First Look

February 20, 2007

As marketers endeavor to stay ahead of the curve in a fast-changing business climate, so do executive education programs that serve them. In a new article in the Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing, HBS professor Das Narayandas explains how Exec Ed is evolving to meet new demands and expectations. Also new this week: a chapter about economic research on corruption; a paper on how local banks resisted pressure from national banks; and a case exploring the rise of the Indian conglomerate Tata & Sons and its pioneering spirit, J.R.D. Tata, who took the helm in 1938.
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

None this week.


Cases & Course Materials

Female Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

Harvard Business School Note 807-018

Examines the extent of and challenges facing female entrepreneurs in developing countries. There are higher rates of female entrepreneurship in developing countries than developed countries, but necessity is often the main driver in lower income countries. Explores the challenges facing women arising from societal inequality, including lack of educational provision, and difficulties in securing funding.

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Goodyear and the Threat of Government Tire Grading

Harvard Business School Case 707-494

In the spring of 1977, Goodyear CEO Charles J. Pilliod Jr. was looking at an internal report on government and legal events relevant to the tire industry. Two items caught his attention. First, he noticed that an industry suit to block the government's proposed system to rate tires on tread wear, traction, and temperature resistance had been rebuffed by a U.S. appeals court. Although the court found fault with the government's proposals, the ruling could mean that the tire grading system was close to becoming a reality. Second, Joan Claybrook, a former Nader consumer interest group lobbyist, had just become head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency within the government that was in charge of producing the rating system. Pilliod wondered if the regulatory events might affect Goodyear's ability to maintain its world leadership in the tire industry.

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J.R.D. Tata

Harvard Business School Case 407-061

J.R.D Tata, Chairman of the Indian conglomerate Tata & Sons, played a significant role in building India's economic infrastructure. Under his guidance, Tata & Sons built locomotives, steel refineries, airlines, chemical plants, and technology-based enterprises. Inheriting his title as Chairman in 1938, at the outbreak of World War II, Tata was able to navigate his family-owned companies through the tumultuous political climate of India. He worked with British colonial officers, and later closely with several Indian leaders under both pro- and anti-business government regimes. Applying his family's values to the workplace, Tata & Sons helped revolutionize business practices in India. From instituting the eight-hour work day and paid leave to providing a retirement gratuity, Tata's policies created a standard to which other companies—and eventually Indian government regulators—measured themselves. Blending humane business practices with political savvy and a pioneering spirit, J.R.D Tata is remembered as one of India's most important and influential business leaders. Tata is an example of a 20th century business leader who applied contextual intelligence to a variety of businesses, dramatically changing the landscape of India's infrastructure.

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Keggfarms (India)—Which Came First, the Kuroiler or the KEGG?

Harvard Business School Case 807-089

Vinod Kapur has founded a unique enterprise, Keggfarms, based on a special poultry chicken he bred to address the nutritional and income needs of some of the poorest people on earth: India's rural villagers. As of November 2006, Keggfarms was supplying chicks to about 4 million poor villagers, generating incomes for 700,000 households when they sold the eggs and meat. In November 2006, Kapur faced a number of issues, including how to expand without capital, how to deal with imitation, and how to balance Keggfarm's for-profit and social values.

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Rwanda and the Thousand Hills Coffee Co.: Breaking New Grounds

Harvard Business School Case 807-004

Examines the strategies of a Boston-based start-up to market Rwandan coffee. Describes the history of the coffee industry, the era of cartelization and the International Coffee Agreement, and the subsequent collapse in producer prices after 1989. Also describes the various options open to coffee producers, including recartelization, diversification, fair trade, and selling to boutique markets, the strategy of the Thousand Hills Coffee Co.

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Wireless Generation

Harvard Business School Case 307-049

Reflecting on an innovative joint venture that his company executed with a public school district in 2004, the CEO of Wireless Generation, a five-year-old, privately held educational technology company, is contemplating the company's product development strategy in 2006. Highlights the strengths and limitations of developing products for public sector organizations in markets created by legislation, as well as the opportunities and challenges of developing a product for mass distribution in partnership with one client. Also provides an overview of approaches to teaching literacy in grades kindergarten through third grade, as well as the assessment and accountability landscape in U.S. public education.

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Commentaries and Cases on the Law of Business Organization


In Commentary and Cases on the Law of Business Organization, this outstanding author team brings clarity and insight to the field of business organization, using economic analysis as a tool for understanding business structures and transactions.

A Discussion of "Letting the 'Tail Wag the Dog'": The Debate over GAAP versus Street Earnings Revisited


Abarbanell and Lehavy (2006) examine the effect of distributional properties of earnings and forecast data used by researchers who investigate 'Street' earnings. They perform a large number of analyses, and emphasize that care must be taken in using these data to draw inferences about the incentives and behaviors of managers, analysts, and investors. The authors highlight three features of the distributional properties of Street earnings data, which are that (i) differences between Street and GAAP earnings are large with asymmetric tails, (ii) a shift in the distribution of Street earnings occurred around 1991, and (iii) a large number of firm-quarter observations exhibit zero differences between GAAP and Street earnings. We first view the paper as a methodological paper, and discuss how the analysis contributes to similarly focused papers that address other streams of research. From this perspective, the cautionary message conveyed is very important. Second, we examine how the paper fits into the Street earnings literature. We arrive at less alarming conclusions than the authors about the degree to which prior research has not appreciated the limitations of empirical methods in permitting strong conclusions. Finally, we offer several observations on the implications of certain analyses in the paper. Overall, the authors are to be applauded for their efforts to maintain a high standard in empirical accounting research.

Corruption and the Demand for Regulating Capitalists


Economic research on corruption aims both to isolate the economic effects of quid pro quo deals between agents and third parties, and to suggest how legal and institutional reforms might curb harms and enhance benefits. In this comprehensive Handbook, top scholars in the field provide specially commissioned essays, both theoretical and empirical, exploring both types of research.

Learning and Equilibrium as Useful Approximations: Accuracy of Prediction on Randomly Selected Constant Sum Games


There is a good deal of miscommunication among experimenters and theorists about how to evaluate a theory that can be rejected by sufficient data, but may nevertheless be a useful approximation. A standard experimental design reports whether a general theory can be rejected on an informative test case. This paper, in contrast, reports an experiment designed to meaningfully pose the question: "how good an approximation does a theory provide on average." It focuses on a class of randomly selected games, and estimates how many pairs of experimental subjects would have to be observed playing a previously unexamined game before the mean of the experimental observations would provide a better prediction than the theory about the behavior of a new pair of subjects playing this game. We call this quantity the model's Equivalent Number of Observations (ENO), and explore its properties.

Vive La Resistance: Consolidation and the Institutional Contingency of Professional Counter-Mobilization in US Banking


In this paper, we investigate how competing logics facilitate resistance to institutional change. In particular, we examine how banking professionals resisted efforts of larger banks to expand their domains by acquiring smaller banks within individual communities. Drawing on a detailed community-level dataset of U.S. commercial banks, we show that in some communities, this resistance took the form of new community bank creation by local bank professionals. Our results show that acquisitions in communities lead to new bank foundings, and that this pattern is particularly pronounced when the acquisitions are by out-of-town banks and when there is a larger population of bank professionals. Drawing on historical evidence of tension between community and national banking interests, we argue that it was the effort of national banks to introduce a national logic of banking, emphasizing the efficiencies of geographic diversification, that triggered new forms of professional entrepreneurialism to preserve a community logic of banking and maintain local control banking infrastructures. We discuss how our study contributes to the emerging synthesis of ecological and institutional perspectives, entrepreneurship, and our understanding of resistance to institutional change.

Trends in Executive Education in Business Marketing


Business marketers in the 21st century are grappling with the harsh, tough demands of a consolidated customer base, rapid product and service commoditization, complex channel structures, and hyper-competition in a rapidly evolving, information-intensive global economy. Across the globe, firms concerned with developing managerial talent to respond to these trends are demanding and expecting changes in the executive education programs offered by business schools. We consider in this paper a number of recent trends and changes in customer expectations, program format, content development and delivery, and program marketing that we have observed in executive education in the field of business marketing.