Hari Sridhar

Hari Sridhar

Marketing | Healthcare

A young boy in India dreaming about what he would be when he was older, Hari Sridhar, Ph.D., said he really only had three paths he could choose from. “I could be an engineer, a doctor, or a nobody… I chose engineer.”

Along his path to becoming an engineer, he made slight detours and dreamed of being a cricketer, a master charadesman, and a stand-up comic. “I loved Robin Williams… I still love Robin Williams. He was one of the first funny people I saw that made me want to be comic,” Sridhar explained. But comedy was not to be and he graduated from R.V. College of Engineering in Bangalore, India, with a degree in mechanical engineering. Soon after, Sridhar moved to Missouri to pursue a Master’s in Engineering Management at the University of Missouri-Rolla.

“I don’t know why I went to Missouri… I think I just wanted to leave India. It is a great country, I am very proud of my country, but I couldn’t handle living with 200 million other engineers, so I moved… to Missouri.”

While he began his career as an engineer, he kept competing in charades competitions. Hari said that one day, he looked at himself and said, “This isn’t right. You can’t keep just doing all of this other stuff on the side while hating what you do for a living.”

Sridhar, in his master’s program, had taken a few business classes and always found them interesting. The realization that a career change was necessary was the moment that business and marketing became Sridhar’s new path, even though he jokes he ultimately wound up at an engineering college.

With a new ‘what’ in mind, Sridhar began exploring the ‘how.’ “I was already in Missouri so I just looked up Missouri marketing. The Missouri College of Business popped up and something called a Ph.D. in Business caught my attention.” Sridhar remembers trying to sort out what exactly a Ph.D. in Business entailed. He had heard of MBAs before but never a Ph.D. in Business. “At the bottom of the business website was a name and phone number, so I called him.”

The recollection of the phone call is as if it happened last week. Sridhar explained how when the man (eventually his doctoral mentor) answered the phone he began with “I’m an engineer from India… as if my accent didn’t give my country away.” Sridhar explained how he wanted to go to graduate school and how even though he had his Master’s in Engineering, he just couldn’t keep pretending like he cared about it. The explanation ended with Sridhar’s equally simple and complex question, “What do you do with a Ph.D. in Business?” The man gave him an example from the healthcare industry, specifically from pharmaceuticals.

“He told me how companies spend so much money on research and development on drugs and they get a patent, which is like a reward so they can be the only ones to make money. But then he asked me what happens after the patent window, after all of the competitors can put out over-the-counter (OTC) versions?”

Sridhar didn’t know.

If his exposure to business was minimal, his exposure to pharma was non-existent. The man on the phone went onto explain that the company with the patent will release their own version of the OTC while still in the patent window to build up their brand equity as the only prescription and OTC on the market. He then asked Sridhar, “But, how do you know what the lead time should be? Do you want to find out? That’s what you do with a Ph.D in Business.”

Sridhar was sold or, as he says, “I was all in.” The life-changing phone call ended with Sridhar asking how to get started to which the man on the phone said, “First of all, you need a jacket.” Sridhar went and bought a new one that night. He went through the application and interview process in his new jacket and has never looked back.

Sridhar has been in the business world for ten years, though he feels like he has done 20 years of work. He admits that he “just loves the stuff.” Business-to-business, Healthcare, media markets, energy, and a smorgasbord of other industries have all been touched by Sridhar. He has been published in Harvard Business Review, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing, and various other top-tier academic journals and practitioner outlets which makes his unique answer to the question, “why exactly does Data Analytics and Research matter?” that much more intriguing.

Sridhar likens the pair to Gotham City’s favorite hero and villain in The Dark Knight. It is likely the only time you’ll hear such an analogy, but it takes a very misunderstood concept in the realm of academia and makes it something everyone can understand.

“If you look at the dynamic of Batman and The Joker — not in a ‘one is good and the other is not’ sense, but in a way that the two give each other meaning. Data analytics — the tool used to conduct research — only takes on meaning when it tests gut feelings. Contrarily, gut feelings can only be formed when well-established research-based findings permeate society — and we need data analytics to enable that osmosis.”

In a world where truth must be empirical, a comic book reference seems out of place, but given Sridhar’s unconventional route to business, it makes complete sense. His current research topic involves looking at research in order to better communicate with people who are at high-risk of cancer. Using data analytics to uncover the ugly truths about cancer gives researchers better solutions to hypothesize and help create new and improved preventatives to impact society for good.

Learn more about Sridhar: tx.ag/MaysSridhar

Published Work

Improving Cancer Outreach Effectiveness through Targeting and Economic Assessments: Insights from a Randomized Field Experiment