A storyteller’s mindset helped me write cases | ft. Dr. Sandeep Puri | Asian Institute of Management
With more than 26 years of work experience, he specializes in Sales Management, Customer Relationship Management, and Marketing Strategy. Currently, working as a Professor of Marketing at the Asian Institute of Management, Philippines. He did a Ph.D. in consumer behavior. He is a Gold Medalist during B. Pharmacy. He has worked with the Institute of Management Technology ( IMT)- Ghaziabad, Novartis, and Trident.
He has a few good publications to his credit with two publications in Harvard Business Review. He has more than 70 case studies published with Ivey Publishing, IMD, Lausanne, and the University of Michigan (WDI).
He also articles and research papers published in magazines, newspapers, and International Journals. He co-authored two textbooks, “Sales and Distribution Management” and “Global Marketing Management” by Pearson apart from a few edited books.
He has been a visiting faculty at business schools like S P Jain-Singapore, Varna University of Management-Varna, Fachhochschule Vorarlberg-Austria, IMT-Dubai, IIM Visakhapatnam, IFIM Bangalore, IMT Nagpur, Thapar University, and Great Lakes in India. His teaching, research, and training interests include Sales Management, Customer Relationship Management, and Marketing Strategy
He recently received Emerald Literati Awards for Excellence: Outstanding Reviewer in 2020.
Q.1. You are a case-writer, HBR Contributor, and a Marketing Strategy Specialist. How did this transition from corporate to academics and then research happen? Please share your research journey with us.
God is kind to me, and I am blessed with a few outstanding colleagues and mentors. I had an HBDI assessment in Novartis, where the trainer suggested that I move into training and teaching, and I took his advice seriously. Joining academia was a big decision, and I give credit to my father, Prof Parvinder Arora (he suggested me to join academics), Prof B S Sahay (my first director), and my wife (Bhavna). I joined academics in 2008 at around 50% of my package in Trident, and she supported me to take this difficult but rewarding and satisfying career move. My children (Siddhant and Shraddha) are also very supportive and I have case study publications with both of them.
Initial days in the academics were difficult. I traveled for 6 hours, changing three trains and then three autos to reach IMT Ghaziabad from my home in Dwarka, Delhi. I had very good student feedback for teaching, but my research started a little later. I approached many colleagues to write something together, but no one was interested in joining hands with someone with no research background or publication. I am grateful to Prof Jayanthi Ranjan for holding my hand in those days. She guided me to write my initial research papers, and I co-authored a few papers with her and organized three international conferences.
My case writing journey started in 2012 with suggestions from a student (V S Parasaran). He asked me to write case studies as I gave many practical examples in my classes and that too, in a storytelling manner. I approached the GM of Parkin (Manoj Chaudhary) for my first case study, and he was very kind to allow me to write on his company. I indeed owe some of my case studies to my travel in Delhi Metro as I used to write case studies during my 5 hours of daily travel.
For research papers, I am lucky to have a friend and fantastic colleague, Prof Rakesh Singh in my life. We complement our writing skills and understand the strengths of each other. He spearheads the research papers, and I take the lead for case studies. We have some good publications so far, including one with the European Journal of Marketing. Similarly, I have good collaborations with Prof Bindu Gupta (she was my teacher also) and Prof Shweta Pandey (Taiwan) as I have some research papers and case publications with them. My work experience in Novartis also helps me to collect data from many managers in the pharmaceutical companies, and it helps a lot in the research process. Also, going to Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech, USA as a visiting scholar and attending classes of Prof Ajay Kohli for Ph.D. students helped me a lot. It cleared many of my doubts about the right approach for theory constructs and conceptual models. He is a great mentor and an inspiration for me. He is my role model.
We have an excellent research culture at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Philippines, and our President and Dean (Prof Jikyeong Kang) is always encouraging the faculty members to write research papers and case studies. She supports us and also guides us to follow a focused approach in writing something. Eleen in our Research and Publication office is also a great help. Having a good research culture at an institute helps in focusing and publishing in a better manner.
2. You have more than 70 case studies published with HBR, Ivey Publishing, University of Michigan, and IMD, Lausanne. How do you go about writing a case study?
First of all, I look for a topic relevant to my areas of interest and teaching. Most of the time, I look for the session in my courses to use a particular case study linked with a specific topic. I got ideas for few of my case studies while talking to senior managers in the leading organizations. Many times, I test the case studies in my classes before finalizing the content. Sometimes, new case authors approach me for writing a case study, and I join them if the topic is interesting, and I have an opportunity to contribute and learn. I am a quick learner, and I take steps to improve the quality of cases and try new things. I read new case publications regularly (sometimes, irrespective of the subject). I also approach renowned case authors like Prof Dominique Turpin (IMD Lausanne) while developing new case ideas. We recently published a case study on Netflix, where he guided us to take a different approach, and we are happy with the outcome.
3. A lot of these cases are with the first-timers. What direction and guidance would you give to a newcomer who aspires to write a case study and publish it in a reputed journal/ publication?
I can say with pride that I have written many case studies with first-time case authors (Geeta Mishra), with a few of them being my students (I have four case study publications with Shamik and Shalini and two each with Sanchita and Brij). I wrote 3 case studies with my colleague in the finance (Prof Tet Manalac – including her first case study) at AIM where we used our skillsets to write cases with a finance and marketing strategy perspective. Overall, I am pleased with my co-authors’ case writing journey so far, and it’s quite satisfying.
I will suggest new authors attend 1-2 case writing workshops and read a few case studies before writing their first case study. Many authors don’t follow the style of the case studies and write it as a research paper. They need to check the dos and don’ts of different publishing places like Ivey Publishing, WDI, JIBE etc. Ivey Publishing team is excellent, and they support and perfectly guide the authors.
I learned a lot from Prof Ajay Kohli while writing our first case study together. He has many and highly cited research papers. I wanted him to be the first author as he is a renowned academician worldwide and relatively senior to me. He was clear that as I am leading this case so I must be the first author. He suggested me to follow the same principle (keeping authors sequence according to their contribution). He also indicated that the author’s sequence does not matter as long as you get a good quality publication. So I look for good quality publications instead of the sequence of names. New authors can think of following the same strategy.
Besides, it’s enriching to discuss case studies authored by you in the classes as it increases your teaching effectiveness.
4. You have also co-authored two textbooks, “Sales and Distribution Management” and “Global Marketing Management” by Pearson. How different and challenging is it than doing research or writing a case study.
I wrote these books to help me in my teaching. We need to have a different mindset while writing textbooks. Here, past work experience and current subject knowledge help in writing. Regular reading of useful articles also adds value to textbook writing.
5. What inspires you to create an impact in the research space?
I am a strong supporter of the case method of teaching. Case studies help students to understand a subject in a better manner and also give you a chance to connect theory with practice. New case studies help the instructors to provide contemporary examples to their students. I try to support instructors with new cases and new approaches to analyze those case studies. Very few institutes gave importance to case writing in my initial days, so I am pleased to see that many business schools worldwide have started giving priority to case study publications, with many institutes providing the right incentives for case publications.
6. How do you plan to take it ahead?
Teaching is most important to me, and I want to strengthen it further. I want my students to remember me as someone who contributed to their knowledge when they were in college and can count on this teacher post their MBA journey. I have a few students who have become a part of my family (Vishesh, Kushal, and Brij, to name a few). For research, I focused more on writing case studies in the last few years, but now I am trying to take a balanced approach by combining some good research papers and case studies. I have a few things in the pipeline, so keeping my fingers crossed.