Research Areas

A number of colleagues based both in Aston Business School and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences are pursuing a variety of research projects related to India. They vary with issues related to people management, supply chain management, internal marketing, corporate law to mechanical cardiac support and renewal energy with strong practical, academic, socio-economic, policy, and health related implications. Majority of these projects are cross-disciplinary in nature, based on simple to complex methodologies such as surveys, interviews, analysis of secondary data to experiments, action research and management of complex processes.

The researchers associated with the Aston India Foundation have been successful in achieving large research grants from prestigious funding bodies such as the ESRC, EPSRC, Strategic HRM Foundation, and Science Bridges. Aston based scholars have been invited to edit and contribute to special issues on India of leading journals (e.g., Journal of World Business and Human Resource Management). Companies in the region also regularly approach them for advice on doing business in India and funding bodies, publishers, local agencies and government bodies seek advice from them on proposals related to India.

Academics at the Aston India Foundation regularly collaborate with their counterparts based in prestigious Indian academic institutions such as IIT Delhi, MDI Gurgaon, IIM Ahmadabad and many others. They have also conducted successful conferences in India and are now leading in the creation of the Indian Academy of Management and its inaugural conference at XLRI in India from 28-30 December 2009.

Examples of Present Research Projects:

Human Resource Management (HRM) and Internal Marketing in Indian Call Centres

(led by Professor Pawan Budhwar and Dr. Neeru Malhotra) funded by ESRC (2007-2009)

The core focus of this research is to highlight the nature and pattern of HRM systems and Internal Marketing strategies relevant for the Indian call centre sector, define the main HR-related problems experienced, and produce effective ways of tackling them. This project is expected to contribute significantly to existing HRM and organisation studies research, internal marketing and organisation learning literature, especially within the Indian call centre context. It is also promising in terms of making vital managerial contributions. 

The research will be a valuable resource for companies that own call centres in India, providing results that will help to minimise the emerging problems faced by centres and motivate employees to deliver excellent service performance. The research will also assist companies that outsource their call centre operations to India, in terms of acquainting them with suitable human resources and internal marketing strategies, and help with their negotiations with the Indian call centres receiving their business.

Transfer of HRM from Corporate Headquarters to Indian Subsidiaries

(led by Professor Pawan Budhwar)

Within the field of international Human Resources Management, it has become an accepted proposition that multinational company subsidiaries face the dilemma of the competing forces of global integration/standardisation and local responsive/adaptation.  Ideally, the emphasis should be on both. Considering the increasing numbers of multinationals operating in India and that many more are planning to go there, and the strong scarcity of research in the same regard, it is crucial to examine to what extent multinational companies can adopt such a balance regarding HRM functions in the Indian context. Research on this project has been pursued in 103 MNC operating in Indian. This investigation contributes to the theses of both global integration-localisation and convergence-divergence of HRM systems, and inform policy makers about the kind of HRM systems relevant for the Indian context. It is also helping to develop better theory and practice, and improve profitability and efficiency for corporations. 

Bio-energy: Technology and Business Solutions for the UK and India

(led by Dr. Philip Davies and Professor Andreas Hornung)

Aston University and the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi have secured Science Bridges funding (£3m) to build bio-energy power plants, which will tackle energy poverty in rural India and promote renewable energy in the United Kingdom. These combined heat and power plants will be powered by waste products derived from sewage, agricultural and municipal waste, and crops grown on marginal land. The fuel sources will be converted into bio-energy through the process of combustion and pyrolysis and have been carefully chosen to overcome the difficulties of competition with food resources, inherent in many existing biomass energy chains. The three year project, co-funded by Research Council UK and the Indian Government, combines the expertise of Aston’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, the European Bio-energy Research Institute (EBRI) based at Aston University and Aston Business School.

New biomass research project could help people in water scarce regions of India

(led by Dr. Philip Davies)

The £859,193 project is funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and could improve the living conditions of many Indian people as well as having long-term benefits to academic research.

Aston will join colleagues from the universities of Warwick, Leeds, Bristol and Coventry with assistance from WRc (previously called the Water Research Centre) and in close collaboration with IIT-Delhi.

The overall aim is to provide improved means of cultivating biomass resources in water-scarce areas of Northern India and of locally converting them into useful energy services such as cooling for food preservation and ice production, electricity and applications using low-temperature heat such as food processing. There will be a high emphasis on the teaching of practical skills to local people.
Traditionally, biomass from trees and shrubs has been and remains the principal source of energy for many people and it is likely to be a major energy resource of the future. However, the distributed and low-grade nature of the biomass fuel makes it essential to introduce more effective means of production and use.

Biomass production requires water and land, which are also needed for other purposes. Their approach therefore is to introduce technologies having multiple benefits. We will set up a plantation in the village of Manpura (which is an isolated community in Rajasthan) to grow crops, which can yield not only energy but also food, fodder, soap and botanical pesticides. 

In Faridabad (which is a small town in Haryana state) we will grow energy crops and at the same time treat sewage. A small-scale tri-generation system, fuelled by biomass, will be developed to provide electricity, ice for food preservation, heat for drying crops and/or pure water for drinking.

The development and transfer of these technologies makes use of a great deal of expertise already developed in the UK.
The lack of basic services requiring energy and water contributes to the pressures on rural people in India to abandon their way of life and join the drift towards the country’s growing cities.

Often they end up living in slum conditions on the edge of escalating property markets, leaving behind them a kind of rural wasteland’, continued Dr Davies. ‘We would like to counter this trend by setting up models of livelihood and local enterprise based on sustainable land use coupled with technology for the local provision of energy and related services.

A key element of the work will be the identification of socio-economic success factors in the project through interviews, focus groups and observations in India, facilitated by our partners at IIT-Delhi.

This socio-economic study will measure the project’s success in the areas where it has been implemented. We will also carry out modelling, taking into account both the physical systems (for example engines or refrigerators) and the human participants. This modelling will enable us to investigate a variety of future scenarios in which the technologies could be introduced.

HRM Strategies & Practices Across Subsidiaries in Multinational Corporations from Emerging Economies – An Indian Perspective 

(led by Dr. Dr Mohan Thite and Professor Adrian Wilkinson - Griffith University, Australia and Professor Pawan Budhwar - Aston University)          

This research project is funded by the Strategic HRM Foundation of the USA ($36,288) for two years (2008-2010) and aims to develop an understanding of the diffusion of HR practices from the headquarters of Indian multinational companies (MNCs) to their different subsidiaries. The project develops and applies a framework of global HR strategies and practices in six Indian MNCs in different industries by interviewing managers in headquarters as well as their subsidiaries in ‘both’ developed and developing markets. It will provide managerial insights and guidance into the motives, strategic opportunities and constraints in cross-national transfer of HR policies and practices in a multi-polar world.

Comparing employment guarantee schemes in India, Nepal and Bangladesh

(led by Kirit Vaidya)

Following earlier work on rural infrastructure works and employment generation in Madhya Pradesh for the International Labour Organisation, the current work is studying an employment guarantee scheme in Nepal and making comparisons with the renowned National Rural Employment Guarantee programme in India for the International Labour Organisation. 

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research