Welcome! I am a Research Fellow and Lecturer at the Program in the Rule of Law at Stanford Law School.

I am interested in public administration, political economy, and the role of the rule of law in developing countries. I examine why organizations and government agencies located within the same geopolitical configurations will sometimes vary in structure and effectiveness. My previous work has appeared or is forthcoming at Comparative Politics, Cambridge University Press, and Springer Press. Read more below or click on the relevant links to the right.

New & Recent:

Making Electronics in India: Comparing India's Successful Software Industry with its Underperforming Hardware Industry, Book Chapter. Why has India's software industry flourished even as its computer hardware industry has floundered? I argue that there are two interrelated factors that explain this differential success. The first factor has to do with the nature of the respective industries. The computer hardware market essentially functions on quality and price, with suppliers who are substitutable. The software industry, on the other hand, is a relational business that requires expensive customer acquisition, but it is relatively easy to maintain customers once they are acquired. Because the industries are different, they require different forms of state invovlement in their infancies. Because of the market structure, the industry needed state protections to form in India, whereas the software industry needed a state that was willing to spend on establishing the initial customer-supplier relationships and generally promote the industry. This brings up a second factor, namely that state-led protection efforts require much more state coordination than does state-led promotion. The Indian state could not coordinate effectively, essentially undermining the protectionist regime that it pursued from the early 1960s to 1986. Oppositely, because intra-state coordination is not required for effective state-led promotion, the software industry flourished.

Corruption and the Paradox of Transparency, Working Paper (with Arjuna Dibley)

A Friendly Neighborhood Hindu: Tempering Populist Rhetoric for the Online Brand of Narendra Modi, prepared for the Conference on E-Democracy and Open Government (aka CeDem Asia), July 12-13, 2018, (with Joyojeet Pal)

Some recent coverage on our university study, Indian Express (Joint work with Prashant Loyolka, Yong Suk Lee, and Tara Beteille)

Some more recent coverage on our university study, Business Today (Joint work with Prashant Loyolka, Yong Suk Lee, and Tara Beteille)

Who is a Zoroastrian? Indian Express, op-ed, Dec. 22, 2017.

Meritocracy Project

It has long been recognized that meritocratic practices make for more effective government agencies, yet meritocracies remain rare, particularly across agencies in the developing world. Why?

I claim that meritocracies are uncommon because of their political and organizational underpinnings. Specifically, meritocracies require (1) autonomy such that external actors cannot interfere in hiring and promotion processes, and (2) an organizational culture such that internal actors will support merit-based practices.

I explore how and when these components come together--or fail to come together--across India's public universities. Some universities, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, are renowned for their meritocratic practices, even while many others languish. Click here to read more.

Other Projects

Aside from analyzing the political determinants of meritocracy, I continue to conduct research in line with my broader interests. With a team of researchers from Stanford and the World Bank, we are analyzing management practices across Indian engineering departments and their impacts on student learning outcomes. I also have a working paper with Erik Jensen on the role of higher education as a form of international aid.

Apart from education, I am also engaged in more traditional public administration research. With the Stanford Governance Project, we are carrying out surveys of public administrations in India (the IAS), Brazil (the entire federal bureaucracy), Ukraine, and other countries. If you would like to help us carry out surveys in other countries, please contact me. I am also pursuing a research agenda on corruption. I have done a review article on party-directed corruption (published in Comparative Politics). Find the article here or contact me if you can't get past the gateway. I also coedited a volume entitled States in the Developing World, which is forthcoming at Cambridge University Press.

I have a lot of new material that I have not yet posted to this website, but I will upload shortly. Please don't hesitate to contact me with any comments or questions or requests.