Why I am SCARED of Indian data collection companies?

data fudgingWell to start with 99% of them are FAKE and if you as a researcher is engaging any one of them – be aware of what trouble you are inviting. This has not always been the case – we Indians have a very strong analytical skills – probably best in the World (just look at the enormous number of Engineers and Technicians we have produced). But when it comes to market research and specifically data collection – greed takes control of all our motives. Now who in this world will chase a respondent to get the data filled – I can just punch all the responses and make a quick buck. This article illustrated the perils of working with Indian data collection companies.

Now research data collection can be broadly divided into 3 main categories:

1- Face to Face data collection

2- Telephonic data collection

3- Online data collection

Problems with F2F data collection:

Most of the Indian companies offering F2F data collection are owned by ex-employees from big research agencies like IMRB, AC NIELSEN, TNS etc. Now in an ideal condition these experienced professionals should provide quality data collection services but it is quite the opposite.

Let me share with you how the problem arises – many employees after working in these big companies one day realize – “Why the fish should I work for peanuts? I can start my own company and mint money!!”

Now most of these so called entrepreneurs have not more 2-4 years of data collection experience – the only thing which they have learnt and mastered is how to fudge data in a way that it is too late for the end client to realize.

With this new found knowledge they jump into the market and do the best they know – FUDGE DATA.

You must be wondering – “Won’t the client realize it soon enough and will stop giving them business?”

But here comes the naked truth – these people are only looking to make quick money before vanishing off! They are NOT here to build another Microsoft or Wall mart!

3 things you should always keep in mind before outsourcing work to Indian data collection companies:

1- Look at the profile of the company CEO – if it says 2-4 years at TNS or Millward Brown and then just CEO of XYZ data collection company – take my advice – AVOID THEM!

2- Do not outsource work to an Indian data collection company before actually visiting their office – trust me 90% of them won’t have an entity called office!

3- You can avoid the above 2 steps by just looking at their website – most of the times there will be no information about the company owners.

My recommendation: I have utilized the services of Market Xcel in one of my previous jobs and have found them to be quite professional and the data quality was also good.

Problems with CATI data collection:

It is sad that although the BPO industry in India is one of the best in the World but when it comes to data collection via telephonic interviewing – it is a big mess!

The type of knowledge base and extensive training required to conduct CATI interviews is completely missing in India.

At best Indian data collection companies are good for Gen Pop kind of studies – if it is a B2B study I have found data quality to be of dubious nature.

The problem with running a CATI center in India is very simple – you train the staff – they know about the clients and viola the employees then open their own centre (with ill equipped knowledge and resources) – I am sure many CATI company owners will vouch for this story.

There must be at least 50 CATI companies in Delhi itself who do not have any office or call centre! They simply get the data punched in your survey link.

3 things you should always keep in mind before outsourcing CATI work to Indian companies:

1- Do not outsource your research projects before visiting the CATI centre – very few vendors actually have a CATI set-up to show!

2- If the company’s CEO resume reads like this: Research Analyst -> CEO! avoid this vendor – trust me the company is run by fake amateurs.

3- Get few small projects done before you engage Indian vendors for big ones.

My recommendation: Normally I used to avoid Indian CATI companies but for some of the projects I had utilized the services of Azure and have found their quality good.

Problems with Online data collection:

Let me make it simple for you – go to LinkedIn – search for the profile of the CEO (if their website at least show it) – if it says ex-employee of Toluna – take my free advice – AVOID THEM!

The problem is that Toluna is a brilliant company and they train their employees really well but every herd has a black sheep – some of their misguided employees say “Oh look at me I am so intelligent! let me start my own company” – I won’t even go into the details as to how wrong these employees are.

The truth is that just to make quick money these ill equipped people end up opening companies – they do not have the technical knowledge and money to build online panels therefore cannot get business – so to survive will happily fudge your data.

3 things you should always keep in mind before outsourcing Online data collection work to Indian companies:

1- It is very costly to build online panels so if the vendor does not have a prior experience of running companies – they obviously lack budget – so avoid them!

2- If the vendor earlier used to sell F2F and CATI data collection services and have just now started providing online panels – high chances that they are looking for a quick buck from the buzz word – so avoid them!

3- If the vendor is an ex-employee of a big and reputed online panel company and have started his own venture after 2-4 years of work experience – avoid them for your own good!

My recommendation: If you need Indian online panel members – It will definitely be Toluna, Borderless Access and Usamp – any other company I wish you luck – after all it is your project and you can kill it as you wish!

Akshay Kanyal

Akshay Kanyal

Akshay Kanyal writes survey research reviews on his popular blog Online MR. He’s an avid blogger, brand consultant and a content marketing expert, helping business owners to craft content that sells.

He provides content marketing advice to start-ups and innovation driven companies. He can be contacted at editor@onlinemr.com

You can also connect with him on LinkedIn ; Facebook ; Twitter


  1. Anshuman Saha says:

    Akshay : by branding 99% of Indian data collection companies as FAKE, you have just lost the plot in first line itself. While market Excel is definitely a good company but there are a lot other companies as well who do the work honestly and very well.
    I am not an owner or representative of any of them, but sadly you are painting a very bad picture and coming across as someone who does not know the MR industry well.
    while i respect your views and read most of your articles, this one just isn’t right and made me write to you.

    • I really appreciate your honest feedback Anshuman.

      Well 99% was never meant to convey a statistical figure but rather the enormity of the problem of low quality data being churned out by Indian data collection companies.

      It really makes me sad looking at the enormous amount of talent we have but the wrong signals we are conveying to the International markets.

      I am sure many clients will agree with me here that there has been a bombardment of sales pitches from many dubious players in recent times coupled with ever increasing fall in the quality of the data collected by the Indian data collection industry.

      My intention is just to throw spot light on the underbelly of the Indian data collection industry.

      I will humbly stick to my views here.

  2. I disagree with some of the recommended names in the particular context (good or bad).
    We can discuss in detail if required.
    Nevertheless i have been reading your articles and really appreciate.

  3. Thanks for your honesty and being brave enough to call it as it is. Quality issues related to offshoring market research are not limited to only the Indian facilities you mentioned, but also the captive operations operated by TNS and others.

    Even though it’s still a taboo issue in corporate operations, offshoring seems to be declining in popularity even among original proponents.

  4. A great article and true picture of Indian MR scenario. However please avoid using any statistics unless with a testmony. I understood your point but anybody can go for the literal sense of the data.

  5. How the mighty have fallen … but can this really be correct?. I have used Indian market research firms for years and they were invariably some of the best companies I ever used for technical and quality controls. Indian researchers are generally obsessed with things like sampling design, strict area mapping, interviewer supervision, in-questionnaire checks, post-auditing, etc. Are you sure you have your facts correct? This is not my experience.


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