As part of our profiles of TIM people, let us introduce Sruthi Thatchenkery of the UCL School of Management, which, unsurprisingly, is in London. Sruthi, so…

What are your research interests right now?

Broadly speaking I’m interested in how firms in technology-intensive industries engage with their external environment. Right now I’m mostly focused on competitive relationships, as well as an emerging stream on engagement with customers through user innovation. These days it’s not unusual for the lines between competitor, customer, collaborator, and complementor to feel pretty blurred, so to me it’s interesting to think about how firms try to make sense of that and potentially use different types of relationships to their advantage.

What do you think is your most exciting contribution to academia?

I think my most novel contribution so far has come through my dissertation, where I examine attention to competitors in enterprise software. Prior work on this topic has tended to focus on competitors within the firm’s markets and how differences in firm characteristics (e.g. size, geography) lead firms to focus on different competitors. But I think many of us know that firms are also highly aware of competition from outside their market and that similar firms may prioritize competitors in different ways. So I constructed a novel longitudinal dataset that examined who exactly my sample firms viewed as competitors, while controlling for their more “objective” competitors based on product market overlap. I then did a deep dive into why firms facing the same “objective” competition may nevertheless focus their attention on different competitive threats and what those differences mean for innovation.

At the 2019 Conference you were a TIM Dissertation Award Finalist. Tell us about your dissertation and why you think its findings are important.

I was honored to be a finalist for the TIM Best Dissertation Award this year, especially given the high caliber of the other finalists’ work! In the original dissertation, I examined how attending to more “distant” competitors (e.g. higher numbers of competitors, peripheral competitors, and competitors in different markets) influences product innovation. Since then, I’ve brought in a network lens that lets me see how all these dyadic competitive ties aggregate into broader patterns of attention across the industry and how the firm’s positioning in that network is related to its new products. I think this kind of “attention-based network” perspective can give us useful insights how firms actually understand their own industries, in a way that complements our more traditional measures of competition.

Tell us something personal about yourself.

My favorite way to relax these days is to fire up my PlayStation or PC and kick back with an immersive, story-driven RPG. I grew up on Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy and the Tales series but more recently I’ve also gotten into Western franchises like Mass Effect, Fallout, and the Witcher. Of course I don’t have nearly as much time to play these days – if only I appreciated how much free time I had as a teenager!

Thanks Sruthi!

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