For Rajneesh (Raj) Suri, PhD, LeBow’s vice dean for research and strategic partnerships and professor of marketing, curiosity fuels everything he does. From his research on diverse topics such as consumer perceptions of food waste and the effects of music on information processing, to his roles with global firms like McKinsey & Company, Unilever and Suzuki Motors, Suri is always looking to make connections and draw insights from new ideas.
“Connecting the dots between hardcore research and the marketplace is always exciting to me,” Suri says.
A member of the LeBow faculty since 2002, Suri’s hobbies and interests often cross over into his research. Here are 10 things you might not know about him.
1. He likes to get outside every day. “I walk my dog through the woods near my house every morning. That’s a ritual that I follow 99.9 percent of the time. It helps me clear my mind.”
2. He has a soft spot for “man’s best friend.” During graduate school, Raj adopted a dog from an animal shelter. Ever since, he’s always had at least one canine companion wherever he’s lived, and he devotes considerable time to training new dogs. “I like to read about dog behavior, especially from trainer Cesar Millan. They’re very simple animals to understand, and it’s a pleasure to work with them.”
3. He has some unusual shopping habits. “Before the pandemic, I would go out shopping three or four times a week – places like Home Depot, Lowes and grocery stores,” Suri says. “I like to go out and look at the prices of things, because my research focuses a lot on pricing. But I only go to browse — I don’t buy anything.”
4. He’s lived in four different countries. Raj grew up and went to college and graduate school in India, and then lived in Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates while working for Unilever. Of all the places he’s lived, though, he says, “I like New Jersey the best. There’s easy access to places like New York. I couldn’t live [in NYC], but it’s good to see places in the US that remind me of India, with lots of people everywhere.”
5. He had to adjust to the weather in the U.S. After living and working in India and the Middle East, Raj came to the United States as a PhD student at the University of Illinois. “The biggest adjustment was getting used to the cold and the snowfall — it starts in October or November there!” he recalls. “One morning, there was all this snow on the ground, and I called my instructor and asked, ‘Is the school closed today?’ He laughed and teased me about it for a while after.”
6. His longest friendship goes back over 40 years. He’s stayed in touch with his former college classmate in India, Chiranjeev Kohli, for over four decades. The two both ended up pursuing doctorates in marketing and studying similar topics. “We went to school together for engineering, and then we both came to the US independently and reconnected,” Suri says. “He teaches at Cal State Fullerton and studies branding, logos and slogans, as well as pricing, so we’ve worked together on some research projects as well.”
7. He’s maintained connections with his home country. Though unable to travel due to COVID-19, he’s maintained contact with his home country through a Drexel Solutions Institute research project with chemical company FMC and partners in India. The group is focused on supplying clean drinking water to rural communities in India and surveying people’s perceptions of the company providing these new water sources.
8. His favorite meal is an Indian dish. “I like very simple food and Indian food in particular,” says Suri.” My favorite is a dish called idli and sambar – it’s rice cakes in a lentil, tamarind and tomato soup.”
9. His go-to sources for entertainment are podcasts, news articles and magazines. Raj’s favorite podcast are McKinsey Quarterly’s, which shed light on the biggest management challenges facing global leaders. When not listening to a podcast, he might be picking up news articles from Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal or an issue of a magazine like Psychology Today or Business Week.
10. His personal philosophy: Be kind and work hard without worrying about the results.