2016 Best 40 Under 40 Professors: Karan Girotra, INSEAD

Karan Girotra

Karan Girotra


Paul Dubrule Chaired Professor of Sustainable Development, Associate Professor of Technology and Operations Management (with Tenure)

Karan Girotra goes where the action is. That’s why his research focuses on two of the key in business education: Disruptive innovation and sustainable enterprise. A Ph.D. from Wharton Girotra has emerged as a leading mind in both fields, with his research regularly appearing in both Management Science and the Harvard Business Review. At the same time, Girotra has become known as INSEAD’s quintessential teacher. Students named him the “Best Professor of the MBA Program” in 2013 and 2014 (and he has been the runner-up for the “Best Professor in the Executive MBA Program for five years running). Described as an “inspiration” whose teaching “captivates” his students, he earned the ultimate compliment from one former student. “Once you attend Karan’s class,” writes Inti Paolucci (’15), “you can’t go back to what you were.”

Age: 35

At current institution since: 2007


PhD, Managerial Sciences and Applied Economics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2007

A.M., Managerial Sciences and Applied Economics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2007

  1. Tech. in Mechanical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, 2002

Courses you currently teach:

Science and Practice of Startups (EMBA),

Identifying New Business Opportunities (GEMBA)

Identifying New Business Models (MBA)

Professor you most admire: Prof. Karl Ulrich, Wharton and Prof. Gerard Cachon, Wharton

 “I knew I wanted to be a b-school professor when…It was a gradual process rather than one specific moment. As I realized how business schools provided professors with an ideal environment to mix theory and practice to solve broad problems in economic systems—public, private and social—I knew this was what I wanted to do.”

“If I weren’t a b-school professor…I’d be a line cook aspiring to be a chef.”

Most memorable moment in the classroom or in general as a professor: When one of the first ventures that was born in one of my classes started experiencing explosive growth.

What professional achievement are you most proud of? The placements of my first PhD students, who are now faculty at Wharton, London Business School and the Booth School @ Chicago.

What do you enjoy most about being a business school professor? Working closely with Ph.D. students on their research and with MBA students on their new ventures.

What do you enjoy least about being a business school professor? The constraints that come with part of being large institutions.

Fun fact about yourself: My most productive time of the day is between 11 PM and midnight.

Favorite book: Life of Pi.

Favorite movie: The Gods Must Be Crazy

Favorite type of music: Classic Rock

Favorite television show: Breaking Bad

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with my family!

What are your hobbies? Cooking, TV

Twitter handle: @GirotraK

“If I had my way, the business school of the future would have…experiential teaching, Diversity in Faculty Ranks.”

Students say…

“Karan Girotra is a Life Changer. Whether a seasoned consultant, a successful entrepreneur, a visionary student or simply a curious guy, once you attend Karan’s class you can’t go back to what you were.

As MBAs we know that “WE CAN”; with Karan we move two levels up: we learn how and we start doing it. At INSEAD, I have attended the elective module “The science practice of start-ups” taught by Karan, and it’s safe to say that my thought process is not the same anymore. We had a dynamic mix of students from different walks of life. We had our own set of beliefs and operated from those. However, Karan breathes in a whole new set of values, understanding of business and ways to success.

Once an entire class embraces his teachings and implements them, something magical happens; people start to reshape the business world, rethink their future, launch new ventures, and act as global leaders. Karan’s outstanding energy, teachings and values are deeply imprinted into all his students.

On a personal note, his teachings are a reference point in my business dealings and in my personal pursuit of being a successful entrepreneur.”

Inti Paolucci, INSEAD Global Executive MBA (’15)

“Karan is an inspiration. His energy, passion and vivacity are contagious and his teaching is fast paced, engaging, amusing and enjoyable. He captivates his students and you can hear a pin drop in his classroom. Whilst his classes stretch his students to think in new ways, they also offer many practical tips for real world application. Some who never dreamed of being entrepreneurs have taken ideas borne in Karan’s class and developed multi-million dollar businesses.

What I personally loved about attending Karan’s class was his ability to be a one man cheerleader for each of his students. He not only stretched me to develop talents I never knew I had, he also made me believe I could do it. My life is already evolving differently thanks to his teaching, and I will always be grateful that I chose his class and now have the conviction to live my ambitions.”

Emma Russell, INSEAD Global Executive MBA (’15)


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