Prof. Abrar Ali Sayed (Fellow IIM A) Assistant Professor, Entrepreneurship and Strategy, Ahmedabad University
Abrar Ali Saiyed accomplished Fellowship in Management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. His specialization in strategy, entrepreneurship, and international business. He has teaching experience of 8 years in reputed Government and Private business schools and education institutes in India. He has taught at Center for Environment and Planning Technology, Nirma Institute of Management, Entrepreneurship Development Institute, Pandit DinDayal Petroleum University, B.K.School of Business Management, Ahmedabad Management Association name few. He taught courses on Strategy, International Business & Entrepreneurship. His papers have got selected in the European Academy of Management, Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference, Eastern Academy of Management, Academy of International Business, European International Business Academy, and Indian Academy of Management. He got the best paper award in IIMA Doctoral Colloquium in 2013. He served as a consultant to Industrial Commissioner and Industrial Extension Bureau (Gujarat Government), ASL Logistics, Qua Nutrition, I-Tiffin. His research interests are in the Internationalization process in New Ventures, Entrepreneurial firms, SMEs, Family Businesses in emerging markets. He has been working as a consultant to the center for heritage management, the Cooperative Federation ( of handicrafts) of Self Employed Women Association (SEWA is the biggest self-employed women NGO in India), and many other organizations into heritage, art, and culture. He also teaches courses using old city markets and community-based businesses to many international students. He is also a resource person teaching strategy in the Management Development Program in Crafting Luxury and Lifestyle Businesses in IIMA. He has a keen interest in social work and promoting local heritage and culture. He is also the founder of the Association of Muslim Entrepreneurs to help Muslim small businesses and entrepreneurs to overcome their day to day challenges and problems.
Thank you so much, Abrar for this interview.
Inkpothub: What is your research background? Where have you done your FPM from and what was your area?
Prof. Abrar: I did my FPM from IIM AHMEDABAD. And My thesis was primarily on international entrepreneurship (IE).
During my FPM days in IIM A, I started exploring the issues of SMEs. I did a project i.e. India Innovation Survey by Ford Marshall (Pune Based) funded company. I was also part of the project on the India innovation index survey. Then eventually my THESIS topic got evolved from IE to innovation internationalization of SMEs, family business, entrepreneurial firms. there are multiple overlaps among these topics. But mostly looked into an internationalization innovation. Then I started teaching the above courses relating to the Indian context. Then I found it fascinating how communities like religious communities doing businesses for centuries.
Inkpothub: Were you involved in any kind of research before FPM?
Prof. Abrar: No, not extensively.
I was working as an academic associate in IIM A. I attended FPM courses for crediting purposes, helped professors in book compilation and some case-related work but not into any extensive research.
Inkpothub: You got recently ‘A’ Publication. Tell us more about the paper and its development.
Prof. Abrar: So, this paper is the outcome of my thesis. I was always fascinated by internationalization issues, international business and industry organization (IO) theory since my comprehensive exam. I wanted to know the role of industry in internationalization. Most strategic researchers focussed on firms, macroeconomic issues and believed industry have an impact but didn’t study the impact. So, I proposed that topic. Initially, people were skeptical about the topic as they believed that this topic was not so interesting.
Then one day I came across Stephanie A. Fernhaber’s 2007 paper on “Exploring the role of industry in a new venture”. She is a professor at Butler University, Indiana, USA. Her paper was based on a hypothesis but never been tested. After reading the paper I became confident about my topic.
A turning point came when I attended the Academy of International Business (AIB) for a workshop on international entrepreneurship in 2015. One of the panel members was Stephanie. After the workshop when I met Stephanie, I said my whole thesis was based on her paper. She was very happy listening to my thesis. She even wrote to my advisors about my topic, which gave my advisors confidence on my topic as she was one of the top researchers.
She is the co-author of my paper.
So, my paper on “The Internationalization of New Ventures in an Emerging Economy: The Shifting Role of Industry Concentration” explores the role of industry concentration, competition on internationalization of new ventures in the Indian context, how this relationship changes with change in liberalization, economic reforms in India.
Inkpothub: This writing is very tough so did you experience any revise and resubmit (R&R)) in this?
Prof. Abrar: We had a long journey with this paper. It was like a roller coaster ride.
After I got convocated in March 2016. The very next month in April 2016, I sent my paper to a special issue of ETP (Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice). The reviewers suggested sending this paper to the main edition, so I sent it in August 2016 to the main issue but this was not accepted.
In this paper, I used timeclock which is a measure of liberalization, economic reforms, and their impact. timeclock is mostly used in strategy, organizational science, international business but never used in entrepreneurship so then thought to send to SEJ (Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal).
So again, sent to SEJ in December 2016 and got the first R&R where one of the reviewers was positive and the other was not. So we toiled again for 11 months sent again for the second review.
This time they sensed various changes in the paper but again the second reviewer was negative on the paper and finally, THE EDITOR REJECTED THE PAPER.
The huge disappointment cropped in because almost we spent 18 long months and after all that, we were back to square one.
This time we decided to send it to the Asia Pacific Journal of Management which is the ‘A’ category journal.
But we wanted to be sure (as ETP didn’t understand our model and SEJ reacted very weirdly).
So, I sent to some editors who knew about our work. They read the paper and suggested me to send the paper to the Asia Pacific Journal of Management.
Inkpothub: Is it a good strategy to get feedback from the editor and then send it to the publisher?
Prof. Abrar: Yeah, yeah. So, what we experienced in ETP was the kind of questions they were exploring. They had a different focus. So, I think it’s right to get feedback about the alignment of the paper with the journal. We tried to incorporate all the FEEDBACK, recommendations from all the colleagues, researches, conferences, journals IN OUR PAPER.
Then when we sent the paper to APJ in January 2019, we thought, we would get only 2 reviews and it would not be as hectic as A* journal. But our assumption was wrong, we got 3 reviewers and among them two were positive and the 3rd one was completely apprehensive.
And our BAD LUCK! The editor was influenced by the 3rd reviewer.
Working on these 3 reviewers was very hectic as their comments were not at all overlapping, they were very distinct. We tried very hard to incorporate comments of all the 3 reviewers.
At one of the instances, we use new venture theory and according to that we only considered the firms which are 5 yrs. younger. They then cross-questioned us regarding the age of the firms like why 5 yrs. why not 6 or 8. we had to deal with a lot of questions. We did 10 different types of robust checks., we had 15 tables proving the robustness.
We did 10 different types of robust checks., we had 15 tables proving the robustness of our analysis. We had also put different types of graphs.
In the whole process, I learned a lot.
So honestly, for managing ‘endogeneity’ we had to spend around 2-3 months as none of us knew about that topic. So, then they sent us semadeni’s 2014* paper of SMJ which had multiple tests to assure the endogeneities to be taken care of. So now if someone would ask me how to manage endogeneity, I have become an expert in that part.
(Semadeni, M., Withers, M. C., & Trevis Certo, S. (2014). The perils of endogeneity and instrumental variables in strategy research: Understanding through simulations. Strategic Management Journal, 35(7), 1070-1079.)
Inkpothub: Tell us about your co-authors?
Prof. Abrar: We were four. Prof. Stephanie is very particular about things. She had lots of patience. She was never judgemental. She had been very encouraging.
And another Prof D. Karthik (Professor of Strategy at IIM Trichy) was very great with data. He was always supporting. He was more into R Coding and analysis section.
And Prof. Basant (Professor of Economics at IIM A) used to bring insights on reforms related questions, policy-related questions.
Mostly when we are dealing with the comments from the reviewers. The theoretical part was dealt with by Prof. Stephanie and me. And methodologies & data part by Prof. Karthik and me. We used to take each other’s feedback. The synergy that we all look for while writing a research paper that at least whichever a person is good enough in a particular space, it should bring the knowledge and contribute to the writing and making that paper very good.
At that time, I was also a researcher and everybody knows about my paper and they had some expectations but when the paper got rejected, their mindset and perception about you change as well. They were very frustrating moments. I used to lose confidence in myself. But then support from Stephanie and other co-authors bought back the confidence in me.
We didn’t try to please reviewers. We tried to please with our work.
Inkpothub: Anything which you would like to share more about your journey which I have not covered so far, which you think that you want to share?
Prof. Abrar: No, I think everything is almost covered. Thank you so much it’s a bit nostalgic. This whole journey gave me lots of courage and confidence. If one is persistent and honest with their work they will sail through. These are just phases in life. I spent 10years of my life on this whole thing like 6yrs doing Ph.D. and 4 years on paper. I think it’s worth it.
Hard work paid off when the paper got published. It is my first paper from the thesis.