Four separate projects were taken up as part of the business focus of the Mapping India’s Kumbh Mela Project, sponsored by the Harvard Business School.

The first team studied the ways in which vendors and suppliers managed risks and uncertainties in this temporary, ad-hoc, ever-changing marketplace.  Lessons from this research will serve as a model for global markets, especially in urban and temporary settings.

The Team:

Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and Jorge Paula Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

Emily Breza, Assistant Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia University

Arun Chandrasekhar, Assistant Professor of Economics, Stanford University


The second project was the creation of a case study based on three themes that have a massive impact on urban areas around the globe: massive and rapid urbanization; scarcity of basic resources such as clean air, water, electricity, land, coupled with excess traffic and pollution; and the inability of governments to effectively address these problems.  With this case study, comes the opportunity to study what kinds of realty and financial concepts ought to be considered in the development of hundreds of other new and permanent cities.

The Team:

John D. Macomber, Senior Lecturer of Business Administration, Harvard Business School


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A third project involved student researchers studying human behavior at the Kumbh, through the lens of business.  They spoke with vendors about the ways in which their practices change in this temporary environment, and how vendors collaborate with one another.

The Team:

Student Researchers: Vaughn Tan and Tiona Zuzul

Photo Credit: Meena Hewett

Finally, we are acquiring permission from one of India’s largest telecommunications company to have access to cell phone data from the Kumbh.  This project involves the compilation of a large mobile phone usage (voice and text messages) dataset and the creation of a new breed of platform to support the gathering of data from cell phones and other mobile devices which relates to human social behavior and which can be used to shed new light on social and socio-environmental phenomena.  Such data could be used by epidemiologists to study disease vectors in new ways, planners to design transportation improvements, and environmentalists to look at human impacts, or by anyone interested in organization of large-scale social systems.  The dataset, expected to total billions of call and text records, will provide new perspectives from which to study, in a quantitative way, this so-called Pop-Up Mega City, with its own special dynamics in terms of infrastructure, food, waste, health, transportation, communications, and human mobility flows.

The Team:

J.P. Onnela, Biostatistician, Harvard School of Public Health

Tarun Khanna, Director of the South Asia Institute and Jorge Paula Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School

Todd Mostak, Researcher, Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis and MIT


Blog entries from this team:


Harvard Gazette news article on this team: