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PhD Spotlight - Ali Mahdi

Ali Mahdi

Ali Mahdi joined the Telfer PhD program in 2019, specializing in entrepreneurial marketing. He is supervised by Professor David Crick. Ali has received a Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology and a uOttawa Excellence Scholarship. As part of his continuous focus on teaching, scholarship, and service, Ali completed a Certificate in University Teaching at uOttawa's Centre for Innovative Pedagogies and Digital Learning and led Telfer’s Graduate Research Programs Student Association as president in 2022-2023.

Why did you choose to study entrepreneurial marketing?

From a young age, I was exposed to entrepreneurship and marketing through working at my family’s business. My interest in entrepreneurial marketing turned into passion, which led to completing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in marketing and publishing my master’s research in the Journal of Consumer Marketing. I was fascinated by how my family’s business competed with large enterprises. However, the dissonance between the traditional marketing strategies that I learned in my studies and the marketing strategies that we implemented in our family business sparked my interest in entrepreneurial marketing (EM). Today, I am writing my doctoral thesis on EM, having learned how my family’s business competed with large enterprises using innovation, calculated risk-taking, proactiveness, opportunity focus, customer intensity, resource-leveraging, and value creation.

What is your research about and how will it contribute to academic literature?

My research is positioned at the intersection of entrepreneurship and marketing. I use quantitative and qualitative research approaches to unpack how small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) use limited resources to compete, grow, and create value for consumers. A blend of experiences shaped my research interest in EM: my professional background as a certified digital marketer, the PhD courses in entrepreneurship at uOttawa, teaching the marketing course at uOttawa, and my deep attachment to EM fostered throughout years of working at my family’s business.

You recently presented your research at the 2023 American Marketing Association Summer Academic Conference. What are the highlights of that study?

The study, titled “Manoeuvring Global Crises: Entrepreneurial Marketing in SMEs,” used both survey data collected from 300+ U.S. SMEs and in-depth interviews to examine how competitive environments affect EM activities. In particular, the study focused on SMEs facing uncertainty and disruption. The data revealed that while EM activities are drivers of firm performance, some types of EM activities are more likely to influence firm performance than others. Such activities are susceptible to influence from the competitive intensity of the firm’s environment.

How can your thesis research impact the Canadian business community?

While effectively managing EM activities shields the resulting performance outcomes from negative effects from the competitive business environment, decision-makers must exercise caution with certain aspects of EM activities, such as calculated risk-taking and innovativeness, due to their increased susceptibility to intensely competitive markets.