Supply Chain & Operations Assistant Professor Karthik Natarajan shares answers to five questions that reveal the issues he's studying, following, teaching, and reading about today. Plus a peek into the life he imagines, were he not teaching at the Carlson School. 

Q: What is/are your current area(s) of research? What business challenges are you helping to solve?

A: My current research interests are in humanitarian and non-profit operations, with a specific focus on health care delivery systems managed by non-profit organizations in resource-constrained settings. Within this broad theme, I look at several issues including understanding how uncertainty in donor funding impacts the performance of humanitarian health care supply chains, designing incentives for patients and healthcare providers to improve the quality and quantity of care provided in not-for-profit health care settings and analyzing how not-for-profit organizations can allocate available funding to improve the supply and demand for health commodities in developing countries. 

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My current research interests are in humanitarian and non-profit operations.

Q: What current business issues or stories in the news are you following and why?

A: I have been closely following the developments related to "social responsibility."  Although the idea of social responsibility is not new, over the last few years, customers have placed increasingly higher emphasis on the environmental and social responsibility practices of firms‒this is likely to transform the way business is done and how firms compete in the foreseeable future.

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Over the last few years, customers have placed increasingly higher emphasis on the environmental and social responsibility practices of firms.

Q: What is your favorite class to teach?

A: I love to teach the Introduction to Operations Management class to undergraduates. For many students, this is their first exposure to ‘operations’ and teaching this class offers me the opportunity to shape students’ thinking about this critical business function.

Q: If you weren’t a business school professor, what would you be doing?

A: I would be an automotive designer‒I have always been fascinated by automobiles and seriously considered getting a master’s degree in motorsports engineering. I still follow the auto industry very closely.

Q: What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?

A: "Jugaad Innovation" is a fascinating read on how resource constraints force people in developing economies to come up with indigenous and innovative approaches to solve problems and what western companies can learn from their frugal and flexible approach to innovation.