Building a New Academic Field in India: The Case of Services Marketing

By Agrawal, Mohan Lal | Journal of Services Research, April-September 2001 | Go to article overview
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Building a New Academic Field in India: The Case of Services Marketing

Agrawal, Mohan Lal, Journal of Services Research

Inventorying a discipline at any time serves three main purposes: One, it offers an account (although by an individual, and therefore, subjective to that extent) of what has been achieved so far. Two, a whole new range of issues emerges that could re-energize researchers, practitioners and policymakers. Third and finally, a review is inescapable if it involves a new academic field, like Services Marketing in India. This paper describes evolution of teaching services marketing in India. Set against the backdrop of emerging service scenario, it divides itself in two parts. The first part deals with the current convergence between services and goods. It argues that the convergent view of services (viz. goods as well as services) is preferable to the dichotomous view (viz. services versus s. goods) especially at the nascent stage of the discipline in India. The paper goes on to analyze the 1973 framework of Fisk, Brown and Bitner for mapping evolution of the discipline. The latter half of the paper identifies the key challenges to the discipline of service marketing in the east with a special focus on India. It tracks how deep has the teaching of services marketing penetrated in business schools and outlines an action plan for further diffusion. In so doing, the paper raises several issues that may enter the future research agenda.


The paper highlights the increasing role of services in an economy. The following figure indicates the flow of ideas in this paper.


The last quarter of the twentieth century will always be remembered for having introduced us to the magic and all-pervasiveness of services sector. In a way, it was a reminder to all of us that the world is no longer dominated by the goods and manufacturing sector. It has been replaced by a newer and more dynamic sector- the services sector. It also signaled, among other things, that future progress and prosperity would come from services industries (US Department of Commerce, 1993). Consider for instance, the following:

* Two out of every three persons are now employed in a service firm.

* Over seventy percent of new job openings to the fresh technical/ business graduates of India came from service industries (Business Today, New Delhi).

* Services sector has been billed as the fastest growing sector in India since 1996. In fact, service industries like media and knowledge-based process industries, recorded as high as 20 to 40 percent annual growth in the last five years. (CMIE, 1998).

* The current confidence in the global stock markets is largely due to potential growth in service sector including IT.

* The growth of services industries now serves as a new index of a nation's development.

* The value package most desired by customers now necessarily includes a service element. The package has ceased to be mere goods (physical objects) and now demands services (add-on benefits).

* According to some research studies ( Agrawal, 2000), the elemental dominance of service has increased four times in the overall bundling of a solution for the Indian consumers.

* Services industries offer more employment opportunities and thus, in all likelihood, would be the ideal sector for heavily populated countries like India.

It has been said conventionally that services touch the core of our life. Now, services happen to touch the core of business life as well.

Defining Services: Unique and yet converging

Defining services has never been easy (Rathmall, 1966; Bateson, 1979; Berry 1980; Longford 1998). Conceptualized in the early definitions of the American Marketing Association (1966), as bondage (add on) to the physical products, services won independence in seventies. Some of the definitions of services are given below :

* "All actions and reactions that customers perceive they have purchased" Federal Express, (1975).

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Building a New Academic Field in India: The Case of Services Marketing


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