By Brenna Mackay

Following her graduation with a PhD in Management in spring 2020, Dhanachitra Kannan published the book Falling Up: 9 Ways to Turn Trauma into Triumph under her pen name Tasha Brooks.

The year 2020 marked the 25th anniversary since the launch of the PhD in Management program at the Sprott School of Business and Dhanachitra Kannan became the 100th graduate of the program. This accomplishment is even more impressive considering that she managed to overcome serious health issues along the way. Additionally, she felt inspired to share her experiences in the in the form of a self-help book with the hope of helping others cope with the trauma of illness.

A Passion for International Business

Growing up in India, Kannan observed an interesting consumer behaviour. Even when locally made products were the same or better quality, many people still chose to purchase cosmetics, cars and electronics from western brands. And when people couldn’t afford genuine products, they would purchase counterfeits. This phenomenon is known as consumer xenocentrism, which is the preference for products from more developed countries, rather than one’s own.

Dhanachitra Kannan

Dhanachitra Kannan

Over the course of a decade working in the corporate world, Kannan developed a passion for international business and consumer behaviour. While searching for doctorate programs online, Kannan discovered the PhD in Management program at the Sprott School of Business and was drawn to the International Business focus.

The program is designed to train highly qualified professionals who will be working primarily in academia, as well as other organizations such as research institutions, government agencies, NGOs, and other industries. The program has focuses in Accounting, Management, Marketing, Operation and Supply Chain Management, Information Systems, Finance, and International Business and is offered on a full-time and part-time basis.

Kannan also learned that Prof. José Rojas Méndez had the same research interests as her. He had also observed xenocentrism in his home country of Chile and was currently in the process of studying the phenomenon. Kannan wanted to further study the behaviour in detail to understand what lead to this consumer preference.

“I was grateful he could take me on,” said Kannan.

Grad Stories 2020: PhD Management Student Becomes 100th Business Graduate and Conducts Research on Xenocentrism

Xenocentrism and Understanding Consumer Behaviour

Her thesis, Consumer Xenocentrism, Antecedents, consequences (and moderators) and related constructs, studied the causes and outcomes of this preference.

Over two years, Kannan’s research explored the similarities and differences between four countries – India, Kenya, Ecuador and Romania. Kannan wanted to understand how this consumer behaviour developed in the unique economic, social and historical context of each country. She ran consumer surveys and conducted interviews with professors in a range of fields, including areas of psychology and anthropology.

“I wanted to study this concept because there was little research, and even fewer studies that focused on consumer preference in the developing world,” said Kannan. She also won the Ontario Graduate Scholarship which helped her expand the scope of the research and examine the phenomenon in more depth.

The main findings of the research showed that status, peer pressure and international travel were the key factors contributing to this behaviour, says Kannan.

“These consumers were not buying these products for objective purposes,” she explained. “It was a subjective preference for foreign products because they felt people abroad have a better quality of life and are perceived as having higher status.”

She also found that individuals who were well-travelled from these countries tended to be highly-xenocentric.

Kannan says that anthropological research shows that many former colonies are still experiencing a “colonial hangover,” signifying that countries continue to feel inferior today.

Her thesis became one of the largest studies on xenocentrism and the first study to examine ownership of foreign products.

With trade deals shifting today, Kannan says her research could help Canada discover new markets where consumers prefer foreign products and have disposable income to spend on luxuries. Understanding the motivation behind this behaviour could also help companies focus their positioning on social characteristics of products.

Grad Stories 2020: PhD Management Student Becomes 100th Business Graduate and Conducts Research on Xenocentrism

Incredible Support During Health Crisis

“The PhD has been a very intellectually challenging and rewarding experience for me,” said Kannan. “It’s been one of the most exhausting, yet exhilarating things that I’ve done.”

When Kannan began the program, she was recovering from thyroid cancer. While a student, she experienced a relapse and needed to undergo the entire treatment process again.

“I’m incredibly grateful that I completed the program and health-wise, things are fine now,” Kannan shared.

She credits her colleagues for being an incredible support throughout her time at Carleton.

She got together with her peers over Zoom for a virtual celebration of her thesis defense. “It’s one of the best memories from my time here because my colleagues have now become friends and hopefully, we will stay in touch wherever my journey takes me.”

Looking ahead, Kannan has a short-term goal and a long-term goal. Currently, she’s focused on finalizing the details of publishing a book called Falling Up: 9 Ways to Transform Trauma into Triumph that she wrote under the pen name Tasha Brooks. She completed this book while working on her thesis as a way to cope with her health issues, hoping that her story gives strength to others who may be struggling.

Grad Stories 2020: PhD Management Student Becomes 100th Business Graduate and Conducts Research on Xenocentrism

The Future

In the long-term, Kannan aspires to work in academia, as she has seen firsthand how education can change lives. She shared that her parents grew up poor but were able to elevate their lives because of the education they received.

“Knowledge is empowering, and I want to empower people,” she said. “I’m very excited for what the future holds.”

Kannan thanked Prof. José Rojas Méndez for his valuable guidance and mentorship and her husband for his unwavering support, kindness and patience throughout this journey.

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Thursday, June 25, 2020 in , ,
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