NMSRC) Doctoral Conference (2021), Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference (SERC) Doctoral Consortium (2021)
This paper explores why locally-led social enterprises are less likely to receive funding than foreign-led social enterprises in emerging markets that attempt to address social problems through the provision of socially beneficial technologies. Through inductive study of emerging clean cooking markets in East Africa, I find that local and social entrepreneurs do not just differ in terms of their capacities and opportunities, but also in their familiarity of the lived experiences of their customers and beneficiaries. This possession of deep, local knowledge affects 1) the characteristics of the social problem that their dual-purpose companies exist to address, 2) the scope of the social problem that their dual-purpose companies exist to address, 3) the degree to which their companies are solutions to the identified social problems, and 4) the extent to which customers/beneficiaries are part of the solution as opposed to being recipients of a solution. Because of this familiarity with local communities, local social entrepreneurs are less likely to pursue business models that align with funders’ criteria. However, the persistence of local social entrepreneurs has field-level effects. By subverting funders’ expectations, local entrepreneurs stall the establishment of the emerging market. They delegitimize existing powerful actors and attract other resource providers into the organizational field. In a way, local entrepreneurs’ persistence creates guardrails for the entire industry, making the prioritization of financial goals over social goals much more difficult at the field level.
Iterations of this work has been presented/workshopped at the following: Social Entrepreneurship Conference (2021), European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) Colloquium (2021), Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) Conference (2021), Doctoral Seminar in Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy (SEPHI) (2021), Annual 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.
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.
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 an instructor of Corporate Strategy, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business' core course for senior BBA students (STRATEGY 390; teaching evaluation: 4.9/5.0). I solely taught a virtual class of 71 students 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 an 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.