University of Southern California

Seshadri Tirunillai
Making a Measurable Difference
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Graduating Year
Undergrad Institution
Birla Institute of Technology & Science
Chennai, India

Transition from engineering

Seshadri Tirunillai was always interested in research and teaching, even as he built a successful career in engineering and technology working for some of India’s largest companies. He decided to expand his knowledge in the world of business and economics with a degree in management.

A brief stint as a full-time faculty member in management strengthened his commitment to build a career in research and teaching, so he began looking at Ph.D. programs to help him broaden and sharpen his skills.

Rigorous and accessible

Seshadri was attracted to the Ph.D. program at Marshall because of its rigor and academic strengths.

“Marshall is renowned for research productivity,” he says. “It has world-class faculty across all departments. My research is interdisciplinary and borrows from economics, finance information systems and statistics,” he adds, explaining that the ability to take courses outside of the marketing department appealed to him.

Another factor in his decision was how approachable and helpful he found the faculty. “Even before I came here, I found that the faculty was very friendly and accessible,” he says.

Building teaching and research skills

USC Marshall gives Ph.D. students the freedom to work on topics that reflect their own interests, present at international conferences and hone their abilities in preparation for careers on major university faculties. “The school provides an environment that thoroughly prepares us for the job market,” says Seshadri, now an assistant professor at the University of Houston’s C. T. Bauer College of Business.

He is continuing to work on multiple research projects with Professor Gerard Tellis, his advisor and director of USC Marshall’s Center for Global Innovation. Seshadri also taught two courses at Marshall—Introduction to Marketing and Direct and Internet Marketing—the latter of which is also the emphasis of his research. Specifically, his work focuses on how user-generated content on the web influences firms’ performance.

“I'm looking at how and what people chatter about on the online platforms and how that influences the financial performance of firms,” he says. Seshadri is using statistical and econometric tools to analyze such consumer chatter and convert that data into measurable quantities useful for marketing practitioners. His research paper on the informational content of online chatter about brands and its impact on firm value has been accepted for publication at Marketing Science, a top marketing journal.

A cosmopolitan setting

Seshadri and his wife, a Ph.D. candidate in the USC School of Pharmacy, appreciated the convenient family housing USC offers. In addition to finding the university a welcoming community, they also found USC’s Southern California location to be an advantage.

“Los Angeles is a wonderful city,” says Seshadri. “I like its cosmopolitan nature. And I have enjoyed interacting with people from all walks of life and numerous cultures here.”