Dr Malobi Mukherjee (formerly Kar) is a Research Fellow in the Oxford Institute of Retail Management (OXIRM) at Saïd Business School. Her chief research interest is in international retailing, particularly the development of scenarios for retail development in India.
Malobi’s research into Indian retail scenarios has attracted considerable interest. It has been discussed in public policy forums in India such as the India Retail Forum 2011, international academic conferences such as Society for Asian Retail and Distribution (SARD 2012 in Kobe, Japan), at the European Institute of Retail and Services Studies meeting (EIRASS 2011 in Vienna) and at the conference for the European Association for Education and research in Commercial Distribution (EAERCD, 2011 in Parma, Italy). Her findings have also been discussed in leading national newspapers in India (the Times of India and Indian Express) as well as in the Retail Images Report 2013 for Indian retail practitioners.
Following the work in India, requests for similar scenario research has been commissioned from the OXIRM team by British associations for their members who are retailers and stakeholders in the retail sector in general. International retail companies operating in the telecom sector in India have also commissioned scenario workshops from the OXIRM team.
Malobi has a BA in Sociology from the University of Calcutta, an MBA (specialising in finance) from Leeds University Business School, and a PhD in Marketing (specialising in Customer Relationship Management) from the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Whilst studying for her doctorate, she worked as a consultant for the John Lewis Partnership, analysing employee and customer satisfaction data and relating them to the company’s overall financial performance. In 2005 she joined the London Metropolitan University as a Lecturer in Marketing, also spending six months as a researcher for the Customer Management Leadership group. She joined the Saïd Business School in 2007.
Areas of expertise include:
Malobi’s main areas of research include retail policy and retail practice in emerging markets and a comparison of the same with mature markets. This includes extensive use of scenario methodology to capture the uncertainties of retail development in these markets. Her other research interests include consumer behaviour in emerging markets and the future of retail in mature economies like the UK.
Capturing the uncertainty of retail development in emerging markets
Malobi’s research aims to better understand how retail development in emerging markets might occur by carrying out a detailed analysis of Indian retailing and then applying the results to a wider range of emerging markets. The goal is to identify potential patterns of future retail development in emerging economies. The scenarios approach was used to investigate developing economies because it accepts structural uncertainty with multiple interpretations and multiple futures. In fact, for retailing, there are countless ‘right’ answers, endless combinations of business models and infinite permutations of key themes and approaches.
Four possible visions for retail development in India, each with their own benefits and costs – a Kirana Kingdom, Sanskriti Planets, Sasta World or Mishrit Universe – were developed from the primary research conducted and then tested in the context of other emerging markets. A combination of regulatory intervention and the changing cultural disposition of consumers on account of changing socio-economic conditions play a significant role in the development of retailing in emerging markets. The significant role of the politics of retailing in emerging markets has also been highlighted. Retail development in emerging markets can therefore be aligned more closely to combination theory where the consumer-regulation configuration plays a significant role in how retail evolves and develops in these markets.
Retail strategy and retail policy in emerging markets
A book entitled Retailing in Emerging markets: A Policy and Strategy Perspective (to be published by Routledge in 2014) is being edited by Malobi Mukherjee together with Dr Richard Cuthbertson and Elizabeth Howard.
While much has been written about regulations in retail in emerging markets, the focus has been primarily on the nature of foreign direct investment (FDI) and the entry strategies of western retail companies. In this book Malobi and her co-authors seek to capture the impact of internal and external regulations vis à vis the countries and their impact on retail development. A key theme examines how regulatory intervention both at local and national levels results in delivering policies which encourage ‘competitiveness with inclusiveness’ between the traditional and foreign retail organisations. The aim is to compare the regulatory interventions across different countries to identify the key triggers of retail development or lack of development in each country.
The book also discusses the retail strategies employed by western retailers in regulated emerging markets as well as the strategies of the indigenous retail companies in those markets. Over and above the strategic implications for the organised retail sector, the book will capture the strategies employed by local, traditional ‘mom and pop’ stores to operate in these fast-changing markets. Do traditional retailers become more competitive with the influx of international retailers and how, do they modernise and how, or do they lose their market to the organised sector and why? The role of employees, customer management strategies and the locational strategies will also be discussed for Brazil, Colombia, China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Russia.
Consumer behaviour in emerging markets
Contemporary Indian retailers are faced with a dilemma: how to attract consumers to modern retail formats. While increasing efforts seek to grow the large-scale retail sector, the vast majority of consumers continue to rely on smaller independent retailers for their shopping. As an initial investigation Malobi and her colleagues have conducted an exploratory, qualitative study with 10 Indian consumers. They found that consumers sought fulfilment of hedonic goals in large-scale retailers while they sought fulfilment of utilitarian goals in independent retailers. Their current project builds on this preliminary investigation by using regulatory fit theory to understand the mechanisms underlying choice of retail format of the Indian consumer. As predicted, research found that priming consumers with a prevention claim in an independent retailer or with a promotion claim in an organised retailer led consumers to perceive better prices at the retailer. Further fieldwork is underway to substantiate these preliminary findings.
Engagement with stakeholders and policymakers
Malobi’s scenario project on Indian retailing engaged stakeholders including policymakers from across the Indian retail sector in four different workshops in India held between 2010 and 2011. The findings were widely discussed in a number of public forums including the India Retail Forum 2010/2011 and disseminated in practitioner journals and in the Indian print media including the Times of India and Indian Express (see research).
Further policy-related work has since been carried out in the UK for UK retail businesses. This includes running workshops and developing future retail scenarios for the British Retail Consortium as well as the Association of Convenience Stores.
Malobi is liaising with academics across nine different countries to put together an edited volume on Retailing in emerging markets: A strategy and policy perspective. The academics are from Colombia, Brazil, Russia, China, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
She has also participated in a number of international conferences and workshops such as SARD 2012, EAERCD 2011, British Academy of Management conferences and India Retail Forum 2011and 2010.
The bi-annual Asia Pacific Retail conference organised by Malobi and her colleagues at the Oxford Institute of Retail Management has also developed connections with practitioners and academics in the Asia Pacific region; its reach is now widening across non-Asia Pacific regions as well. Previous Asia Pacific Retail Conferences have been held in Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.
As a practitioner
Malobi has undertaken a number of projects and workshops in Oxford for companies such as S-Group (Finland), held Value Delivery & Service Innovation (VDSI) workshops with Norwegian companies and academic institutions, and worked with the Retail Futures Group in the UK, Sainsbury’s and Amdocs. Scenario workshops were also conducted for the retail division of an international telecom company with operations in India.
She has also undertaken consultancy projects in the past for John Lewis and NG Bailey. Malobi was also involved with the Customer Management & Leadership Group (CMLG) at the Manchester Business School.
Malobi has received grants from industry to pursue her research activities, including from AXA PPP Healthcare (which funded her doctorate) and from another UK-based multinational company which funded her initial scenario research projects in India. She has recently been invited as a Visiting Lecturer by the University of Vaasa in Finland to lecture on her scenario work in emerging markets.
Malobi lectures Saïd Business School doctoral students on Postgraduate Research Methods and teaches on the Oxford Scenarios Programme of the Executive Education programme. She also tutors University of Oxford undergraduates studying Economics and Management and is responsible for designing tutorial questions, preparing relevant reading material, setting exam questions and marking exams.
Malobi believes that students should also be encouraged to reflect on their key learning points at the end of every tutorial, to gain clarity of learning from every interaction with the tutor. She holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from London Metropolitan University.
Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street