Karl Akbari, Assistant Professor, Taiwan Tech School of Management

karlKarl Akbari, from Germany, is Assistant Professor at the School of Management, where he is teaching marketing at undergraduate and graduate level. He received a master’s degree from Humboldt University Berlin, and a Ph.D. in Management from the University of Vienna. His research interests are pricing and consumer behavior. Karl has always had a keen interest in languages, and although he teaches in English, he enjoys the study of Chinese in his free time. He also is a basketball-enthusiast and has joined the Taiwan Tech faculty team.

Q: What brought you to Taiwan and to Taiwan Tech?
Karl: I have been to Taiwan before, in 2013 – 2014, when I joined an exchange program as a master’s student at National Taiwan University and I liked it a lot. Later, when I was about to finish my PhD-studies and looking for a job in 2020, I came across an advertisement for a position at Taiwan Tech’s School of Management. Taiwan Tech has a good reputation, so the decision-making process didn’t take too long. In addition, this was the first peak of the COVID crisis when almost all of Europe was under a lockdown, while the situation in Taiwan seemed to be pretty much under control. 

Q: You wrote your dissertation on Pay-What-You-Want-pricing, a relatively new phenomenon. Please tell us a bit about your research interests. 
Karl: Pay-What-You-Want-pricing (PWYW) is a pricing mechanism where buyers decide on the sum that they are willing to pay for a product or service. This became popular around twenty years ago, mostly in the US and in Europe. In Taiwan, PWYW does not seem to be that popular, but it is now gaining more attention via live-streaming platforms like Twitch. Here people pay what they want for watching games. In my research, I am particularly interested in the consumer perspective: Why do people pay? How do people react towards pricing that is determined by algorithms? Which concepts - like fairness, altruism, feel-good factors etc. – are underlying their decisions? 

Q: You have already gathered teaching experience at universities in Austria and Germany, and at a summer school in Cuba. What are your experiences with teaching at Taiwan Tech? 

Karl: I enjoy teaching and consider it as a very important part of my work as an academic. I have a very positive impression of the students at Taiwan Tech, most of them are hard-working and eager to learn. Also, the high proportion of international students, most of them from other Asian countries, is beneficial, both for the students and for me. I am also learning a lot from them. As a university teacher, I want to encourage critical reflection and discussion, of course, but I also want to convey knowledge and skills. For example, when I am teaching a course on pricing, I expect students to be able to do price-fixing at the end of the course. Some might consider my courses as difficult as demanding, but I believe that the combination of theory and practical application are worth the effort.  

Q: For Taiwan Tech’s internationalization strategy, the recruitment of international faculty is a difficult task, given the increasing worldwide competition for the brightest minds. Do you have any comments on that?

Karl: International visibility is very important, both on recruitment platforms and also in research. Speaking about my discipline, Taiwan Tech could benefit from expanding its research networks to other institutions in Taiwan and internationally. Taiwan is not yet a well- known destination for young academics, so I think that a close cooperation with our alliance universities, NTU and NTNU, could be a valuable approach. My own experience as an international staff at the School of Management has been positive throughout, I have been well taken care of by the dean and by the staff. I would definitely like to see more international faculty coming to Taiwan Tech, and I would be very willing to share my experiences with newcomers.    

Q: Finally, a question on your experiences during the Covid 19-pandemic. Taiwan has been praised for its policies, but what is your personal opinion? 
Karl: Taiwan definitely deserves praise for its handling of the pandemic. Compared with Europe and the US, the health risk has been lower, and the quality of life has been much better here. However, now more and more countries seem to find ways to live with the virus and are opening up. It will be interesting to see how Taiwan will deal with the problem in the future and if and how we will be able to find a smooth way out of the crisis mode. 

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