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To get a deeper understanding of what consumers want, even as cultures and societies continue to evolve, Indian Institute of Management Udaipur has launched a ‘Consumer Culture Lab’, which it says is the first Indian B-School to unveil such an initiative.  

According to Prof. Janat Shah, Director, IIM Udaipur, “this lab would seek to bridge the knowledge gap and initiate a conversation on consumer culture and qualitative research in India.”

The lab would work towards plugging the growing gap in understanding Indian consumers by bringing together perspectives from anthropology, sociology, and psychology into consumer research in India.

The core team behind the Consumer Culture Lab

Along with Shah, the core team behind the lab incudes Prof. Julien Cayla (Advisor of the Consumer Culture Lab), Prof. Rajesh Nanarpuzha (marketing professor at IIMU) and Prof. Tanvi Gupta (marketing professor at IIMU).

The genesis of the Culture Lab

Talking about his vision behind setting up this first of its kind lab, Prof. Cayla who is also the associate professor of marketing at Nanyang Business School (Singapore) says, “What struck me in my many trips to India is the fact that a lot of business schools are focusing too much on big data and analytics.”

In his view, this single-minded focus on analytics and big data are insufficient and short-sighted. To make sense of human experience, what is required is graduates who can go beyond the numbers to locate the insight and be able to ask the right questions, even while understanding where and how to find answers to complex problems, he feels.

What the Lab would experiment with

  • This Lab is an attempt to open up the business school and to help students become ‘deep generalists’ rather than ‘specialized technicians’, ‘wise leaders’ rather than ‘narrow-minded managers’. It is time to reinvent the business school, adds Cayla. “With the consumer culture lab, we want to bring in new perspectives, from the social sciences, but also from humanities, art and philosophy to open the business school to new perspectives.”
  • The Lab would work towards bridging the gap that exists where consumer culture research is happening in scant amount – largely because the chasm between management education’s over-indexing on technical learning when compared to humanities field. Says Prof Tanvi Gupta, “The reality is that there is a dearth of consumer culture research in Asia and the team felt that there is a latent need in India to develop research capabilities in this domain.”

Why it is relevant for brands

On the Lab’s relevance for the world of brands, Prof. Rajesh Nanarpuzha says, “the consumer culture lab will open up the possibilities of utilizing 'thick data' in the Indian context and will hopefully help create novel approaches to study the Indian consumer's relationship with brands.”

What is in store

  • Since it is a first-of-its-kind venture in India, the Lab plans to experiment with different kinds of activities and bring together people from academia and industry.
  • The Consumer Culture Lab also plans to offer online courses on topics such as ‘cultural branding’ for people working in the Indian brand ecosystem, with course content keeping in mind the realities of the Indian ecosystem.