Dr. Somnath Lahiri among most prolific scholars: Journal of Business Research



The Journal of Business Research, a highly regarded academic publication, has ranked Indian Dr. Somnath Lahiri, professor of strategy and international business in Illinois State University’s College of Business, among the top 5 most prolific scholars of India-based international business and management research.

Lahiri specializes in international business and management research, with a focus on emerging economies like India. Also included in this elite group of academics was Lahiri’s College of Business colleague Dr. B. Elango, who has inspired and aided his frequent collaborator.

For the last 20 years, Lahiri has tracked foreign direct investment (FDI) to companies in India. Lahiri’s research also focuses on outsourcing, cross-border acquisition of companies, and the internationalization of Indian family firms. He has noted that India has become a favorable destination for international companies to conduct business and earn profits. “There’s a lot of hope, energy, and dynamism about India,” he said. “It’s a hotbed of business activities, innovation, and talent in both manufacturing and services.”

Lahiri believes his research and the scholarship he shares at conferences and through his publications make Illinois State more visible internationally. He hopes these efforts will help recruit more students and faculty from overseas and help create more diversity on campus. His students are what is most important to him, and he is gratified that his work benefits them.

“The things that we do in our research, whatever findings we make, whatever discussions we have in the articles we publish, we can bring those ideas to the classroom at ISU and share them with our undergraduate students, as well as with our MBA students,” he said.

Dr. Ajay Samant, dean of Illinois State’s College of Business, congratulated Lahiri on the recognition. “Since joining ISU, Dr. Somnath Lahiri has published his scholarship consistently in very well-known peer-reviewed journals in the fields of international business and organizational strategy. The Journal of Business Research is a top-tier business journal that is ranked ‘A’ in the journal quality list. This is a great accomplishment for Dr. Lahiri and makes his colleagues and me in the College of Business proud.”

Lahiri arrived at Illinois State University in 2007. He earned a Ph.D. in business administration from The University of Memphis, a postgraduate diploma in management from Indira Gandhi National Open University, and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Calcutta.

Lahiri has received several awards during his time at Illinois State, including the Best Paper award at the Academy of International Business annual meeting in 2011, the University Research Initiative Award in 2012, the College of Business Outstanding Researcher award in 2014, and the College of Business Outstanding Service Award in 2017 and 2022.

Lahiri has served as an associate editor of the International Journal of Management Reviews. He currently serves on the editorial board of two prominent international business publications, the Journal of World Business and the Journal of International Management, and as an editorial review board member of the Journal of International Business Studies, which is the premier journal in international business.

Currently, Lahiri has a few papers on India under review in academic journals and three others being prepared for submission. In the future, he plans to examine a long list of other emerging economies, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, and China. He describes these countries as developing or emerging markets—primarily in terms of economic liberation, ongoing reforms, and FDI—that show a lot of promise.

Lahiri, who was born and raised in India, explained why that country has been the focus of much of his research. “I have a natural motivation to study about India and Indian businesses,” he said. “We need to keep in mind that India is the center point of discussion not only because it is a very old country with a huge population but also because it has a long history of many small, mid-sized, and large companies that do business in India and in Asia, and more importantly, internationally. So, because of the growth potential of the country as a whole and the growth potential for the companies in India, there’s been a lot of attention on this country for decades.”

Lahiri’s scholarship also includes contributing chapters to business books and presenting and serving as a panelist at conferences and meetings in the United States and internationally, including India. He has received several University Research Grants to support his international business research.

In his research Lahiri has found that due to globalization, even family businesses are learning they cannot confine their work exclusively to their home country. “Family businesses are the backbone of most economies in the world,” Lahiri said. “Our research shows that they need to go out and internationalize and expand their business to what we call host countries or foreign countries.”

The stakes are high for families who own a business. They risk personal financial ruin if the firm is unsuccessful and potentially the future outlook of their families since the founders usually desire to see their children and grandchildren keep the family in business and the business in the family. Lahiri’s research shows that while these businesses are run in a fairly conservative, risk-averse style, they often do a good job of expanding internationally through exports and even FDI.

“We ask the big research question: ‘Where do they want to internationalize?’” Lahiri said. “If you’re a U.S. company, do you go to Mexico, maybe to England? Walmart first went to Mexico, a neighboring country, before expanding to other foreign countries. But we are finding that there is a tendency of Indian family businesses to take a big leap and conduct FDI in very dissimilar countries that are very far geographically.”

Lahiri is also studying how family firms perform after expanding abroad. The measurements for success include growth in the company’s assets, sales, and market share. He cautioned that this type of analysis is challenging.

“Getting testable data from private family firms is very difficult because their managers and owners don’t like to share their business details and performance numbers,” he said. “What we plan to do in the future is to create a questionnaire survey and use my co-authors in India to administer that survey and collect good, authentic data.”

Lahiri wants to know more about how these family firms are created, how they handle intergenerational leadership changes, how they compete and grow, how they survive competition from foreign multinationals, how they internationalize, and how they perform overall. His latest research focuses on the firms’ CEOs, specifically whether they are family members and of the same generation as the founder.

“Generation is a very interesting attribute in family businesses,” he said. “What generation of the family is leading the business? A question we are tackling right now is: How does the generation and other characteristics of the CEO impact these companies’ internationalization? And what if you are the founder of the business, you created the company, but maybe your son joins the company and is not as driven? Every generation has its pluses and minuses.”


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