FDP on ‘Online Teaching in the Age of Covid19: Opportunities and Challenges’ by Prof. Vishal K. Gupta, University of Alabama, USA on 22nd May 2020

IILM University organized an online FDP on ‘Online Teaching in the Age of Covid19: Opportunities and Challenges’ by Prof. Vishal K. Gupta, University of Alabama, USA on 22nd May 2020.

Brief Profile of the speaker:

Prof.Vishal Gupta presently associated with University of Alabama, USA is an experienced professor with a passion for research and teaching. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, including in the prestigious journal viz., Academy of Management Review, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Journal of Management, among others. He teaches courses in strategic management and entrepreneurship at various levels from undergraduate to PhD. His global teaching experience includes United States, India, and Bahrain. He is also a professional speaker for students (career guidance and job-market readiness), business executives, and small business owners.

A lot of interesting insights were shared by Prof.Vishal with the participants. He shared with the participants how COVID-19 is posing challenges to all the industries and higher education is not untouched, however while most of the industries are getting attention its impact on the higher education is not being talked about. He expressed serious concerns on how some technical and engineering courses will be delivered completely online. He further expressed that University administrators world over were not prepared for the situation and even the most progressive and well known Universities/Institutes took a while to respond in such pandemic times. According to Prof.Vishal most of the American Universities tried to keep their students engaged by making reading material and pre-recorded videos on either blackboard or other Learning Management Systems. The idea was to buy time to move online eventually.

Challenges of going online:

The most interesting part of the FDP was when Prof Vishal elaborated on the various challenges faced by the two important stakeholders of Higher Education: Professors & Students after moving to online teaching. As all participants were academicians they could relate to every aspect of the discussion. Certainly, the challenges identified by Prof Vishal can be generalized to the entire education Industry irrespective of culture and economic development. He felt students across the globe are same and they are yet to come to terms with the changing teaching platforms adopted in the new normal times.

He narrated instances where students who attended an online class with their video on were found not to be dressed properly. Hence students may have to be oriented on the etiquettes to appear for online classes.

He expressed his apprehension regarding the decision of few American Universities to open campus for physical classrooms citing issues of social distancing among students and the risk associated with Professors carrying virus back home.


Nevertheless he also cited some opportunities that can be harnessed by teachers, students and Institutes alike in this present scenario. Going forward, Universities may have to reduce the cost of their courses as they are offered online, which may be a benefit for students. Mandatory attendance norms for students may have to be relaxed as students may come out with all kinds of problems including internet accessibility.

Research cab be given high priority as Professors may get more time, however Prof Vishal mentioned that this cannot be generalized but is true for Professors of American Universities. He further added that in this situation Professors also have the task of making online evaluation more stringent as cheating during examinations cannot be controlled.


One participant posed a question regarding student engagement online for which Prof Vishal advised that teachers should focus on textbook teaching and keep the class duration less. They should suffice their online sessions with good videos and latest news articles. Also he advised that teachers should weekly conduct doubt-clearing classes for students. Student engagement becomes key for successful conduct of online classes.

Overall the session was very engaging and interactive and Faculty members of IILM appreciated Prof Vishal Gupta’s view on the present scenario and need for blended learning.



Consumer Neuroscience: Bridging the gap between what a consumer says and what a consumer does

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system including the brain and the spinal cord. Neuroscience is interdisciplinary and works closely with other disciplines of study like mathematics, computer science, chemistry, philosophy, psychology, and medicine.

Consumer neuroscience is the application of neuro-scientific approach to consumer behavior studies. Consumer neuroscience is an emerging field of study that integrates psychology, neuroscience, economics and marketing. Consumer neuroscience attempts to understand how a consumer makes choice leading to final purchase.

Neuroscience is gaining fast momentum in consumer behavior studies because researchers have expressed dissatisfaction over the outcome of conventional survey methods. By implementing neuro-scientific methods the marketers intends to obtain information that cannot be known through conventional market research methods.

The general belief is to trust what a customer does than what a customer says. The ultimate aim of consumer neuroscientists is to decipher why consumers behave the way they behave and know their probable future behavior. Likewise the motive of every marketer is to understand consumer behavior towards marketing strategies and design marketing plan to suit customer preferences.

Neuroscience Toolkit

Most popular and widely available toolkit to study consumer neuroscience are mentioned below:

  • EEG (electroencephalogram): This is used to detect brain-based signals that can relay information about consumers purchase intentions when exposed to external stimuli.
  • Eye tracking: Eye tracking is used to examine consumer attention when presented with various brand/product alternatives in the environment.
  • GSR (Galvanic skin response): GSR measures and registers slight changes in the responses of skin conductance of the consumer after his/her exposure to a marketing stimulus.
  • fMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance): It is employed to map brain activity of consumer through detecting changes associated with blood flow in the body.
  • Facial Coding: measures the voluntary and involuntary movements of facial muscles, participants are exposed to investigation stimuli.

The list of tools/apparatus used for consumer neuroscience is long, attempted to mention only the popular ones. Depending on the financial viability and outcome required consumer neuroscientists may employ relevant tool or combination of tools.

The fascinating outcomes of neuro-marketing is yet to be realized, however it is emerging as a reliable tool to global marketing companies to know their customers in various cultures. Such consumer research will help bridge the gap in consumer understanding for companies operating in cross-cultural environment.

In India neuroscience research is still in nascent stage and its potential is yet to be realized here, barring few start-ups and some multi-national companies, consumer neuroscience research is yet to find some takers among the corporate houses. High cost involved in setting-up labs or outsourcing such services may be the reason for not using neuroscience as popular market research method.


Customer Engagement for profitable business outcomes

This blog is intended to make the concept of customer engagement easy to understand, so here I use the 5 W’s and 1 H to make the reading interesting and relevant.
Customer engagement as a field of study is of recent interest in marketing management and it is still evolving. ‘Engagement’ as a term was used in behavioural studies to refer to ‘employee engagement’, hence it has roots from social sciences.
Though there is no single acceptable definition of customer engagement yet, however researchers do agree that customer engagement strategy is an essential element for customer satisfaction and retention in this growing competitive market.

What is Customer Engagement?
Mckinsey defines customer engagement as a personal connection that exists between a consumer and a brand that gets stronger over a period of time leading to mutual exchange of value. CE is a two-way relationship that thrives on fulfilling customer needs and thereby generating profits for the brand.
According to Gallup Customer engagement is an emotional connection between the customer and the company and this emotional connect influences customers future purchase decisions.

Why Customer Engagement?
We should understand why customer engagement strategies be implemented in any organization. Few of the benefits are mentioned below:
• Customer engagement is tied to business outcomes
• Engagement strategies enable the level of transparency that customers seek
• Customer engagement ensures retention of existing customers in a cost effective way.
• Customer engagement help organisations to acquire new customers at a negligible cost

Where & when can customers be engaged?
One of the important driver of customer engagement is technological advancement. With growth of internet and use of smartphones customer engagement is just a click away. Competitive pricing by telecommunication network providers and reasonable prices of smartphones has accelerated the internet usage by consumers. The number of smartphone and internet users are increasing worldwide with 95% users in advanced economies, 60% users in emerging economies like India.

Smartphones allow customers to engage in activities that entertain them, connect with their loved and complete their task on hand. Hence Smartphones coupled with internet connectivity paves way for the marketers to engage with customers anywhere and everywhere.

Who are engaged customers?
The engaged customers may be called as the ‘ideal’ consumers that every business desires to have. Highly engaged customers eventually become potential promoters of the business and advocate the brand to prospective consumers. However all engaged customers may not generate profits for the organisations, hence strategy to engage customers needs to be designed cautiously.

How engaged Customer feel and behave?
Enngaged customers often express greater satisfaction with the brand and they feel emotional bond with the brand.The engaged customers admit that they trust the brand and continue being loyal to the brand in future.Engaged consumers certainly add value to the business by buying 90% more frequently and spend 300% more compared to other customers annually. Further they may even indicate their fondness for the brand by declaring that it is the only brand that they would like to purchase in the near future.

Hence it can be concluded that an organization employing customer engagement strategies is only going to improve its profitability through customer satisfaction and retention.


Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally

Gallup, A. M., & Newport, F. (2010). The gallup poll: Public opinion 2009. Blue Ridge Summit: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

India’s Rural Markets: More Promising Than Ever

INDIAN VILLAGEPeople in rural India are spending more than those in urban areas, according to a study by Accenture, a multinational management consulting, technology services. Rural markets are becoming attractive for a number of reasons. Since 2000, per capita Gross Domestic Product has grown faster in India’s rural areas than in its urban centres.Rural incomes are growing, and consumers are buying discretionary goods and lifestyle products, including mobile phones, television sets and two-wheelers.

The boon of the Green Revolution combined with government initiatives such as subsidies, loan waivers, minimum support prices (MSP) and employment schemes (MGREGS) have caused an increase in purchasing power.

A staggering 12 per cent of the world’s population resides in India’s rural areas. There is no question that India’s rural markets have become a powerful economic engine. The rural multiplier effect is what excites policy-makers and business leaders alike. For every new opportunity for a villager to use his mobile phone to protect his crops, there is a knock-on opportunity for him to purchase a small refrigerator or a motorcycle.

The rush to rural markets is not a recent phenomenon and companies have been testing these markets for some time.Successful companies, have used innovative techniques to reach the rural consumers and scale operations profitably.Those Companies that have seen rural markets as just an extension of their Urban markets have not been able to succeed much.

While companies have realized that rural markets offer significant growth opportunity, a

large proportion have remained unsure of the profitability.There are certain deterrents that slow down firms undertaking ventures to tap rural markets.

Rural consumers have diverse, specialized needs and preferences. To acquire these

customers, businesses must understand the cultural, economic and demographic dimensions that define them. Organizations often make the mistake of treating rural

consumers as a homogeneous market and offer them the same value proposition they offer to urban markets.

Given the strong social fabric in rural areas and the pivotal role that fabric plays in influencing purchase decisions, companies must integrate into it. Only then can

they successfully promote their products and establish credibility.The biggest mistake is to consider the entry into rural markets a natural expansion of the existing urban markets.

The requirement of the rural people is significantly different from that of the urban areas, owing to varied demographic, social, economic and psychological environments. Thus the market offerings have to be suitably modified to meet the exact requirements of the rural consumers.

Purchases in rural India are meant for consumption by the entire family as opposed to individual preferences. In this scenario, it is essential that products are developed such that they are fit for general purpose by all the members. This results in loss of opportunities for firms that gain by customization. Thoughtful consideration to all these factors is essential to make a mark on the rural audience.

Marketers are often unable to obtain a true picture of the needs and wants of the rural people due to difficulties in conducting market research. Wide geographical spread and vast variation in languages increase the time and costs involved.

The economic, demographic and cultural drivers that are shaping India’s rural market

call for innovative strategies and capabilities. Companies are experimenting with different sales and distribution models to position themselves for the long term. But the results have been mixed, and companies face numerous barriers to efficient sales and distribution.Although many companies are still unsure about how to scale their rural operations, they remain optimistic about the opportunity.

Successful companies use detailed market scanning and segmentation to understand segment specific nuances and prioritize the best opportunities.Adopting a variable cost model at the outset gives them the flexibility to change course easily if their current approach does not yield desired results.

For companies looking to tap this market, the 4P’s of the Marketing mix have given way to the 4 A’s of Rural Market Mix: Affordability, Awareness, Availability and Acceptability.

Affordability Companies need to be able to deliver offerings at a price point that enables consumption by even the poorest consumers.The extent to which consumers and others in the value chain are willing to consume, distribute or sell a product or service relates to Acceptability.Availability is the extent to which customers are able to readily acquire and use a product or service.A new ‘how’ is Awareness with many Rural

customers largely inaccessible to conventional advertising media, building awareness can be a significant challenge for companies wishing to serve low-income consumers in the developing world.

Notable among the specialized rural initiatives in the Indian market include Project Shakti by HUL, Gaon Chalo by Tata Global Beverages, e-Choupal by ITC,Arogya Parivar by Novartis,Sampoorna TV by LG, TVS motors, Chotu Kool by Godrej.These companies have significantly increased their rural presence through these models.

To conclude,the unique challenges and circumstances defining India’s rural markets will continue to evolve. Thus, in the coming years, companies will adopt yet additional approaches to reaching, acquiring and retaining India’s rural consumers. They will need innovative models to harness this opportunity in ways that protect their margins while growing revenue in the face of constant change.

Ms.Devika Sharma