Sitting Down with Professor Anindya Ghose

Courtesy of PRNewsfoto/Adrealm Foundation

By Sanjana Gupta

Not many professors can say they are as influential as Elon Musk, Mark Cuban and Barbara Cochran – except maybe NYU Stern’s Heinz Riehl Professor of Business Anindya Ghose. Professor Ghose, who is also Professor of Information, Operations, and Management Sciences and Professor of Marketing, Academic Director, MS in Business Analytics Program and Co-Director, MS in Business Analytics Capstone Program, alongside being a prominent author and  was named as one of the Top 10 Business Influencers to Follow right now. 

Professor Ghose, originally from Kolkata, India, came to the US for his PhD at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in the year 2000. As a first-generation immigrant, he struggled financially – his fanciest meals were from food trucks and cheap restaurants and he often had to put in 100 hour weeks to make ends meet while pursuing an extremely demanding Ph.D. program. He completed his Ph.D. in just 4 years, which is one of the fastest known amongst business school professors. His first job after his Ph.D. was at NYU Stern in 2004 as an Assistant Professor and has remained here since, and has spent some time as a Visiting Professor at the Wharton School as well. 

Although he stopped teaching undergraduates in 2012, he was the only professor in his department to get a perfect score of 7/7 on his CFEs in the undergraduate core course in tech and business. What’s even better is that the graduating batch of 2009 built a “Ghose is a Baller” fan page on Facebook in 2005. 

Besides being a professor, author, speaker, investor and a consultant, Professor Ghose is also an experienced mountaineer, a hobby he picked up as an undergraduate, hiking and trekking in the Himalayas, in Northern India. Even now, he goes for hiking or climbing expeditions every year to South America, Asia, Europe or within the US. The Gould Standard sat down with Professor Ghose to learn more about his views on work, life and technology. 

Who was your professor and why?

That’s always a hard one. I think from a formal perspective, I had two advisors – Tridas Mukhopadhyay from the Tepper School and Ramayya Krishnan from the Heinz School and I’m really grateful to them. Dean Krishnan is a very dynamic leader. I have tried to follow his footsteps in being enterprising in my interactions with industry leaders, government policy makers, practitioners and fellow academics. But the person who really helped me the most and from whom I learned the most is Professor Uday Rajan, Professor of Finance and Economics (currently at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor). When I was a PhD student at CMU, he bought me my first laptop because he knew I was broke and couldn’t afford it. We have become really close over the last 20 years – we actually climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro together in 2012. It is one of my most memorable climbs precisely because he was with me.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Success in any field is 95% diligence and only 5% intelligence. What I mean by that is many people think they are not smart enough to be successful. I will them that you don’t need to be smart to be successful. All you need is 5% intelligence, which most humans have. The other 95% is all about your willingness to work hard and burn the midnight oil, to be focused, disciplined, driven and passionate. Very honestly, there are academics who are way more intelligent than I am, in terms of raw intelligence. But I work hard, I am ambitious, disciplined and driven. So, I don’t need to be the smartest kid on the block to do well in life. 

What advice would you give to Stern undergraduates?

The most important piece of advice I have is that whatever goals you’re aspiring for, remember the 10,000 hours rule. If you can put 10,000 hours into that goal, you’re going to get it. And secondly, you don’t really have to pursue your passion, I certainly didn’t. Instead figure out what you’re good at, and make that your passion. 

Going back what piqued your interest in social media, analytics and technology?

I’m a professor of tech and marketing, so any phenomenon in that intersection is interesting to me from a research perspective. I also aspire to do research that can be applied in the real world, so I can help companies, executives and practitioners with it and my other skill sets. I’m not satisfied with just having another academic publication out there – I really strive to apply that research and that’s where I think analytics and data science comes in. If you care about deploying your research into the real world, then business analytics and data science can get you there. A lot of the collaborations I have within the industry are because I can take my research publications and apply them; and since we’re going through a digital transformation, they’re a natural fit. 

You’ve been very vocal about the benefits of social media. What’s your take on people being scared about things like data privacy?

I truly believe, and there is unequivocal evidence to back this up, that digital platforms have added tremendous value to our lives. They have helped society in countless ways – they’ve increased employment, helped millions of small businesses with their advertising and marketing, helping humanitarian causes, during natural disasters, philanthropy, crowdfunding, staying connected with friends and family – many aspects of our everyday life have been improved because of these platforms.. What happens is that, like in every society, we have good actors and bad actors. Sometimes bad actors misuse these platforms for their activities The opponents of digital platforms have only looked at those pessimistic views of what those bad actors are doing, and have promoted this view that these platforms are only harming us. I disagree with that one-sided narrative – these vocal critics who are anti-tech or anti-big tech typically have their own vested agenda. 

What would you say to the people who are worried every time they are presented with a new set of terms and conditions that they have no choice but to accept?

Well first, you have choices, no one’s forcing you to get on a platform, you want to get on there because your friends and family are there or you want to do something else but if you really worry about what’s going to your information, you have a choice. No one is twisting your arms! The digital platforms are cognizant of their responsibility towards protecting our assets and information. Every now and then, there are bad actors who infiltrate the system and we can’t just blame a company for nefarious activities performed by external bad actors. So, if somebody says the companies are not doing enough, I disagree with that. I think there’s evidence that they do a lot. Can they improve things? Sure, but to say that they intentionally act irresponsibly or don’t care is just not true. 

The reality is that not everyone is out to get us. Mainstream news media has painted a very one-sided picture. My problem with them is that they never declare their conflict of interest with big tech because news media are fighting with big tech for the same ad revenue and eyeball impressions. The journalists and editors never declare their conflict of interest. But the big picture takeaway is that we’ve gone to extremes and we need to come to the middle, we need to have a more balanced narrative, which I unfortunately don’t see recently. 

What’s a technology trend you’re excited about right now?

I continue to be very excited about mobile. My first book, TAP, was about the mobile economy, I was looking at mobile advertising, mobile marketing – the more commercial aspects of mobile. I’m hoping to write a follow-up on the applications of mobile in society, like in public health or education etc. I continue to be excited about the role mobile technologies can play in enhancing society. Additionally, I think there are some interesting  new phenomena with blockchain, omnichannel and voice-based commerce, like Alexa, which also excite me. 

Anything else you want to say to Stern undergraduates?

I think we’re all personally invested in our professional career and milestones and sometimes we don’t dedicate enough time to our own personal hobbies. I would encourage everyone to find some time for enriching your own personal lives. Whatever hobby you have, find time for it. Don’t get so distracted in the rat race that you lose track of time.

What’s your day-to-day like?

Any day is a combination of several different things. I may have meetings with PhD students for academic research. I may have classes with MBA or EMBA or MSBA students. I may have meeting with MSBA students (I am the director of the MSBA program) about their courses, capstone projects or curriculum matters. I may be doing some litigation consulting work with large tech companies that involves meeting with lawyers and economic consultants or testifying in courts. I may be advising VC funds and companies, from startups to large corporations on data science and business analytics that includes meeting with founders and CEOs. I maybe speaking at a thought leader event on a global stage. Or I am traveling internationally – that’s what the work life looks like. Then there’s some personal time – I like watching movies, especially those about military special forces or mountaineering. I find some time to spend with my family. I try and find balance in life. My goal is that while I’m pursuing all these professional work streams to not lose sight of the fact that our lives are most enriched by the relationships we invest in. I really try to remember that every day.

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