Venkatesh “Venky” Shankar is on a Top 10 list every academician dreams of – he has been recognized as one of the Top 10 experts worldwide on innovation management. He didn’t start out being an advocate of marketing, but now he has found his niche in the worlds of marketing and academics.
At Mays Business School, he is the Coleman Chair Professor in Marketing and director of research for the Center for Retailing Studies. He was director of the marketing PhD Program from 2006 to 2012.
He received his PhD in marketing from Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University. However, his undergraduate studies focused on engineering. “Originally, I saw marketing as a way to advertise things. I thought of Superbowl commercials, glitzy and glamorous campaigns selling insurance and whatnot, and used car salespeople,” he says. “Once I got in an MBA program to get into management, I realized the two main reasons companies exist are innovations and reaching customers. Then I came to know what marketing really is: It’s about how we treat customers and create brands and channels of communication. Then it came to mean something to me.”
Shankar’s areas of specialization include digital business, marketing strategy, innovation, retailing, international marketing, pricing, branding and mobile marketing. Shankar has corporate experience in the areas of marketing and international business development in diverse countries.
He spent two years in Hong Kong working with a bank, then he worked in the corporate environment. He quickly learned he preferred the marketing world. “In the corporate world, you can’t answer your own questions, you answer your boss’ questions,” he explained. “In marketing, you ask the questions, answer them and have fun with them.”
Shankar discovered his niche in the academic world, which his brother, a finance professor, encouraged him to join. “I had no idea what research would look like, but my eyes got opened to research,” he said. “I got to learn about methodologies. I found I really enjoyed it.”
He said he asked questions of everyone he encountered. “I was working on 10 to 12 projects at a time. That’s how my passion got kindled,” he recalls. “I was surrounded by good researchers who enrich your thinking and motivate you to look at things in a different way, a more rigorous way. They keep kicking it back, demanding it be real, relevant and bankable. It was a time of great learning.”
Shankar has supervised 11 doctoral students, something he enjoys immensely. “My first got a job at UNC Chapel Hill, and the most gratifying day for me was when he got tenure last year.” He said he feels fortunate to blend research and teaching, and that he roots all of his research in real problems. He often hears from former students, even students who he meets during one-day sessions. “I wake up every morning eager to work, to make a difference,” he said. “It’s a noble profession. Not only am I teaching that one person, but it will also help the people they encounter.”
Mark B. Houston, the marketing department head and Blue Bell Creameries Chair in Business, said he admires Shankar’s passion for helping his PhD students get jobs at their target universities. “You can see that passion in how hard he works with them during the years of the PhD program on real research projects that are publishable in top-tier journals,” Houston said. “This is critical, because PhD candidates will not even get interviews with Doctoral Research Universities without papers that are published, or at least at advanced rounds of review, at top journals.”
Beyond helping his students prepare academically, Houston says Shankar pours enormous effort into personally reaching out to his extensive professional network at universities around the country to lobby for his students. “When a target school publicizes an opening, Venky is constantly on the phone, sending e-mails, talking to people at conferences, etc., convincing them of the wisdom of interviewing his students,” Houston describes. “His persistence almost always pays off – it is kind of like the old science fiction line, ‘Resistance is futile!’ I know a lot of really dedicated PhD advisors at a lot of universities, but I know no one who works harder at this than Venky Shankar.”
Shankar is also “a star in the classroom at all levels of programs,” Houston says, but particularly with the Executive MBAs. “He is smart, well-prepared, incredibly energetic, and thinks well on his feet – all attributes that lead to an engaging EMBA professor. His formal ratings and the informal feedback that I see from these students speak to his effectiveness. He changes the way that executives think about marketing.”
With that, Shankar’s path comes full circle from the days when his own opinion of marketing was changed.
Shankar has consulting or executive training experience with organizations such as Allstate, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Colgate Palmolive, GlaxoSmithKline, Hewlett Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Lucent Technologies, Marriott International, Medtronic, Northrop Grumman, PepsiCo, Philips, and Volvo. He has made several appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, and Voice of America. He has been on many advisory boards and has served as an expert witness in legal cases.
– 2013-2014 Retailing Lifetime Achievement Award
– 2013 Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIMC) Distinguished Alumnus Award
– 2012 Vijay Mahajan Award for Lifetime Contributions to Marketing Strategy Research
– 2006 Robert Clarke Award for the Outstanding Direct and Interactive Marketing Educator
– 2001 IBM Faculty Partnership Award
– 1999 Paul Green Award for the Best Article in Journal of Marketing Research
– 2000 Don Lehmann Award for the Best Dissertation-based Article in an AMA journal
– Sheth Award for the best paper in the Journal of Academy of Marketing Science.
Shankar has won awards from such sources as the American Marketing Association (AMA) and the Marketing Science Institute (MSI). He has published in academic journals such as the Journal of Marketing Research, Management Science, Marketing Science, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, Journal of Retailing, Harvard Business Review, and Sloan Management Review, and in business periodicals such as Wall Street Journal and Financial Times. The Shankar-Spiegel Award from the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation is named in his honor. He is ex-President of the Marketing Strategy SIG, AMA and serves on the Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) council and Business-to-Business (B2B) Leadership Board. He was a Faculty Fellow of the 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013 Doctoral Consortia, and the 2001 e-Commerce Consortium of the AMA. He is Editor Emeritus of the Journal of Interactive Marketing and is an Academic Trustee of the MSI. He is also an ex-associate editor of Management Science and is on the editorial boards of Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Marketing Science, the International Journal of Research in Marketing, and Journal of Retailing. He has been a keynote speaker in several conferences and has delivered over 230 presentations in diverse countries. He is a three-time winner of the Krowe Award for Teaching and has taught Marketing Management, Digital Business Strategy, Competitive Marketing Strategy, and International Marketing. He was a visiting scholar at the Sloan School of Management, MIT. He has also been a visiting faculty at INSEAD, Singapore Management University, SDA Bocconi, the Chinese European International Business School at Shanghai, and the Indian School of Business. He is co-editor of the Handbook of Marketing Strategy and the author of Shopper Marketing.