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Award-Winning Student Papers Focus on Privacy Challenges and on Venture Capital Possibilities in China, India

11/3/2006 --

Research leads to honors for recent BBA grads Will McGarrity and Sunita Mohanty.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Will McGarrity and Sunita Mohanty, both 2006 graduates of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business BBA program at the University of Michigan, are co-winners of the school's Arthur Southwick Award for best paper.

Will McGarrity

McGarrity's "Unsafe in Any Hands? Privacy Challenges in the Information Age" also received the Best Student Paper Award at the National Conference of the Academy of Legal Studies in Business held in St. Petersburg, Fla., in August.

In his paper, McGarrity, now a Harvard Law School student, evaluates the philosophical, legal and social interpretations of privacy and their shortcomings in addressing the privacy dilemmas posed by information technology. Framed for a business audience, the paper also explores ways in which the inadequacies of the status quo can be changed to protect privacy.

McGarrity initially became interested in the topic when Google's e-mail service, Gmail, was condemned by several privacy interest groups. "I felt much of the criticism was unjustified, but it led me to a broader question, that of what exactly it is society values in privacy and how companies can better answer the challenges posed by the spread of information," he recalls.

"All companies need to address privacy issues voluntarily and proactively. Waiting for refinements in the legal system can be costly to both a company's bottom line and the public's perceptions of the firm."

Companies should consider privacy in terms of protecting individuals' control over their own information, says McGarrity. "Despite the current inadequacy of the law in this area, companies can look to the intent of past legislation to guide their efforts. Novel measures, such as appointing a chief privacy officer, also may help address privacy issues. Finally, by building data systems that recognize private information and protect it accordingly, businesses can better secure personal information."

McGarrity's and Mohanty's papers were written as part of the BBA Senior Seminar course taught by George J. Siedel, the Williamson Family Professor of Business Administration.

"Will lays a solid foundation based on existing laws and research," Seidel says, "and has come up with practical applications that every business should consider at a time when privacy issues have become so important."

Exploring VC Possibilities

Sunita Mohanty

Mohanty, an investment banking analyst at Lehman Brothers in Chicago, chose "Venture Capital: Possibilities at the Bottom of the Pyramid" as her thesis topic. The assignment allowed her to combine an interest in finance and developing markets in China and India and her personal background. "My family is from India," she says. "When we go back, I look for ways that could help the community develop more."

In her paper, Mohanty examines current trends of private equity and venture capital markets in China and India and how VC firms can effectively combine social and financial goals in those markets by integrating strategies highlighted in Professor C. K. Prahalad's award-winning book "The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid." She also evaluates the impact of VC firms and presents case studies of several innovative venture funds operating in China and India.

Mohanty concludes: "Private equity activity is increasing throughout the developing world as investors are finding better opportunities relative to the saturated market of developed economies. Instability and uncertainty thus far have impeded successful VC investment in India and China. The unfamiliar environment of these countries, dominated by poverty, necessitates the ability for firms to correctly adapt to the local conditions of these markets."

"Sunita's research is especially compelling because bottom of the pyramid (BOP) strategies often relate to consumer goods, rather than to the work of venture capitalists," Siedel notes. "Her paper addresses issues on the frontier of BOP strategy."

Read “Unsafe in Any Hands? Privacy Challenges in the Information Age”

Read “Venture Capital: Possibilities at the Bottom of the Pyramid”

For more information, contact:
Mary Jo Frank
Phone: (734) 647-4626