Meenal Rai

profile image

PhD Scholar

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 – ext: 7563



  • 2013 Masters in Bioscience Enterprise (First class Honours), University of Auckland.
  • 2012 Post Graduate Diploma in Bioscience Enterprise, University of Auckland.
  • 1993 Masters in Microbiology, M.S. University, Baroda India.
  • 1991 Bachelor of Science (with Distinction), M.S. University, Baroda, India.


A buoyant, energetic and outgoing individual with heaps of positive attitude would describe me well.  Early in my adulthood, a master’s qualification in microbiology was followed on with some years of working in diagnostic medicine and the assisted reproduction sector.  My ambitious and pro-risk self soon after took up an entrepreneurial opportunity in the tertiary education sector. I set up, from scratch, a successful education service company that grew to having seven centres across three cities in India. More than a decade of this experience in the academic cum corporate sector identified me not only as an exceptional teacher but also someone with great leadership and team skills. In the process, I have also gained diverse experience in the education service sector including development of business processes, marketing strategy and customer- collaborator interactions.

The move to New Zealand called for a restructure both in my life and career. Along with running the foreign division of an Indian technical service providing firm, I started the second phase of my academic life. With an aim at bridging my science based education and the empirical knowledge gained via the entrepreneurial stint, I obtained a master’s qualification in Bio-science Enterprise at the University of Auckland. It is during this time that my interest in the field of consumer behaviour sparked. Following a Master’s thesis exploring consumers’ purchase decision making behaviour, I am now pursuing a PhD in food consumption related consumer behaviour sector. Going into the future, my career goals are to research consumption sectors that sit on the cusp of science and market and to ­­­­­­collate my academic knowledge, marketing and commercial experience and my entrepreneurial passion and energy in a manner that facilitates bridging academia with the industry.

Thesis title:

An exploration of functional food consumption practices followed by a select consumer group in India.

A brief introduction to the PhD research:

Globalisation and changing lifestyles have prompted a consumer need for better dietary health. Consequentially there is a large global market for technologically designed functional foods with claims to health benefits. Functional food research has mostly been conducted in the developed West leading to a gap in the understanding about how cultural practices and value systems of the East, specifically developing countries like India, influence consumers’ functional food consumption. As a distinct non-traditional category of foods, it is important to understand the ‘how,’ ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the inclusion of functional foods as part of Indian consumers’ dietary regime. Encouraged by modern food offerings, yet influenced by their own food culture and practices, the Indian consumer calls for attention in terms of gaining an understanding of their food consumption practices and negotiations, along-with their food-related health motivations. The overall aim of this research is to examine the social and temporal dynamics related with the consumption of functional foods as an everyday life practice.

The proposal is to do so qualitatively, by exploring functional food consumption as part of everyday food provisioning practices in select Indian households. Analysis will draw on various theoretical and conceptual tools and integrate them into an overall Practice Theory inspired routine life approach. The researcher hopes to contribute to a socially contextualised understanding of the practice of functional food consumption along with the development and formalisation of the Practice Theory approach to the study of food consumption overall.

Research Areas:

  • Consumer Behaviour

Research Supervisor:

  • Professor Roger Marshall & Dr. Crystal Yap