Banerjee receives Fulbright to study Indian technology

Professor of strategy will explore development of entrepreneurship

Preeta M. Banerjee, assistant professor of strategy at Brandeis International Business School, has received a Fulbright award to research the development of technology entrepreneurship in firms operating in Kolkata, India.

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. She will explore how entrepreneurs assemble resources in an  environment of scarcity, and the role that intellectual property rights play in facilitating entrepreneurial activity.

“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. While entrepreneurship is thriving in many of the biggest cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai, the entrepreneurial community in Kolkata has developed more slowly.

“Unlike in the United States, 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.”

A  faculty member at Brandeis since 2007, Banerjee is one of roughly 1,000 research fellows who will travel abroad over the next academic year through the Fulbright International Educational Exchange 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.

The Associated Press, whose stylebook is used on the Brandeis website, has adopted Kolkata as its spelling for the Indian city it formerly spelled "Calcutta."  However, to date the University of Calcutta has not changed the spelling of its name.

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