Doctoral Student

Karthik Balasubramanian

Karthik received BS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Economics from Duke University. After graduation, he joined the Boston Consulting Group in Washington DC. He ​then worked in Tanzania and Malawi with the Duke Global Health Institute before joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Financial Services for the Poor team focused on mobile banking in East Africa and South Asia prior to beginning the doctoral program. His main interests relate to optimization in humanitarian efforts.​

Working Papers

  1. Service Quality, Inventory and Competition: An Empirical Analysis of Mobile Money Agents in Africa

    Karthik Balasubramanian and David F. Drake

    The use of electronic money transfer through cellular networks ("mobile money") is rapidly increasing in the developing world. The resulting electronic currency ecosystem could improve the lives of the estimated 2 billion people who live on less than $2 a day by facilitating more secure, accessible, and reliable ways to store and transfer money than are currently available. The development of this ecosystem requires a network of agents to conduct cash-for-electronic value transactions and vice versa. This paper examines how service quality, competition, and poverty are related to demand and inventory (of electronic credit and physical cash) where, in this setting, service quality consists of pricing transparency and agent expertise. Among our results, we find that average demand increases with both pricing transparency and agent expertise, and that agent expertise interacts positively with competitive intensity. We also find that competition is associated with higher inventory holdings of both cash and electronic value, and that agents in high-poverty areas hold greater amounts of cash but do not carry a smaller amount of electronic value indicating that they devote more capital to their inventory. These results offer insight to mobile money operators with respect to monitoring, training, and the business case for their agents. This paper furthers our understanding of service quality, competition and inventory, while developing a foundation for the exploration of mobile money by operations management scholars.

    Keywords: service operations; operations strategy; competition; base of the pyramid; mobile money; Inventory management; Competition; Currency; Service Operations; Mobile Technology;


    Balasubramanian, Karthik, and David F. Drake. "Service Quality, Inventory and Competition: An Empirical Analysis of Mobile Money Agents in Africa." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-059, January 2015. (Revised October 2015.) View Details