The Guru of Marketing
Some marketing tips from Jagdish Sheth.
When he was introduced at the recently held Georgia Interethnic coalition dinner in April, at a sold out event, the emcee commented that Dr Jagdish Sheth’s resume was almost 35 pages long! Dr. Sheth is known as an academician with formidable credentials, having been the Robert E. Brooker Professor of Marketing at the University of Southern California, the Walter H. Stellner Distinguished Professor of Marketing at the University of Illinois, and having served on the faculty of Columbia University, and at M.I.T, not to mention the numerous awards and accolades that came his way.
He has published more than 200 books and research papers in different areas of marketing. His book The Theory of Buyer Behavior (1969) with John A. Howard is considered a classic in the field and another Clients for Life with Andrew Sobel (2000) was a runaway best seller.
Dr Sheth is currently the Charles Kellstadt Professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, a consultant to several governments, large corporations and start-ups. Known for his many philanthropic activities he carries his fame lightly and makes marketing and economics seem anything but dry and crusty. Life has been exciting for the little Gujrati boy, the youngest of six children who left a life of luxury in war-ravaged Burma in 1940, back to his home town of Kutch, to one of uncertainty and hardship.
In an exclusive interview with Little India, the marketing guru who says his first love is history, talks about life as a maverick who went where no Gujarati had gone before, to thoughts on where the world will turn in the new millennium.
Your coming to America is a story full of adventure where every turn could have meant a different life story!
You went to the University of Pittsburgh, and were the only foreign student there. What are the memories?
You have taught at the most elite schools in the country. Which one stands out as the best?
You have been a part of both business and academia. What have you learnt dabbling in both?
Your book The Theory of Buyer Behavior is considered a classic in its field. So what are the classic influences that determine buyer behavior.
The starting point to buyers’ behavior goes back to my brother’s shop when I used to deal with customers and tried to understand the psychology behind their buying strategies. I found out that consumers actually reduced choices over time through experience and learning. It starts with needs, then goes to wants and finally to aspirations stretching to what you can really achieve, and that really has not changed to this day.
Did you see the dot.com bust happening since you have been an advisor to so many start-ups?
Where do you see the field of marketing heading and has the corporate scandals changed the way people look at the busines of management and marketings?
The corporate scandals have indeed changed corporate America. There are tougher laws and tougher penalties. My view is that unethical behavior usually comes from entrepreneurs and not from managers. Traditionally corporate managers are well trained to act ethically but unfortunately, entrepreneurs are risk takers and as such have little respect for the law. The recent spate of class action suits by shareholders against the companies have put more fear in the way they do business. As an academician and professor of marketing my colleagues and I are certainly finding a change in the next generation of managers. In the 60s a lot of the managers were from the liberal arts; in the 70s, 80s and 90s they began to shift away from liberal arts towards business and MBA became a very popular degree displacing the Masters degree in liberal arts, but now the enrollment in the business schools has been declining recently because many people feel that they do not want a degree that creates unethical values.
Which one of your predictions have come true and is there one that you wish you had not made?
The one prediction that did not come true was that in the 1970s I was very hopeful that there would be a permanent solution for Palestine, but then first Anwar Sadat and then Rabin were assassinated. Now I am saying there will be a permanent distance between the Middle East and America, and the Middle East will align more and more with Europe.
So where are we headed post war?
I have slightly different views on that than most people. I think we will win the battle of Baghdad but we will not win the war. There will be a next phase of peace in the Middle East, orchestrated by the creation of the state of Palestine, something George Bush Sr. had strived for. The real tension will be between America and the European nations and Asia simultaneously. The French-German coalition with Russians will create more economic and political problems for America and I had predicted that NATO will cease and that Japan has given up on America and will align with China.
What kind of role will the Indian American community play in the mainstream?
So what is in the works?