Ravi Bapna

Ravi Bapna headshot
Ravi Bapna
Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Business Analytics and Information Systems; Academic Director, Carlson Analytics Lab


Dr. Bapna currently serves as the Curtis L. Carlson Chair in Business Analytics and Information Systems and the Academic Director of the Analytics for Good Institute at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management. He has also served as Chief Data Scientist at Mississippi River Capital LLC, a Minneapolis-based hedge fund. He is one of the foremost exponents of engaged scholarship that involves the full cycle of partnering with companies to conduct top-tier research, impacting practice, and taking the learning back into the classroom via executive teaching, writing teaching cases, and running the Carlson Analytics Lab experiential program. 

Bapna regularly teaches executives at the Carlson School, NYU, WU Executive Academy, Vienna, Tsinghua University, and the Indian School of Business. His core topics are digital strategy and transformation, digital and social media marketing, advanced analytics, ML, and AI. He started the CIO Academy at the Indian School of Business and has done open and custom executive education in partnership with multiple F100 companies. He regularly keynotes corporate leadership events. 

Bapna’s career is built on very deep corporate partnerships that have been of mutual benefit to all parties involved. He has been a pioneer of online auction research. He created and ran Cniper.com, a real-world sniping agent for eBay auctions, to accurately estimate consumer surplus. Bapna was invited to present this at the Federal Trade Commission in addition to a variety of leading universities. Bapna is one of the foremost proponents of the gold-standard method of randomized field experiments in social media, partnering with companies such as OkCupid, Last.fm, and others to develop new knowledge and impact practice. His research in this arena has had a significant impact in deconstructing how social media can be used to create economic and social value and has been featured widely in the media (including the Financial Times, NPR, Star Tribune, CBS, USA Today, and ABC, among others) and invited keynote talks at companies around the world (3M, Google, Facebook, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, and Cargill, among others). This work not only has had a huge theoretical impact in uncovering important causal mechanisms in important areas such as online dating and peer influence, but has had a huge impact on practice and teaching at the MBA and executive level. OkCupid changed its default policy based on his MS paper, impacting the dating outcomes for millions of people. The HighNote teaching case based on this stream of research is being used globally at MIT, NYU, Tel Aviv University, Indian School of Business, Vienna University, UC-Irvine, and McGill University to name a few.

Most recently, he has been helping some pioneering e-commerce companies take their referral marketing to the next level. Referral programs are designed to accelerate organic word-of-mouth (WOM) exposure using financial incentives. He uses large-scale RCTs to determine how firms can benefit from framing calls-to-action for referral programs in such a way as to move closer to the original intent of organic, intrinsically motivated, WOM marketing, and yet at the same time reap the benefits of using a financial incentive to increase referral rates. This research-based approach is now the basis of the ongoing referral marketing program at Collage.com, a major online retailer in the printed products category in the U.S. 

As the academic director of the Carlson Analytics Lab since the fall of 2015, he has helped with business development and provided overall academic responsibility for more than 100 advanced analytics, AI, and Ml projects that the lab has undertaken involving real paying clients, real data, giving graduate students real non-sugar coated experiences. These account for $3 million of analytics consulting that spans descriptive, predictive, causal, and prescriptive analytics across 54 companies in 14 industries and all possible functions.