Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University
Sarang Sunder is an award-winning marketing professor from Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business. With more than 300 Google Scholar citations, Sunder is an accomplished researcher at just 35 years old. But what put Sunder over the top is his popularity among MBA students at TCU. Sunder has won the “Favorite Professor” award, voted for by TCU MBA students, for the past three years. He’s also won multiple research and writing awards.
Specializing in customer relationship management, many students and alumni complimented Sunder’s ability to teach CRM and his personal approach to teaching.
“My work broadly uses econometric techniques to answer managerially relevant marketing and public policy questions,” Sunder says of his research. “My most recent work published in Marketing Science investigates the unintended consequences of an often-used public policy instrument (e.g. usage restriction bans) aimed towards curbing excessive/addictive behavior.”
Current age (and birthdate): 35
At current institution since what year? 2015
PhD. in Business Administration (Marketing) – Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University
MS in Marketing – Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University
BE in Mechanical Engineering – Anna University, Chennai India
List of MBA courses you currently teach: Customer Relationship Management (CRM); Marketing Issues and Problems
TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I worked as an RA for Prof. V. Kumar (who would ultimately be my PhD. advisor) as a grad student where I got the chance to assist on research projects focused on addressing marketing problems faced by managers. I was amazed at the prospect of how ‘data’ could be used to understand customer behavior and became very curious about consequences – both intended and unintended – of marketing on customer/firm behavior. A big reason for me to become a professor was the freedom and flexibility to work on impactful research topics that I care deeply about, the opportunity to work alongside and co-author with some really smart people, and the chance to play a (small) part in helping students achieve their goals.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it?
My work broadly uses econometric techniques to answer managerially relevant marketing and public policy questions. My most recent work published in Marketing Science investigates the unintended consequences of an often-used public policy instrument (e.g. usage restriction bans) aimed towards curbing excessive/addictive behavior. Focusing on a specific ban instituted for gaming behavior in South Korea, we find that, rather counterintuitively, although usage restriction regulations may deter new users from excessive gaming they do NOT work well in dissuading heavy gamers – the target segment for such policies. In fact, in some extreme cases, the regulations lead to an increase in video gaming, suggesting that a more nuanced approach (as opposed to a blanket ban) may be called for.
If I weren’t a business school professor… I’d probably be working on or researching alternative fuel technology. Can’t say that I’d be very good at it though!
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
I am very passionate about what I teach and I’d like to think that it shows in the classroom. I try to stress on the fact that the success of the course depends on bi-directional learning – where everyone (including me) gets to learn from everyone else. As such, my classrooms are designed to be engaging environments where intellectual curiosity, analytical rigor, and strategic relevance are rewarded.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Two words, actually. “Projector Failure.”
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: Research and Teaching are not distinct silos. Some of the best teachers are, in fact, the most prolific researchers.
Professor I most admire and why: The list is long. I have had so many mentors and people I have looked up to throughout my career (colleagues, co-authors, and friends). If I had to pick one: it would probably be Prof. V. Kumar (VK). VK inspired me to become marketing academic and was my PhD advisor as well.
While he is prolific researcher and a giant in the field, what inspires me the most is the time and effort he invests in his students.
TEACHING MBA STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students?
Practical relevance. Business students are uniquely equipped (and interested) in the practical relevance of any topic. That forces me to always keep the ‘relevance’ aspects in mind when discussing complex marketing issues. The students keep me on my toes at all times!
What is most challenging?
Grading is cumbersome. I have also found it to be quite challenging to encourage students to think beyond just grades.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Curious and engaged.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Disengaged.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as… Fair and reasonable.
LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies?
Hiking and more recently, climbing. Although COVID has put a pause on most things outdoorsy.
How will you spend your summer?
Catch up on my research. Start new projects, and finish old ones. If we muster the courage to travel a bit, my family and I might make a short trip somewhere.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: National parks!
- Animal Farm by George Orwell;
- Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much?
I have so many favorites. Ranging from the silly (Michael Madana Kama Rajan*, Seinfeld, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) to the serious (12 Angry men, Schindler’s List) and some in-between (Inception, Pulp Fiction). I think I gravitate toward movies that have an irreverent take on various topics.
* Indian (Tamil) movie
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why?
Huge variance here. Depends on the mood, I guess. I listen to pretty much anything… Metal (Metallica, Rage Against The Machine, etc.), Rock (Pink Floyd, Queen, etc.), electronic (Daft Punk), and Carnatic/Hindustani fusion… I will listen to and love any song with a strong bassline and riff.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…
Closer collaboration with business and policymakers on research. Many of today’s academic-practitioner collaborations come from the actions of individual faculty, who tend to have connections. I believe an institution-driven symbiotic research partnerships effort would create a huge win-win situation for businesses and business school research.
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Embracing evidence-based decision-making. Business leaders have a lot to gain by reading academic research which provide answers/clues to decision making. This, of course, also means academic research needs to be written in a relevant and easily digestible way.
I’m grateful for… Support I have received over the years from family, friends, and colleagues to pursue this career. I am a product of the time, effort, and belief that others have invested in me.
Faculty, students, alumni, and/or administrators say:
“Dr. Sunder is among the best professor’s I’ve had during my tenure as an MBA student. His blending of casework, research, anecdotal information from the classroom participants, and interactive style made this one of the most beneficial and enjoyable courses I’ve taken to date.” – Anonymous student
“Sarang always makes the difficult concepts simple to understand. He has that ability to take his cutting-edge research and bring it directly into the classroom. He takes our quantphobic students and has them running and applying models in no time. His passion – in his research as well as in the classroom – is infectious.” – Department Chair.
“Dr. Sunder makes a personal investment in his students’ careers. He takes time out of his days to meet with students outside of class, even for material that isn’t directly related to class, like a work project. He gives students applicable, real-world experience and keeps things interesting.”
“Sarang Sunder is a true scholar-teacher; he is a rock star on both dimensions. For research, he has five top-tier publications, tied for #2 out of all marketing PhD grads from 2015, and has won two major discipline-wide research awards (Lehmann, Howard). Further, he has two papers in Harvard Business Review, the leading outlet for practice. He is one of the youngest faculty to be invited to present at both the premier doctoral consortium in marketing and the three most prestigious marketing strategy conferences. For teaching, he has had a huge impact on students by transforming a stale, required MBA course (Marketing Issues & Problems) into a dynamic course that is cutting edge in both content (e.g., new issues and controversies) and delivery (e.g., hands-on investigations). He has an uncanny ability to make complicated concepts and quantitative calculations accessible through clear explanations and by growing students skills in handling complexity.”
“I cannot think of a more perfect candidate than Sarang Sunder for the Best 40-Under-40 list of best Marketing professors. Having served as Department Chair of Marketing at the Neeley School of Business early in his career, I have observed Sarang’s career growth closely and am very impressed by his stellar research productivity as well as the energy that he brings into the classroom. He is one of the top young scholars in our field, has won numerous awards and already has several impactful research publications in the top-tier and most highly regarded journals in the field. He has equally excelled on the teaching front. He is adored by his students – being among the few to have won the “’Favorite Professor” award by his MBA students three years in a row! He goes out of his way to mentor undergraduate, graduate and MBA students both in the university and outside.”