Faculty & Research

Elena Belavina

Assistant Professor of Operations Management

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5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Elena Belavina is an Assistant Professor at the Booth School of the University of Chicago. She studies issues of sustainable urban transportation, food waste, grocery retail and supply chains. Her recent research has studied how the grocery industry's structure and pricing policies influence food waste, the environmental impact of online grocery shopping and the design of bike-share systems. She has also studied sustainable sourcing, relational contracts and supply network design including the role of supply chain intermediaries.

Belavina holds a Ph.D. in management from INSEAD and bachelor and master degrees in applied mathematics and physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.


2017 - 2018 Course Schedule

Number Name Quarter
40000 Operations Management: Business Process Fundamentals 2018 (Spring)

Research Activities

Sustainable Urban Living: Transportation and Food Waste

Games in Networks: Intermediaries, Retail and Supply Networks, Repeated Games, Social Comparisons

REVISION: Supply Networks for Relational Sourcing
Date Posted: Oct  22, 2017
Making long-term commitments to exclusive suppliers, or relational sourcing, is critical in industries where quality includes social, ethical, and technical elements concerning which contractual terms would be costly to verify or enforce. This study identifies supplier network topologies that best facilitate such relational sourcing. We consider a brand-owning firm that sources in an ongoing fashion from a general multi-tier network of idiosyncratic suppliers. Alternate network designs are compared in terms of three defining structural properties: network scope, the number of suppliers at each tier in the network; degree of control/delegation, the number of tiers in the network; and network connectivity, the connections between firms located at different tiers. Our analysis reveals that neither network connectivity nor the distribution of costs among suppliers affects the ability to sustain relational sourcing. Networks characterized by more delegation or less scope have the most to ...

REVISION: Grocery Store Density and Food Waste
Date Posted: Aug  08, 2017
Problem Definition: We study the impact of grocery-store density on the food waste generated at stores and households. Relevance: Food waste is a major contributor to carbon emissions (as big as road transport). Identifying and influencing market conditions that can decrease food waste is thus important to combat global warming. Methodology: We build and calibrate a stylized two-echelon perishable-inventory model to capture grocery purchases and expiration at competing stores and households in a market. We examine how the equilibrium waste in this model changes with store density. Results: An increase in store density decreases consumer waste due to improved access to groceries, while increasing retail waste due to decentralization of inventory, increased variability propagation in the supply chain (cycle truncation) and diminished demand by customers. Higher density also induces more competition which further increases (decreases) waste when stores compete on prices ...

REVISION: The Use and Value of Social Information in Selective Selling of Exclusive Products
Date Posted: Aug  01, 2017
We consider the use and value of social network information in selectively selling goods and services whose value derives from exclusive ownership among network connections or friends. Our stylized model accommodates customers who are heterogeneous in their number of friends (degree) and their proclivity for social comparisons (conspicuity). Firms with information on either (or both) of these characteristics can use it to make a product selectively available to desired customers to manage the trade-off between exclusivity and sales. We find that, in contrast with the practice of targeting high degree customers, the firm’s best targets are, in fact, high-conspicuity customers within intermediate degree segments. Interestingly, we find that degree-information is systematically more valuable than conspicuity-information. Analyses of many model variants, and of scenarios with personalized pricing and full graph information, suggest that there are two canonical categories of social ...

REVISION: Bike-Share Systems: Accessibility and Availability
Date Posted: Jul  16, 2016
The cities of Paris, London, Chicago, and New York (among many others) have set up largescale bike-share systems to facilitate the use of bicycles for urban commuting. This paper estimates the impact on bike-share ridership of two facets of system performance: accessibility (how far the user must walk to reach stations) and bike-availability (the likelihood of finding a bicycle). Our analysis is based on a structural demand model for spatially differentiated products that includes distinct mechanisms for the short and long-term effects of bike-availability (via lost sales and increased user-interest, respectively). The bike-share context, and the distinct mechanisms require us to go beyond past work in incorporating real time changes in product (bike)-availability information, and including much finer data on potential demand sources. These enhancements render traditional estimation methods computationally infeasible; we transform our estimation from the time domain to the ...

REVISION: Online Grocery Retail: Revenue Models and Environmental Impact
Date Posted: Jul  18, 2015
This paper compares the financial and environmental performance of two revenue models for the online retailing of groceries: the per-order model, where customers pay for each delivery; and the subscription model, where customers pay a set fee and receive free deliveries. We build a stylized model that incorporates (i) customers with ongoing uncertain grocery needs and who choose between shopping offline or online and (ii) an online retailer that makes deliveries through a proprietary distribution network. We find that subscription incentivizes smaller and more frequent grocery orders, which reduces food waste and creates more value for the customer; the result is higher retailer revenues, lower grocery costs, and potentially higher adoption rates. These advantages are countered by greater delivery-related travel and expenses, which are moderated by area geography and routing-related scale economies. Subscription also leads to lower food waste-related emissions but to higher ...

New: The Benefits of Decentralized Decision-Making in Supply Chains
Date Posted: Sep  04, 2012
The inefficiency of decentralized decision-making is one of the most influential findings of the supply chain coordination literature. This paper shows that with the possibility of continuing trade, decentralization can be beneficial in improving supply chain performance. In a supply chain with decentralized decision-making and continuing trade, it is easier to incentivize players to coordinate on efficient actions. There are more gains to be shared from coordination, and by virtue of each ...

REVISION: The Relational Advantages of Intermediation
Date Posted: Feb  15, 2012
This paper provides a novel explanation for the use of supply chain intermediaries such as Li & Fung Ltd.. We find that even in the absence of the well-known transactional and informational advantages of mediation, intermediaries improve supply chain performance. In particular, intermediaries facilitate responsive adaptation of the buyers’ supplier base to their changing needs while simultaneously ensuring that suppliers behave as if they had long-term sourcing commitments from buying firms ...

Additional Information