The Wisconsin School of Business welcomes Yash Babar, an assistant professor in the Department of Operations and Information Management. Originally from Indore, India, Babar received his BE in computer science from the Bira Institute of Technology in Pilani, India. Before pursuing his doctoral degree, he built and designed enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications for Oracle. Babar holds a PhD in information and decision sciences from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Babar shares his thoughts on joining the School and the University of Wisconsin–Madison community below.
WSB: How did you get into your field of research?
Babar: As an undergraduate student, I conducted several research projects with the faculty at my school. I did this out of interest as well as to get credits outside the classroom, reading up on things that interested me rather than those I had to. One of my mentors was a visiting Fulbright scholar who introduced me to the world of business research and the possibilities of an international education and an academic career. The door opened and there has been little looking back.
WSB: What attracted you to UW–Madison?
Babar: UW–Madison was one of the first U.S. universities I became aware of, as it would attract some of the brightest of my undergraduate classmates for post-graduate degrees. Their experiences were always great, their praise for the research atmosphere and the life in Madison high. During my stint at the University of Minnesota while pursuing my PhD, I grew accustomed to the otherwise intimidating Midwestern climate. Factoring that out, once you look at the research productivity and impact, the resources, the welcoming faculty, staff, and students, and the potential for personal and professional growth here, the choice is actually pretty clear.
WSB: What was your first visit to campus like?
Babar: In my first and only visit before joining, I saw UW–Madison in its full glory, during a snowstorm. If I had seen more of the buildings and campus, it would have made my decision even easier. While I did not get to experience the physical beauty of the place or its vastness, the kindness of my department members, especially my department chair, during a one-day visit was what convinced me that this was a great place to be.
WSB: What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
Babar: I mostly will be teaching technology-heavy courses. Technology changes very rapidly, so perhaps the biggest takeaway for students would be to understand why they are learning what they are and how it is used in the professional world. Once this is evident, I hope that in the long run, they shall be motivated enough to keep themselves updated beyond the class and appreciate new technology, even if they do not get to use it themselves. That is a skill often necessary but missing in business managers.
WSB: Is there a way your field of study can help the world endure and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the health, finances, and lifestyle of so many?
Babar: My PhD thesis was on how online and offline interactions play off of each other. Specifically, I was looking into how face-to-face interactions augment online-only relationships in groups and how online services interact with existing offline markets. Both these topics are immensely relevant in these pandemic-stricken times.
While at first the choice of when and whom to meet to better form a professional or personal relationship was purely economical, now it is perhaps life-altering. Optimally determining the timing and nature of first offline contact in existing online relationships for maximum social and professional returns should now be very useful.
WSB: Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
Babar: It absolutely does! My first area of study includes analyzing how gig economy platforms like Uber, Lyft, Grubhub, etc., change our daily consumption habits and what policymakers should be aware of. My co-authors and I have been trying to give some insights to local and national governments on how to prepare or what to expect as a purely offline market gets digital entrants. The Wisconsin Idea today should also extend into the domain of supporting better digital governance. Here my other work comes into play. Platforms can be designed for more effective interventions, such as helping people adopt healthier behavior, better manage social interactions, or be more effective knowledge contributors. In current, ongoing projects, I have been working on experiments and archival studies to this very end to help platform designers and app developers.
WSB: What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter during video chats (and eventually parties)?
Babar: About 90% of the data in the world today was generated in the last two years alone. This is with only 62% of the world currently having access to the internet. Just imagine what will happen when everyone and everyone’s teapot and lampshade get online!
WSB: Do you have favorite hobbies or other interests?
Babar: I have always been an avid foodie, indulging in frequent cooking, copious consumption, food photography, and sometimes restaurant reviewing. Madison’s bountiful food scene was another attraction in moving here. Besides this, I am a movie and television buff, love to read and to write, doodle, and (very) occasionally work out to burn all I eat.