Shubhranshu Singh

Associate Professor of Marketing

Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Joint faculty appointment: Department of Economics, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

Phone: 410-234-9247

Email: shubhranshu.singh@jhu.edu

Research interests:

Information disclosure and incentives

Competitive marketing strategy

Developing markets

BIOGRAPHY

Shubhranshu Singh, PhD (Business Administration, University of California at Berkeley; MBA, National University of Singapore, Singapore; MTech and MSc, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India) joined the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in 2013. He is an Associate Professor in the research track with expertise in the area of competitive marketing strategy and specific interest in developing markets. He uses micro-economic theory to study marketing problems. His research has won the 2013 John A. Howard/AMA doctoral dissertation award and the 2012 ISMS doctoral dissertation competition.

RECENT HONORS & DISTINCTIONS

  • Management Science Distinguished Service Award, 2021

  • MSI Young Scholar, 2021

  • Faculty Excellence Bonus, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, 2020

  • Black & Decker Research Fund, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, 2019

  • Dean’s Award for Faculty Excellence, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, 2019

  • Finalist, John D.C. Little Best Paper Award, 2017

  • Finalist, Frank M. Bass Dissertation Paper Award, 2017

  • INFORMS Society for Marketing Science Doctoral Consortium, Faculty Fellow, 2015

  • John A. Howard/AMA Doctoral Dissertation Award, 2013

  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California at Berkeley, 2012-2013

  • Winner, ISMS Doctoral Dissertation Competition, 2012

PUBLICATIONS

1. "Service Provision in Distribution Channels," 2022 (with Haresh Gurnani, Sammi Tang, and Huaqing Wang), Journal of Marketing Research, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/00222437211073818.

Abstract: Consumers may need help using an inherently complex product after purchase. This paper studies a manufacturer’s and a retailer’s incentives to provide pre-sales service and after-sales support in a distribution channel. The authors consider a model in which a manufacturer makes wholesale-price and channel-service decisions. Subsequently, a retailer makes retail-price and channel-service decisions. They find that, in the equilibrium, both channel members provide pre-sales service. If the fixed-cost investment needed to enhance the effectiveness of after-sales support is small, the manufacturer lets the retailer provide after-sales support. But when it is above a threshold and the retailer becomes unwilling to invest in providing after-sales support, the manufacturer steps in and invests in providing it. As expected, when the fixed cost is too large, the manufacturer also opts out of providing after-sales support. Interestingly, when the retailer provides after-sales support, the level of pre-sales service and the demand for after-sales support can simultaneously be the highest among all configurations. Finally, the authors demonstrate the robustness of their main results by studying alternative channel-service configurations.

2. "Persuasion Contest: Disclosing Own and Rival Information," 2022 (with Ganesh Iyer), Marketing Science, https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/10.1287/mksc.2021.1333 .

Abstract: This paper investigates a contest in information revelation between firms that seek to persuade consumers by revealing positive own information and negative information about the rival. In the face of limited bandwidth, firms are forced to make a trade-off between disclosing their own positive information and their rival’s negative information. A negative-communication equilibrium, in which firms disclose rival’s negative information whenever possible, exists when consumers have poor outside options or when firms are better informed. Bandwidth limitations make competitive firms more likely to disclose information compared to when they have no limitations. When firms strictly prefer consumers to choose the outside option over the rival (as in political contests), there is a greater prevalence of the negative communication equilibrium while the incidence of positive communication is lowered. Finally, when firms are asymmetric in their ex-ante quality valuations, the higher quality firm is less likely to engage in negative communication.

3. "Conspicuous by Its Absence: Diagnostic Expert Testing Under Uncertainty," 2020 (with Tinglong Dai), Marketing Science, 39(3), 540–563. Online Appendix

Abstract: We study the problem a diagnostic expert (e.g., a physician) faces when offering a diagnosis to a client (e.g., a patient) that may be based only on her own diagnostic ability or supplemented by a diagnostic test—conventional and artificial intelligence (AI) tools alike—revealing the client’s true condition. The expert’s diagnostic ability (or type) is her private information. The expert is impurely altruistic in that she cares about both the client’s utility and her own reputational payoff that depends on the peer perception about her diagnostic ability. The decision of whether to perform the test, which is costly for the client, provides the expert with an opportunity to influence that perception. We show a unique separating equilibrium exists in which the high-type expert does not resort to diagnostic testing and offers a diagnosis based only on her own diagnostic ability, whereas the low-type expert performs the test. Furthermore, we establish that the high-type expert may skip necessary diagnostic tests to separate her from the low-type expert. Interestingly, the effect of reputational payoff on under-testing is non-monotonic, and the desire to appear of high type leads to under-testing only when the reputational payoff is intermediate. Our results also suggest a more altruistic expert may be more likely to engage in under-testing. Furthermore, efforts to encourage testing by providing financial incentives or by raising malpractice-lawsuit concerns may, surprisingly, help fuel under-testing in the equilibrium. Our paper sheds new light on barriers to the adoption of AI tools aimed at enhancing physicians’ diagnostic decision making.

4. "Voluntary Product Safety Certification," 2018 (with Ganesh Iyer), Management Science, 64(2), 695-714.

Abstract: This paper describes the incentives for firms to seek voluntary product safety certifications. We consider a firm which makes the decision of whether or not to seek certification prior to selling the product. We show that, even when the firm and the consumers have same beliefs about the product safety there are incentives for the firm to seek safety certification. The main analysis investigates the role of consumer moral hazard and shows that it can lead to greater incentives for voluntary certification when inherent product safety and effort are substitutes, but smaller incentives when they are complements. The analysis of consumer moral hazard provides a nuanced perspective on the so-called risk-compensation or the “Peltzman effect” phenomenon which postulates higher levels of accident for safer products. In our paper, products that are successfully certified can end up with higher incidence of accidents. We also uncover an interesting non-monotonic relationship between effectiveness of consumers’ effort and the firm’s incentives to seek certification. Finally, we find that certification can be welfare enhancing in the presence of consumer moral hazard.

5. "Informal Lending in Emerging Markets," 2018 (with Weining Bao and Jian Ni), Marketing Science, 37(1), 123-137.

Abstract: Micro-entrepreneurs in emerging markets often rely on informal lenders for their routine borrowing needs. This paper investigates informal lenders’ and micro-entrepreneurs’ incentives to participate in a lender-borrower relationship in a market in which repayments are neither law-protected nor asset-secured. We consider a borrower who seeks a short-term loan, invests in a project, and repays in full using her project earnings if the project is successful. If the project fails, the borrower uses her outside option to repay over a period of time. The analysis uncovers an interesting effect of the borrower’s outside option on the loan rate offered by the lender - the loan rate first increases and then decreases with the borrower’s outside option. An important policy implication is that an increase in the outside option of the poor micro-entrepreneurs might actually reduce their surplus. Finally, we find that lenders in emerging markets may be more likely to engage in informal lending compared to those in developed or poorer markets.

6. "Competition in Corruptible Markets," 2017, Marketing Science, 36(3), 361-381.

    • Finalist, John D.C. Little Best Paper Award, 2017

    • Finalist, Frank M. Bass Dissertation Paper Award, 2017

    • John A. Howard/AMA Doctoral Dissertation Award, 2013

    • Winner, ISMS Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Competition, 2012

Abstract: Firms seeking business opportunities often face corruptible agents in many markets. This paper investigates the marketing strategy implications for firms competing for business, and for the buyer in a corruptible market. We consider a setting in which a buyer (a firm or government) seeks to purchase a good through a corruptible agent. Supplier firms that may or may not be a good fit compete to be selected by the agent. Only the agent observes whether a firm is a good fit. Corruption arises due to the agent’s incentive to select a non-deserving firm in exchange for bribes. Intuitively and as expected, a sufficiently large monitoring of the agent eradicates corruption. Interestingly, however, increasing the monitoring from an initial low level can backfire, making the agent more likely to select a non-deserving firm. This non-monotonic agent behavior makes it difficult for the buyer to reduce corruption. The implication is that the buyer should choose either to be ignorant or to take drastic measures to limit corruption. Further, we show that unilateral anti-corruption controls, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, on a U.S. firm seeking business in a corrupt foreign market can actually increase the firm’s profits.

WORKING PAPERS

1. "Overdiagnosis and Undertesting for Infectious Diseases," 2022 (with Tinglong Dai)

    • Featured in Covid Economics, New York Times, VoxEU.org (CEPR)

Abstract: The ongoing discourse about COVID-19 testing revolves around undertesting (i.e., insufficient testing capacity relative to demand). An important yet little studied systematic issue is overdiagnosis (i.e., positive diagnoses for patients with negligible viral loads): recent evidence shows U.S. laboratories have adopted highly sensitive diagnosis criteria such that up to an estimated 90% of positive diagnoses are for minuscule virus loads. Motivated by this situation, we develop a theory of diagnostic testing for infectious diseases that explains both undertesting and overdiagnosis. We show that a laboratory has an incentive to inflate its diagnosis criterion, which generates a higher diagnosis-driven demand as a result of contact-tracing efforts, albeit while dampening demand from disease transmission. An inflated diagnosis criterion prompts the laboratory to build a higher testing capacity, which may not fully absorb the inflated demand, so undertesting arises. Finally, we examine a social planner’s problem of whether to mandate the laboratory to report viral load along with its diagnosis, such that a physician or contact tracer can make informed triage decisions. The social planner may prefer not to mandate viral load reporting initially, because it induces a higher testing capacity and may help reduce disease transmission.

2. "Educational Inequality and Reservation Policy in Developing Markets," 2021 (with Weining Bao and Jian Ni)

Abstract: This paper investigates educational inequality that arises due to the inability of relatively poor students to make monetary investments towards college admission preparations. We consider a model in which students decide whether to make monetary investments towards test preparation. The monetary investment, if made, increases the productivity of the student’s costly study effort. Students take the college admissions test and the college fills its seats by admitting top performing students. We show that educational inequality increases in the size of higher-income students and in the selectivity of college admissions. The intuition is that a more affluent society invests more in education and the result is that the college becomes more selective. A more selective college offers better future prospects for admitted students and a better expected return on the monetary investments for higher-income students. Therefore, the probability of admission of a higher-income student becomes even higher than that of a low-income student. In the context of developing markets, we study implications of a reservation policy that aims to reduce the education inequality by transferring seats to students of certain identifiable characteristics that are correlated with students' inability to make monetary investments. We show such a transfer, if small, can be student welfare enhancing. However, a large transfer can reduce student welfare.

3. "Artificial Intelligence on Call: The Physician's Decision of Whether to Use AI in Clinical Practice," 2021 (with Tinglong Dai)

Abstract: Whether patients benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) depends on physicians' endogenous use behavior. In contrast to rapidly growing applications of AI to medicine, how physicians use AI in their day-to-day practices, and its implication for patient safety, remain little explored. In this paper, we respond to this emerging concern by modeling a situation in which a physician has access to AI in recommending a treatment plan for a patient subject to clinical uncertainty. The physician can recommend a “standard” or “nonstandard” treatment plan, either of which may be optimal; a suboptimal treatment plan can cause harm to the patient. Recommending the “standard” treatment plan shields the physician from legal liability; in contrast, recommending a “nonstandard” treatment plan subjects the physician to liability if patient harm occurs. Using AI helps the physician to generate a more precise signal that lessens clinical uncertainty in recommending the treatment plan. However, the use of AI is complicated by its implications for legal liability. Our analysis shows that under commonly proposed patient-protection schemes, the physician has an incentive to use AI in low-uncertainty situations despite little value derived from using AI. At the same time, the physician may rationally avoid using AI in high-uncertainty situations in which AI could have improved patient surplus. As the precision of the AI algorithm improves, such an avoidance behavior may exacerbate.

4. "Ambiguous Expert Communication," 2022 (with Xudong Zheng)

Abstract: Decisions in a typical expert-client communication context involve hard-to-predict contingencies. An accurate recommendation for a client is often difficult to make in both the possible outcomes for the client and the probabilities with which those outcomes can occur. Applying insights in the decision under ambiguity literature, we build a model to capture the effect of the client's attitude toward and effort in comprehending ambiguous information and their interaction on the expert's strategic communication in the recommendation stage when facing the trade-off between maximizing the client's adherence and minimizing the cost of communication. We implement our model in two dimensions of specifications capturing the client's attitude toward ambiguous information and optimism. When the client is incapable of putting effort, greater ambiguity aversion will induce the expert to increase the precision of the communication. Paradoxically, greater ambiguity aversion does not necessarily lead the client to exert more effort. When the client exerts costly effort, greater ambiguity aversion of the client leads the expert to leverage the client's effort by lowering the precision of the communication.

5. "Student Loans and Income Share Agreements for Financing Education," 2022 (with Weining Bao and Kinshuk Jerath)

Abstract: Income Share Agreements (ISAs) are seen as an alternative to financing education using student loans. This paper examines a university's decision of offering ISA financing and the impact it has on a student's effort and payoff. We find that ISAs induce student moral hazard and result in lower student effort compared to student loans. Yet, the student surplus is higher in the case of ISA financing than student-loan financing because the ISA contract requires payment of only a fraction of after-graduation income. The university prefers student's ISA financing in a market where the student faces large financial difficulties; otherwise, the university prefers student loan financing. An implication of the university's endogenous contracting decision is that a reduction in the student's financial difficulty can actually reduce expected student surplus. We also find that under certain conditions requiring the university to offer ISA financing can help improve social welfare.

WORK IN PROGRESS

1. "Public-Private Product Design" (with Yogesh Joshi)

Abstract: Certain consumption contexts involve the design of products which can be fairly resource intensive to produce. In such contexts, it is common to observe public institutions such as governments make substantial investments required for designing products that improve social welfare. In these environments, it is also not uncommon to observe the presence of private institutions that leverage these substantial investments in order to design products that generate profits. We model such public-private interactions and analyze the implications of these interactions on product design in such consumption contexts. We find that the presence of private institutions does not always lead to enhancements in product quality. There exist market conditions under which the public entity proactively accommodates the private firm to enable better product designs that lead to higher social welfare. However, public-private interactions in product design are not always socially beneficial: we also find that under certain constraints, the presence of a private institution can lead to product designs that reduce welfare.

2. "Social Communication and Quality Inference" (with Ganesh Iyer)

3. "Microentrepreneur Skill Training in Developing Markets" (with Weining Bao)