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Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
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“Clients recognise innovation & not size”
Parveen Ahluwalia gives his perspective on differentiation in the MR Industry and the knd of thinking that constraints the players today
Issue Date - 15/12/2011
As a veteran of the industry who has been at the supply as well as the demand end of market research, how would you define differentiation in the Indian MR industry today? And how has Market Pulse managed to differentiate itself?
The differentiation value for MR firms comes primarily from two aspects. The first is, “Are you doing certain work that the industry recognizes?” And secondly, is it truly pioneering and innovative? Size is not the criteria. We are not a large MR firm, but from all perspectives, we are a mid-level MR firm that has been in existence for over 19 years. In the first 10 years, the company was doing typically what any other market agency must have been doing. In all fairness, it was among the rest of the pack. In the last 8 or last five years, the differentiation started. We actually did month by month monitoring of pre-paid SIM card sales across circles for almost all telecom operators – TTSL, Aircel, Vodafone, Spice, et al. Most agencies are doing the standard work with studies like brand tracking – the standard model for advertising tracking – or C-SAT. Ours was a first, and gained a lot of recognition.

The agency decided to position itself in terms of retail metrics/performance specialisation. Five years ago, it began to get into retail track in the area of building electricals – switches, bulbs, fuses, CFLs, fans, et al – no agency is doing it in India. It subsequently extended into other areas – DTH, digicams and last year into kitchen/home appliances – juicers/mixers/grinders, irons, toasters, et al. We are handling clients in water purifiers too – HLL, tata Kent & Whirlpool subscribe to us.

How do you see your growth potential strategically today?

The first agenda for us is scalability across business opportunities. We have identified 3-4 separate verticals where either no one has entered or there is huge opportunity for us to be able to enter. Even in terms of organic growth with the tracks we have; even though we have some of the biggest brands, we will want to get in other local/regional players as well. We need to position ourselves as an industry benchmark.

When it comes to the industry, how far have Indian MR firms crossed the rubicon to become strategic advisors to their clients?
The industry for the past 20-25 years has evolved in terms of tools and techniques of the agencies have been honed and fine tuned thanks to computerized packages & softwares. But thinking and mindset of researchers at large has still not changed. If I look at top echelons of management and looking at middle and junior level, they are still talking and breathing data day and night. They have to look in terms of how it is going to help a marketing plan or a sales and distribution plan or an advertising plan. That thinking has not actually crept in though they can claim it has. I can vouch for this across the best of agencies and I have been a buyer and user of research. Don’t forget that when the agency presents, there is already a brand team and an advertising team sitting. It’s not that the responses given by the MR agency are wrong. The fact is that they are very broad-based. Broad-basing of conclusions is not what is required for strategic planning, even those guys can do it. A good incisive agency can give invaluable inputs on a market opportunity, market sizing, concept testing, product acceptability, et al. These things will always be held in good stead.

What is your view on the MR offshoring opportunity today?
Offshoring is where online research becomes critical, as the client is a faceless client. Social media engagement to use and get research becomes critical. Telephonic or e-mail interaction is used. But I would say that the MR agency business at large; there is enough in India rather than trying to tap offshore. The industry in India is still too small as compared to the Rs.45-50000 crore media spend currently. On a positive note, more and more clients have started spending a fair amount of money on research. What cost Rs.1-1.5 lakh around 15-20 years back is costing 10-20 times more; but the scope of work is the same.
Parveen Ahluwalia           
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