Balaji Koka


SURF Mentoring

Potential projects/topics: We are interested in developing a research-oriented case study about the evolution of a nascent industry. The industry involves an insect, the black soldier fly (BSF), that has applications in several existing industries such as animal and aquaculture feeds, cosmetics, and even human consumption. Most BSF companies are small – several are spin-offs of university technologies – and rely upon a mix of private funding and public policies and funding to stay afloat.

We intend to position this research around non-market strategy (NMS). NMS involves the integration of political strategies, such as companies lobbying for public policies that might benefit their sector, with conventional commercial strategies, such as expansion into a new market. NMS states that companies that integrate their political and commercial strategies well can outperform companies that neglect political (and social) activities. For BSF, they must compete against large companies in established sectors such as soy-based feeds and even other insect-based feeds (such as millworms).

We have access to a lab at Texas A&M University (TAMU) with one of the top researchers in the world on BSF. Additionally, they formed a spin-off company that breeds and markets (mostly for poultry and chicken feed) the BSF. They are very interested in growing their business and in understanding the political and social issues that might drive such growth.

Our project would be a research paper and/or a research-oriented case about the BSF industry.

Potential skills gained: The fellow would be intimately involved in the project. We have worked with the TAMU team for some time, but have never dug into the project. Thus, the fellow would be able to ideate, hone in on the best approach, do literature search, participate in meetings, and visit the field site (at least at TAMU). We have two PIs (Drs. Koka and Schuler) so the fellow would be interacting with both. We also will give a lot of independence to the student so they will learn planning and time management and reporting back to us.

Required qualifications: Not required.

Desired courses might be strategic management, a political science course on interest group politics, economics (micro), and sociology (about organizations and society). Someone with some biology, zoology, entomology, ecology skills also is desirable.

Skills: Data gathering, including some data scraping might be done. Software skills to do such work.

Direct mentor: Faculty/P.I., (We will have two faculty members: Dr. Balaji Koka and Dr. Doug Schuler - both of the business school.

Research Areas

Strategic Alliances, Interfirm networks, Institutional context, Government trade and investment policies, Social Entrepreneurship, International Business, Global Steel Industry