Dr. Viswanath (Vishy) Pingali is the 2016-17 George C. Lamb, Jr. Regulatory Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad, India.
What is the Indian Institute for Management Ahmedabad and what kind of research are you involved in?
Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad is a management school in India (duh!) based in this city called Ahmedabad. It is widely recognized as one of the best (if not the best) management schools in India (and Asia). We run several masters’ programs in management lasting one to two years, as well as several short duration programs tailored to the executives of several firms.
My research area, broadly speaking, is government regulation and firms’ subsequent reaction to the regulation. My current research focuses on two recent laws enacted in the India. First one is the law that regulates prices of essential medicine, and the second one is the law pertaining to corporate social responsibility in India. I am in the process of understanding how firms perceive these laws, and react to this law. What kind of reaction firms have determines if the law has had the intended benefits for the economy.
How do you gauge whether or not firms’ reactions to new laws and regulations benefit the economy?
Laws are passed with certain objective in mind like making finances available to small businesses, medicines to people in all economic segments, healthcare etc. Let us take the example of weakening patent laws. If firms continue to behave in the exact same way as they are doing before passing the law – namely invest huge amounts in research and development – then the law would be beneficial. However, firms seldom do that. They change their behavior keeping in mind governmental regulation. In the above example, firms will stop investing in research and development if intellectual property is not protected. So, can we say unambiguously that relaxing patent laws has benefited the economy? Here, benefit is clearly number of diseases cured.
Why were you interested in the George C. Lamb, Jr. Fellowship?
These two questions fall broadly in the category of regulation and how regulation has to be amended after keeping firms’ reactions in mind. So, it fits nicely with the rethinking regulation program at Duke. This Fellowship gives me an opportunity to come to a new place and concentrate on my research in this area. This is the main motivation for applying for the fellowship.
What are you most looking forward to during your time here at the Kenan Institute for Ethics?
Several things that are difficult to sort in an order: Meeting with some well known names in the research areas; presenting my work to an audience comprising people from across disciplines; understanding how academia in top notch places functions; completing my ongoing research projects; laying a roadmap for my future research plans; garnering new friends and research partners. In short, meeting some great minds, and taking some time off to contemplate on where I see myself heading into the future. I also developed a new course on development and game theory. Given that I enjoy teaching, I eagerly look forward to the spring semester where I can teach that course.
What have you enjoyed the most about Duke so far?
Presenting my research work, and meeting some very brilliant people. Given that I am a PhD in economics from Northwestern University, I have a few friends who are working in Duke as faculty. Meeting them after a long time was also a very enjoyable experience. International House is another place that my family and I had a lot of interaction. We enjoyed meeting so many people from different cultures there.
And what have you enjoyed the most about Durham and the surroundings?
Research Triangle has several points of interest. In the one month we have been here, we have become regular visitors to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, Raleigh Museum of Natural Science, Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, etc. We also intend to explore Pittsboro, Asheboro, etc.
What will your research focus on while you are here, and what kind of work will you be doing with the Rethinking Regulation Program?
As I explained earlier, my research focuses on government regulation and the subsequent firm reaction. This is going to be the main focus for while I am at Kenan. While specific focus has been pharmaceuticals, there are other industry segments that I am interested in. The idea is to explore these common interests with the people in Rethinking Regulation and develop collaborations.
What is the class you will be teaching in the spring, and what is its focus?
“Game Theory and Public Policy in Developing Economies.” People do attempt to think strategically. And this strategic thinking influences outcomes, which shape how a society progresses. The field that understands strategic thinking is game theory. Using elementary game theory (non-mathematical), I attempt to build an understanding of how do practices evolve and how do these practices shape the development of the economy. Strategic thinking also influences policy making. We will look at several issues faced by the developing economies and how policy making ought to be done, keeping in mind the strategic behavior.
What do you hope to gain or contribute during your time here?
Exposure to academic environment away from my home institution; Progress in research; Developing new thought processes that would have improve our understanding of policy making; etc.