Professor Jagdish N.
Sheth: An Intellectual Giant Among Us
A write-up by the
eJain Digest Editorial team
Is Earth a living, breathing and regenerating organism? Jainism believes
so. While the physical and biological scientists may disagree with such a
statement, they would agree that Earth meets some of the life criteria of
homeostasis, unique structural organization, adaptation, and above all
regeneration (if not reproduction).
Prof. Jagdish Sheth also views the Earth as a living, breathing and
regenerating organism, but this pioneer of many innovative and fundamental
marketing ideas takes this concept further to influence a quantum behavioral
change in people where it is direly required.
In his new book "CHINDIA RISING” he has thoroughly analyzed and
presented a compelling case of a major economic growth occurring in China and India. He argues that such a shift
will not only be beneficial to both China
but will help the overall development of world economy. However, he also gives a stern warning with
solid reasoning, that the entire growth model will fall apart if these
countries do not "Nurture Nature”.
In this issue of eJain Digest, we like to honor the Charles H. Kellstadt
Professor of Marketing in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University;
Professor Jagdish N. Sheth. Dr. Sheth
was one of the Keynote speakers at the last JAINA conference, where ecology was
the theme of the conference. He
eloquently presented the case of how the core Jain values can play an important
role in the market dynamics of the future.
What struck many in the audience was not just the intellectual depth,
but the professor’s cordial style that brought out that humble "Jagdishbhai”; a
Jain community member.
Born in Rangoon in Burma (now Myanmar) as the youngest of the six
siblings in 1938, Jagdishbhai had a very humble childhood. His father, a
staunch believer in Gandhism, was a rice trader as so many other Gujaratis who
had gone to Burma. In 1941 fearing atrocities due to an imminent
Japanese invasion, the family left Burma
with practically no belongings, returning to their native village of Kandagara
(near Mundra) in Kutch-Gujarat. The
family survived for almost five years from a very meager income earned by his
mother and sister producing certain household products and doing simple
chores. Who could possibly imagine
seeing a five year old kid roaming around barefooted in the sheris (term for
the small village streets in Kutch) of Mundra
would become one of the world’s renowned marketing guru?
Some relief came when his sister was married in a relatively well-off
Mehta family. Based on the location
where his two elder brothers took up employment or started a business, the
family moved between different cities but ultimately the family settled in Madras (Chennai) in 1952.
Jagdishbhai finished his high school in 1955. Jagdishbhai credits his two elder
brothers Himatlal and Gulabchand a lot in shaping his future. Himatlal was a
businessman. Gulabchand, on the other hand, was a scholar. He had been an
Editor of popular Gujariti magazines and was also well versed in the Jain
philosophy. It seems Jagdish picked up
the intellectual tenacity to dive deep into a subject from Gulabchand, while
ensuring relevancy and practicality of work from Himatlal. Jagdishbhai
proceeded to finish his B. Com (Honors) with the core subjects of Accounting,
History, and Statistics. While history
was his most favorite subject, one could easily see that these three subjects
formed the foundation of his future research and analysis. As a part of his B.
Com (Honors), he joined Loyola
College for an advanced
3-year course on taxation, where he was the gold medalist.
While at college the person who grew up in Mundra started showing his
modern trends. Jagdish joined a youth
group called Sahitya Sadan, whose purpose was to encourage and preserve
Gujarati literature. Jagdishbhai would
not tell us if he had genuine love for Gujarati literature or he had other
ulterior motives. Whether it was his impressive looks, scholarly outlook, or a
just a great tone at reciting poems; he did manage to impress a young school
teacher from a Jain family. Such a milan
would be very unusual in a conservative Kutchi-Gurjar Jain community in
1957-58. He would subsequently ask Madhuji to travel all the way to Pittsburg (as his schedule did not allow him to travel to India),
where the couple were married in a classical Indian tradition in December 1962.
This might be the first wedding of its type for the North American Jain
community. Credit goes to Mrs. Madhu
Sheth for bringing up the family of two children in the Jain vegetarian tradition.
She has since been very active in community services, was President of the
Greater Atlanta Jain Center and is now a Director of JAINA.
After borrowing about Rs15,000 from a Jain trust, family and friends,
Jagdishbhai embarked on his academic
journey to USA
in 1961. He joined the MBA program at University of Pittsburg, where he would subsequently
also get his PhD. While, at Pittsburg,
Jagdishbhai was particularly interested in Psychology and was impressed by the
works of Abraham Maslow. In one of his
MBA term papers in Behavioral Sciences, he examined the working of institution
like government, religion, corporation, and family and came up with some bold
predictions. On the government front he predicted that communism will fail and
those governments that will promote entrepreneurship and independence will see
growth in their economies. On the corporate front, he saw the values shifting
from the production model where fear (job security) was the key factor behind
workers’ productivity, to those companies where the workers will be given independence
to be creative and productive. On the religious front he had an interesting
perspective; a) when safety and security are the primary concerns, one needs
God as a protector, b) when things become somewhat stable, one need God that
loves, and c) when self-esteem and independence take the front seat, one looks
for the God within.
Jagdishbhai started his academic career as an Assistant professor at
MIT’s Sloan School of Management followed by a few years at Columbia University.
Probably the most productive fifteen years of his research career were spent at
the University of
enjoying the campus town environment, he clearly made his mark in the field of
marketing, as his stature grew, to become the Chair of the Department to an Endowed
Professorship, namely the Walter H. Stellner Distinguished Professor of
Marketing. He was amongst the first to
start collaborative research with the psychology department. He was a member of
the University’s Tenure & Promotion committee for over 9 years. Based on
the advice of the academic program committee that he was a part of, UofI became
one of the first universities to start the trend of merging the computer
science department with the Electrical Engineering department. It was also during his tenure at UofI that
he started advising AT&T and also training their executives, a relationship
that grew over time. He was the advisor
when AT&T broke-up into Baby Bells and ironically advised some of these companies
to merge again in the subsequent years. Relationships with the
telecommunications companies led him to move to Southern California to start a
Center for Telecommunications Management, at the University of Southern
California in 1984. USC awarded him the position
of Robert E. Brooker Professor of Marketing where he stayed until 1991. It was again the relationship with BellSouth
that motivated Jagdishbhai to move to Emory University
in 1991, where as an Area Coordinator he started the Center for Relationship
Marketing. At Emory, he continues to be the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of
Many of the career decisions and moves from one location to another were
mostly guided by three key principles - nurturing the needs of the family,
ability to do highly productive and creative work, and paying his dues back to
the society. Early in his career
Jagdishbhai took an interesting step of taking up an assignment of a Visiting
Professor at IIM Calcutta, in the fourth year of its formation. He felt it was the right time to take his two
children back to India,
and also serve the mother country. In
order to expose his children to the world, he later took up an assignment at
Copenhagen School of Business in 1976.
Even though there were many opportunities and invitations at larger
metro areas, he decided to go to University of Illinois, which is a campus town
that promoted raising the family up with strong values. The move to Emory was
also geared in part to avoid the extended daily commute of LA metropolis.
Jagdishbhai strongly believes in contributing back to the very roots where he
has gained a lot. He has an active "Sheth Trust” involved in various charitable
activities. He has set up multiple endowments at UofI, Pitt and at Emory to
support various academic scholarly activities or International pioneering work.
Jagdishbhai was given the Outstanding Marketing Educator award by the Academy of Marketing Science. In 1991 and again in
1999, he was given the Outstanding Educator Award by the Sales and Marketing
Executives International (SMEI). Jagdishbhai was also awarded the P.D. Converse
Award for his outstanding contributions to theory in marketing in 1992 by
American Marketing Association. In 1996, Jagdishbhai was selected as the
Distinguished Fellow of the Academy
of Marketing Science. In
1997, Jagdishbhai was awarded the Distinguished Fellow award from the
International Engineering Consortium. He is also a Fellow of the American
Psychological Association (APA). 2004 marked a stellar year for Jagdishbhai as
he was awarded both the Richard D. Irwin Distinguished Marketing Educator Award
and the Charles Coolidge Parlin Award which are the two highest awards given by
the American Marketing Association.
Description of Jagdishbhai will
not be complete without some mention of his groundbreaking research. If we were
to list each and every research publication, published books, book reviews,
academic & professional honors, number of doctoral students who graduated
under him or dissertation committee that he presided, major consulting assignments,
other articles, and news worthy interactions, we would fill a complete
book! Decent amount of this information
is available on his web site; www.jagsheth.net.
One can easily say he contributed to at least one fundamental marketing
or a change idea during every decade of his academic presence. His initial publications were more geared
towards basic concepts of marketing, however his later publications seem to
address many interdisciplinary and global economic subjects.
The Endowed Professor Jagdish Nanchand Sheth has clearly made exemplary
academic, social, and professional contributions. We in the Jain community are
proud to have such an intellectual giant among us. The challenge for this marketing genius is to
combine all his skills and experience to effectively sell the concept of "Nurturing Nature” to the world, a
concept that is desperately needed to save the Living, Breathing and
Regenerating Mother Earth.
Vinod Dave says on Nov 22,
This is the first I have learned in great
detail about the life of Dr. Jagdishbhai Sheth. I have thoroughly enjoyed
reading the early childhood and life achievements of Dr. Jagdishbhai Sheth.
They are breathtaking. His life is full of great inspiration to our children
and us. And his work and research will remain a great inspiration to future
generations. Despite his remarkable achievements as a Marketing Guru, he is
very humble, accessible and a true Jain. I was privileged and honored to
perform the marriage of his son in Los Angeles. And when my daughter Dr. Giatri
Dave' graduated from Emory Medical School, Dr. Jagdishbhai and his wife Mrs.
Madhuben Sheth had very kindly hosted a party to celebrate her graduation at
their very beautiful home in Atlanta. And we are indeed grateful for their
kindness and generosity. It is no exaggeration to say that he is one in a
million, and it is indeed our great fortune that he is our family friend. I
owned a motel business in Southern California for many years. A few years ago,
a handsome, tall black man had come to our business. After a while, he asked me
if I was from India. I replied yes. He said that when he was doing his MBA at
the University of Chicago, there was a great and outstanding professor named
Dr. Sheth and if I have heard his name. I said yes. I proudly told him that he
is our family friend. He asked me where he is. I told him he lives in Atlanta,
Georgia. He said it would indeed be nice to talk to him. I called Dr.
Jagdishbhai Sheth and gave his number to his ex -student and they were reunited
after many years via phone. This gentleman had stated that all the students
wanted to attend his class and it was always a joy and a great learning
experience whenever we attended the class of Dr. Jagdish Sheth. The student of
Dr. Sheth owns a very successful car dealership in Southern California.