Brandeis International Business School’s Preeta Banerjee receives Fulbright Award
Preeta M. Banerjee, Assistant Professor of Strategy at Brandeis International Business School, has been awarded a Fulbright award to research 'Inventor Bricolage and Knowledge Recombination in Indian Technology-based Entrepreneurial firms' in Kolkata, India*.
"The outcome of my research will hopefully address why scientists and engineers leave Kolkata to start businesses elsewhere."
As a Fulbright Scholar, Banerjee will lecture and conduct research at the University of Calcutta's Asutosh College during the 2012 spring semester. Her award is co-sponsored by the Indian government.
"Engineering and science education in India is excellent, but business skills such as leadership and entrepreneurship are not part of the standard curriculum as yet," said Banerjee. "I believe entrepreneurship can be taught, and my work suggests potential ways that university programs can begin to train students how to leverage resources - from networks, to money, to people - to implement good business ideas."
Banerjee said that part of the challenge is removing the stigma attached to starting a business. India has one of the fastest growing, most dynamic economies in the world and while entrepreneurship is thriving in many of the biggest cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, Kolkata's entrepreneurial community has developed more slowly.
"Unlike the U.S., entrepreneurship is not perceived as a prestigious alternative for the best and brightest," said Banerjee. "Because Kolkata is a city where agrarian rights and labor unions are fundamental to the fabric of society, it has a different mindset. This is a place where a stable and steady job is seen as a key success. The outcome of my research will hopefully address why scientists and engineers leave Kolkata to start businesses elsewhere."
Banerjee's other goal for the Fulbright is to use her research to write new cases about ways in which entrepreneurship can sustain the "bottom of the pyramid" and alleviate poverty on a global scale. "There are billions of people who live on less than $2 per day," she said. "I teach cases in class that center around how introducing goods and services badly needed by this group - the largest and poorest socio-economic demographic in the world - can help them become more independent and elevate their lives."
She said that viewing the poor not as helpless victims, but as innovative and resourceful entrepreneurs, as well as consumers presents new business opportunities, and also "a way to make a difference in the world."
"Our school is so international in its approach, and our students are deeply committed to social justice," she said. "They see that collaborating with the bottom of the pyramid is not just a way to create new markets, but that it is at the heart of the solution to poverty."
Banerjee, a faculty member at Brandeis since 2007, is one of roughly 1,000 research fellows who will travel abroad over the next academic year through the Fulbright Program. Established in 1946 under Congressional legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program is designed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the Unites States and the people of other countries."
Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program is funded mainly by an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
* Editor's Note: As of March 11 of this year, The Associated Press is adopting Kolkata as its style for the Indian city formerly known as Calcutta. However, the University of Calcutta has not formerly changed its name at the time of this story's publication.