You might describe Arvind Malhotra as the stereotypical absent-mind professor.
When he’s not teaching, you’ll find him immersed in research about business innovation. But if you want to call him, you might have to use his wife’s phone number because he’s lost his phone – just like he loses his wallet just about every day.
“I will never deny it,” says Malhotra, the H. Allen Andrew Professor of Entrepreneurial Education and professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. “My wife always leads me through finding it.”
But Malhotra is no “ivory tower” academic. He has been forging relationships with students since he arrived on campus in 1999 and still meets up with those from his earliest teaching days to grab a bite, network and talk shop.
“They have free help from me for life,” he promises. While students are in his class, they get opportunities for hands-on learning that encourage them to gain firsthand experiences in the kinds of things they’ll be asked to do after graduation.
In courses, Malhotra literally shares the world of business with his students. His Global Business Strategy course prepares students to be ethical global managers. They debate issues such as child labor laws and bribery in different cultures and learn to recognize the differences between their native lands and those of others. They also spend time trying to decipher the next emerging economies.
“We’re not looking at the emerging economies of now, but what will be hot 10 years from now,” says Malhotra. The goal is to teach students their role as business leaders in an increasingly global marketplace. “They are learning about giving back to society what they take from it.”
That theme continues in his Global Immersion capstone course, in which students see firsthand how businesses operate in different countries and learn about the influence of social and cultural dynamics, as well as how to give back to society. His students have studied in Hong Kong, Japan, Columbia, Peru, Chile, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. Next on the itinerary are Estonia and Russia.
“I want to students to explore how entrepreneurship is so fundamental to vibrant economies regardless of socio-political orientation of the country,” says Malhotra.
Seeing the world with his students is good for his soul, too. “I love traveling with students,” he says. “It teaches me as much as it teaches them.”
Malhotra is committed to challenging his students. “At the end of the day, I’m a professor,” he says. “My students want to be better leaders and better global citizens. They want rich experiences outside of the class.”
His commitment earned him the 2016 Weatherspoon Award for Excellence in MBA Teaching. Student nominations cited his humility, his ability to refresh his courses so they never get stale and his willingness to forge friendships with them.
“Professor Malhotra is like a conductor of a symphony in the classroom, using each of the musicians and their instruments to create a wonderful tune,” wrote one nominator.
A prolific and award-winning researcher, Malhotra works at the intersection of technology, strategy, innovation and collective creativity. Driving his work is a desire to help companies continuously innovate using new technology enabled organizational structures. He focuses on large-scale collaboration, collective intelligence, employment incentives and better use of technology and processes.
With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Malhotra has dived into crowdsourcing as it applies to companies. He is now focused on using that research as a platform to looking into how large-scale collaboration within and across organizations can be made better and be used to solve complex and pressing business and societal problems.
“My goal with my research is to help companies learn how to use large-scale collaborative structures to unleash creativity and innovation,” he says. “New technology lends itself to collaborative ways of working, and it requires a different mindset to managing and organizing.”
“When I think of Arv Malhotra, I think of focused breadth – not two words that often go together,” says Dave Hofmann, Hugh L. McColl Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “His interests are very broad, but the undercurrent is a passion for innovation. He uses an alternative lens to view innovation – one that leads to very interesting research and cuts across disciplines, but is always focused on innovation.”
Malhotra is also focused on family. He is married to UNC Kenan-Flagler marketing professor Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra (MBA ’00, PhD ’06), with whom he collaborates on research projects.
Their two sons are Tar Heel born, says Malhotra, an avid Carolina fan. He also loves both football and futbol, with Barcelona as his favorite soccer team. In fact, he created one of the first 100 web sites in the world for football fans to connect and discuss things online.
“He is a sports fanatic who knows every sports statistic on the planet,” says Kubowicz Malhotra.
But spectator sports are not enough. The Malhotras go bowling and golfing, and they head to the beach for body boarding when they can.
Malhotra is a champion for the education offered by UNC Kenan-Flagler and the lifestyle he gets to live in North Carolina.
“We love Carolina dearly,” says Malhotra, who grew up in Los Angeles. “I never actually come to work. Everyday it’s a great, new, happy place.”