Sarath Balachandran

Sarath Balachandran
  • Doctoral Candidate

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3014 SHDH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Links: CV


I am a PhD candidate at Wharton. My research examines how collaborative relationships between firms can enable (or indeed constrain) innovation. Technological advances are making innovation in many industries an increasingly egalitarian and decomposable endeavor by improving information access and lowering the costs of entrepreneurship. Consequently, firms are increasingly having to look beyond their boundaries in their pursuit of innovation. This has led to an explosion in interfirm partnerships involving different types of firms and a multitude of collaborative structures. I study how the implications of these partnerships for firms are shaped by factors at two hitherto under-explored levels of analysis. In one stream of work, I adopt a ‘micro’ perspective and delve into the role of the people whose interactions form the basis for these relationships. I investigate how the backgrounds and incentives of these individuals shape the formation and evolution of these relationships as well as the exchanges that occur between the firms. In another stream of work, I take a ‘macro’ view to examine how institutions – both formal institutions like laws or regulations and informal ones like social or cultural norms – influence the formation of these relationships and the outcomes they lead to. By broadening the focus of research on interorganizational relationships in both of these directions, I hope to contribute to our understanding of how these partnerships shape firms’ strategies and outcomes.

Prior to joining the doctoral program at Wharton, I worked for Unilever at a manufacturing facility in Atlanta and subsequently at the company’s corporate headquarters in London. I have a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Georgia Tech and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from RV College of Engineering.

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  • Sarath Balachandran and Exequiel Hernandez (2018), Do Institutional Reforms Perpetuate or Mitigate Matthew Effects? Intellectual Property Rights and Access to International Alliances, Strategy Science (forthcoming).

    Abstract: Institutional reforms can profoundly alter the competitive positions of firms. Yet there has been limited research on which firms benefit most from these reforms: are the opportunities they create seized primarily by the most prominent firms, thus perpetuating a ‘rich get richer’ dynamic, or by previously peripheral firms, thus leveling the playing field? We address this question by exploring how intellectual property rights (IPR) reforms affect firms’ access to international alliances, a valuable channel of resources for firms in emerging markets. We find a significant increase in the number of international alliances formed by firms from the reforming countries corresponding precisely with the timing of IPR law improvements. This increase is strongest for firms that were ‘peripheral’ pre-reform: those that were of low status in the global alliance network and those located outside major cities in the reforming countries. Peripheral firms also benefitted the most from IPR improvements in terms of the quality of their alliance portfolios, gaining partners of higher status, from technologically stronger countries, and from a wider diversity of countries. Our study suggests that institutions play a role in mitigating Matthew effects in global alliance networks.

  • Sarath Balachandran and Exequiel Hernandez, Mi Casa es Tu Casa: Immigrant Entrepreneurs as Pathways to Foreign Venture Capital Investments.

    Abstract: Cross-border venture capital investments are inherently uncertain and risky, and VC firms vary significantly in how much and where they make such investments. We propose a mechanism to explain such variation: investing in startups founded by immigrants provides VCs with knowledge and connections that facilitate subsequent investments in startups from the immigrants’ home country. Empirically, we find that U.S. VCs that invest in Indian immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S. subsequently invest more in India—in the exact region where the immigrants are from and with a lower likelihood of using a local co-investor. These effects are stronger for VCs with ethnic Indian partners. We find no such effects from investing in ethnic (non-immigrant) Indian entrepreneurs, who lack direct knowledge and connections in India.

  • Sarath Balachandran, How the People at the Interface Shape Interfirm Partnerships: Evidence from Simultaneous CVC Investments.

  • Sarath Balachandran, Pipes or Shackles? How Ties to Incumbents Shape Startup Innovation.

    Abstract: Research on interfirm relationships has typically adopted the simplification of viewing ‘the firm’ as a monolith with some aggregate characteristics such as its capabilities, experience and social embeddedness. While this has facilitated many important insights, it overlooks distinctions in the way these relationships are organized within these firms, such as in the backgrounds and incentives of the people involved. I will explore these issues in the context of the relationships between startups and established firms that arise from corporate venture capital investments. Prior studies examining these relationships agree that incumbent firms control resources that could be of value to startups but differ on whether these relationships facilitate effective access to those resources. I identify an important tension for startups in these relationships between accessing resources and being subject to constraints, and show that both these influences - resources and constraints - can vary substantially depending on the type of access startups’ have to the incumbent organization. I find that these relationships push startups in more conservative technological directions in terms of their inventions. This effect is amplified if startups interact with the established firm’s corporate executives but is alleviated if they interact with the established firm’s scientists/technologists. I also find that these relationships help startups turn their technologies into products, but that this relies on the presence of boundary spanners with well-developed networks within the incumbent firm. Through these findings, the study contributes to research on interfirm relationships, entrepreneurial innovation, and corporate venture capital

  • Sarath Balachandran and Exequiel Hernandez (2018), Networks and Innovation: Accounting for Structural and Institutional Sources of Recombination in Brokerage Triads, Organization Science, 29 (1), pp. 80-99.

    Abstract: Research linking interorganizational networks to innovation has focused on spanning structural boundaries as a means of knowledge recombination. Increasingly, firms also partner across institutional boundaries (countries, industries, technologies) in their search for new knowledge. When both structural and institutional separation affect knowledge recombination, aggregate characterizations of ego network attributes mask distinct recombination processes that lead to distinct types of innovation outcomes. We address this issue by focusing on triads as the locus of recombination in networks. We partition firms’ networks into three configurations of open triads—foreign, domestic, and mixed—based on the distribution of the broker and its partners across or within institutional boundaries. We argue that each configuration embodies distinct recombination processes, with foreign triads offering high access to novel knowledge, domestic triads facilitating relatively efficient knowledge integration, and mixed triads balancing the two. We apply this approach to a global research and development alliance network in the biotechnology industry, using countries as institutional boundaries. The results show that domestic triads affect innovation volume (i.e., the productivity of innovation) more strongly than mixed or foreign triads. In contrast, foreign triads have a greater impact on innovation radicalness (i.e., the path-breaking nature of the innovation) than mixed or domestic triads. The findings suggest that different brokerage configurations embody unique recombination processes, leading to distinct innovation outcomes. Our research provides a deeper understanding of how networks and institutions jointly influence distinct aspects of innovation.


Past Courses


    We all spend much of our lives in organizations. Most of us are born in organizations, educated in organizations, and work in organizations. Organizations emerge because individuals can't (or don't want to) accomplish their goals alone. Management is the art and science of helping individuals achieve their goals together. Managers in an organization determine where their organization is going and how it gets there. More formally, managers formulate strategies and implement those strategies. This course provides a framework for understanding the opportunities and challenges involved in formulating and implementing strategies by taking a "system" view of organizations,which means that we examine multiple aspects of how managers address their environments, strategy, structure, culture, tasks, people, and outputs, and how managerial decisions made in these various domains interrelate. The course will help you to understand and analyze how managers can formulate and implement strategies effectively. It will be particularly valuable if you are interested in management consulting, investment analysis, or entrepreneurship - but it will help you to better understand and be a more effective contributor to any organizations you join, whether they are large, established firms or startups. This course must be taken for a grade.


Latest Research

Sarath Balachandran and Exequiel Hernandez (2018), Do Institutional Reforms Perpetuate or Mitigate Matthew Effects? Intellectual Property Rights and Access to International Alliances, Strategy Science (forthcoming).
All Research