Northwest Arkansas is an ideal location to do research in marketing and consumer behavior. If Dinesh Gauri didn’t know it 10 years ago, he knows it now.
“I hadn’t even heard of this place,” Gauri says. Now he tells people from his home country of India that he’s working “near Texas.”
But they have likely heard of the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart, located in Bentonville and founded by Sam M. Walton, for whom the University of Arkansas’ business college is named. With the world’s largest retailer just a 30-minute drive away, and many vendors in the area as well, there’s a lot to explore. For Gauri, it’s reason enough to indulge his interest in retail management, such as retail strategy, pricing and promotions and how they affect consumer behavior.
Gauri joined the Walton College in the summer of 2016 as a professor and Walmart Chair in Marketing after serving as an associate marketing professor at Syracuse University in New York. He teaches retail strategy to graduate students.
A native of New Delhi, Gauri earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer applications at the Indian Institute of Technology. He worked as deputy systems manager for Air India in Mumbai, an information technology job where he worked to improve the efficiency of the company’s software, such as tracking boarding passes and luggage tags, for example.
Gauri, however, wanted to try his hand at running his own business, which he did for a few years before someone suggested he further his education in economics and marketing.
“I was already interested,” Gauri says. “It fascinated me: How do you sell products?”
He moved to Buffalo, New York, to attend the State University of New York (SUNY), where he completed a master’s degree with an economics concentration followed by a Ph.D. in marketing. When he learned of a marketing faculty opening at Walton, Gauri familiarized himself with the area by searching the internet. He discovered that Northwest Arkansas is rife with industry – Tyson Foods Inc., Walmart and J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., to name a few. Only a handful of communities can offer these kinds of resources to a university, he says. When he visited Arkansas, Gauri found the faculty to be friendly and intelligent.
He also liked that Arkansas offered a warmer climate than the northern half of the United States. “I saw snow for the first time in Buffalo, and it was too much snow,” he says.
Now that he’s among Walton faculty, Gauri is continuing his research, which includes benchmarking and store performance, studying advance purchase behavior. He uses econometric and other mathematical modeling techniques for his research. One study in particular, with findings published in the Journal of Marketing, involved the effects of fluctuating gasoline prices on consumers’ shopping behavior during the recession of 2007-2009. One thing he and his co-authors discovered was that when gas prices increased, people visited stores less often and chose store brand items over name brand products.
Gauri’s research has also been published in Management Science, Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Marketing Research and others.
The University of Arkansas will play a role in his continued growth as a researcher and professor.
“I am very happy to be here,” Gauri says. “The curriculum is good and the students are more engaged.”