Can selling make you more resilient? Experimental evidence from India

Steenkamp, Iris (2023) Can selling make you more resilient? Experimental evidence from India. Doctoral thesis, University of London: London Business School.


Can business play a role in building resilience among vulnerable communities? Can (marketing) employment contribute to resilience – and if so, how? These are increasingly important and relevant questions in our current world as the recent COVID-19 pandemic showed many households to be just one shock away from falling into poverty. Consequently, understanding how resilience, the ability to cope both psychologically and economically with adversity, can be built has become a top priority for many policymakers and practitioners. This paper explores a marketing solution to building resilience.

In this paper, we seek to answer the following question: “Can sales employment help people build resilience and enable them to cope with adversity?” We offer a mechanism through which sales improves resilience: by facilitating opportunities to connect. We show that by enabling opportunities to connect with a wide set of individuals, sales employment can build resilience. We differentiate between types of connections and show that different connections can lead to different forms of resilience.

We present experimental evidence from a randomized controlled trial involving saleswomen in rural India. With our partner organization, we recruited, trained, and randomly assigned 1,048 women to either treatment, placebo, or control condition. We exogenously assign individuals to an employment position that facilitates opportunities to connect and measure the impact on resilience. In doing so, not only do we vary opportunities to connections, but we also provide a plausible mechanism of why they have more connections than others: certain jobs – in our case sales employment. To the best of our knowledge, there is no empirical evidence showing the impact of (changing) connections on resilience when facing adversity. In doing so, we are the first to randomly assign participants to different employment forms and causally estimate the impact of employment on personal outcomes, such as resilience.

Our results show that those engaged in sales employment are more resilient than those in placebo employment or no-employment conditions. In fact, we find that sales employment significantly improves one’s ability to be economically resilient when facing adversity by increasing: i) the likelihood of being aware of external sources of help and ii) the ability to take-up external sources of help. Second, our results show that engagement in sales is associated with having a wider set of connections. This effect is largely driven by increased connections with local government representatives and local community leaders. We find a strong association between the width of connections and economic and psychological resilience. Last, we examine heterogeneous effects and find that those from lower caste benefit most from engaging in sales employment in terms of building resilience compared.

To the best of our knowledge, no one has looked at the impact of employment on resilience – we show that marketing employment holds the power to improve resilience when facing adversity.

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Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subject Areas: Marketing
Additional Information:

Author note: "I would also like to thank Wheeler Institute of Business and Development for receiving the annual PhD Award, their generous financial support, and for disseminating this research... I thank the Research and Development Management Association for their generous funding and annual PhD Award. Additionally, work for this dissertation was funded by grants from London School of Economics and American Marketing Association, for which I am grateful."

Funder Name: Wheeler Institute of Business and Development, London School of Economics and Political Science, American Marketing Association, Research and Development Management Association
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2023 14:58
Date of first compliant deposit: 24 Jun 2023
Subjects: Performance
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2024 01:24

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