Leadership Studio: The New Face of Market Research!

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It is said that the “only thing constant in life is change” and rightly so – the day we stop evolving/changing is the day we become extinct. For too long the MR industry has been guided by some very archaic methodologies & business practices which the new breed of researchers are questioning.

Our endeavor here at Online MR is to bring forth the cutting edge views of upcoming research superstars who are shaping up the New MR by bringing in new perspectives to insights.

Leadership Studio is a platform where bright and dynamic clients and agencies meet to discuss the future of market research industry.

Today I am pleased to bring forth a very insightful discussion between Jasmeet Sethi, Regional Head, Ericsson ConsumerLab and Pooja Haldea, MD, Brain Juicer.

I am sure the readers will not only explore some new dimensions to existing MR issues but will also get encouraged to present their views in the comment section.


Pooja Haldea, Managing Director, Brain Juicer

Pooja Haldea, Managing Director, Brain Juicer

Pooja Haldea, Managing Director, Brain Juicer, India

Pooja’s background is in management consulting. She spend almost a decade with McKinsey across their Indian and European officers where she worked with some of the largest consumer and media companies across the globe.

From figuring out what ‘beauty’ means to an Indian woman to what makes Asians buy more in supermarkets, she spent a significant part of her time understanding the consumer in emerging markets.

She now heads BrainJuicer in India and is on a mission  to reinvent market research.

Jasmeet Sethi, Regional Head, Ericsson ConsumerLab

Jasmeet Sethi, Regional Head, Ericsson ConsumerLab

Jasmeet Sethi, Regional Head, Ericsson ConsumerLab, India

Jasmeet Sethi has over 10 years experience in consumer research and is responsible for building regional intelligence on emerging market consumers within Ericsson by providing actionable consumer insights to support marketing, product management, strategy and innovation functions.

He was the first to introduce mobile research within Ericsson globally by launching the first consumer experience study starting with emerging market.

His experience spans a wide variety of industries including telecom, management consulting, and financial services. Prior to Ericsson, Jasmeet worked with Analysys Mason, a telecom consulting firm as a Research Manager and prior to that as an Investment Research Manager – Technology, Media & Telecom with Gerson Lehrman Group. Jasmeet Sethi holds a Bachelors Degree in Technology in Computer Engineering and a Masters Degree in Business Administration in Marketing.

Q1: Is the Indian market research Industry keeping in pace and evolving as per trends we see in other global markets?

Jasmeet Sethi: Indian market research landscape is still dominated by tracking studies, retail audits, customer’s satisfaction, and ad-hoc research with strong emphasis on traditional face to face methodologies unlike other global markets where investments are flowing into new emerging approaches such as social media, online insight communities, mobile research, emotional measurement etc.

While from time to time you do come across some great case studies, adoption across the board seems to be slow. It’s a factor of technology maturity in our market and adapting to the local realities! We have a crippled fixed broadband infrastructure hence the target consumers are hard to recruit and engage on online mediums however mobile is fast emerging as excellent alternative which is still not being exploited.

In terms of spends and MR budgets, I see that there is no let down in investment.

While budgets are static but more projects are being executed. There is an emerging trend of clients looking to shift their business to more specialized boutique agencies and suppliers.

This is an excellent opportunity for global boutique and specialized agencies such as Brainjuicer, Research Now, Vision Critical, uSamp who have now entered India or are forging partnerships with local suppliers.

They bring in new innovations and capabilities to this market and would ensure that we keep in pace with global MR trends. I believe we are in exciting times and you might see that going forward the challenges, chaos and vibrancy of a country like India could act like a laboratory to develop successful MR products and services for other global markets.

Pooja Haldea: We are slower compared to the rest of the world. This is partly because some technologies which are already big elsewhere (e.g., smartphones) are still emerging in India. However, I believe the main reason is that we are stuck in a vicious cycle – companies have set very low expectations for what research can deliver based on their past experience.

Therefore, they ask for less, and want to stick with what they know. This in turn leads research companies to talk even less about new things they can bring to the table and hence innovation stalls. We at BrainJuicer are breaking this cycle in India, and have found that companies are very interested in what we have to say.

Q2: What are the key parameters apart from price and quality that determine how you select your research vendors?

Jasmeet Sethi: These days the perceptible differences between product offerings from various suppliers is fading fast so one needs to think hard about why should anyone buy anything from you? I have many agencies meeting us with sales pitches that cannot articulate how they are truly unique or what is their niche.

For us what matters most is how you differentiate using your PPT, not your PowerPoint but your People, Process and Technology.

Make this the core of how you market your abilities. Secondly, a veteran sales professional once told me that to win a business you need to Network first, sell later! Most suppliers and agencies attend only one or two meetings post us asking for pricing quotes and then do not return because they had not gotten any business. If you aren’t networking for the long haul then you are not having doors opened to opportunities you may not otherwise have heard of or had access to. Eventually with all things being equal, people do business with people they know, like and trust.

Q2: What are the key parameters apart from price and quality that you cite while marketing your agency abilities?

Pooja Haldea: We don’t talk about price – and for us, quality is a given. We tell companies that they should work with us if they are tired of the same old MR techniques and want to try something path-breaking, something new.

If you use the same techniques, you will get the same answers. So the question is – do you want newer, better answers? If your answer is yes, then you should work with us.

BrainJuicer is heavily influence by the field of behavioural economics. We believe that 99% of our decisions are made based on emotions, gut, intuition and we only use our ‘logical’ mind to post rationalize once the decision is made. In a study I once did, we found out that 80% of car ads are read by people who have just purchased that car – their ‘logical’ mind is now looking for reasons to justify a purely emotional decision! All our methodologies are therefore aimed at capturing this gut, emotional response and stopping people from over-thinking (which we believe is a big issue with traditional MR).

Q3: Is there often a gap between clients’ expectations and vendor’s delivery when it comes to insights?

Jasmeet Sethi: There could be occasions where this might happen. I can recall instances where I had to rewrite the entire report delivered to me by our agencies. There could be numerous reasons including how you set your goals clearly upfront and how the agencies interpret them. The result of which could be a 200 pager slide deck with charts because the agency felt that they need to have chart for every question.

But agencies aren’t the only one to blame here, clients often are not able to articulate the objectives or often keep important strategic information to themselves, not providing the agencies the big picture and how and what insights can impact the business the most.

The more open clients are in sharing information with their research partners, the greater the opportunity for stronger trust and cohesion between them, leading to better performance of the agencies and the quality of insights generated.

Pooja Haldea: The bigger issue is that clients have stopped expecting too much. This is the unfortunate state of market research in India.

Q4: Are clients like you warming up to the use of technology in market research??

Jasmeet Sethi: Being a technology company lends you that advantage that you are not averse to use of it in market research. At Ericsson we are probably ahead of the curve when it comes to use of technology and one of the fundamental changes is the introduction of mobile research.

We seem to have leapfrogged from pen and paper to mobile.

Today 30% of all our research is via mobile; by 2020 we expect this to rise to 70%.

However I feel the switch to using technology does not come easy for most Indian clients especially non IT clients who seem to be stuck in a time wrap of templitized tracking studies or retail audits. I have seen a lot of my fellow MR colleague’s talk about social media measurements however you will be surprised to know not many of these researchers themselves are on social media or have ever used Twitter. If you yourself are not comfortable with the use of technology, I am sure you can never be a strong proponent of it.

Q4: How are agencies like yours incorporating use of technology and new tools for market research?

Pooja Haldea: BrainJuicer is known to be a game changer in the insights world. In fact, BrainJuicer was started 13 years back to innovate, to break the accepted paradigm of market research. For far too long market research has been an insurance policy, spewing out numbers to make you feel that the decision you’re about to take is not too bad, and if it does turn out to be bad, allowing you to say ‘But the research said so!’.

Despite the huge advancements that have taken place in the understanding of human decision making, the MR tools have remained the same for close to a century – still using surveys and focus groups, for instance.

At BrainJuicer we closely follow the latest developments in the field of behavioural economics, psychology and anthropology. We look at the latest ideas in academia, research papers and other scientific literature, and convert them into tools that companies can actually use. We have a team of researchers working at BrainJuicer Labs in the UK who are constantly developing new methodologies (and throwing out the ones that do not work). All our methodologies are proprietary – and completely different from what others have to offer.

We are doing some really interesting work using the mobile – using it to capture behavior as and when it happens, using geo-tracking for finding people in the right location and state of mind. We are using social media for full-scale ethnographic work -– the tool is called DigiViduals. So experimenting with new technology is core to what we do.

Q5: Do you think suppliers/vendors are meeting these needs of offering new solutions that address your business objectives?

Jasmeet Sethi: You will often hear big agencies giving an excuse that they do not have enough clients asking for new solutions hence porting of such tools from other markets to India is not commercially viable.

Today, for any new approach that we would like to pursue we have to spend significant time doing the match making and building an ecosystem ourselves. Just as an example on many of our projects today we have mobile app developers working with research agencies and technology and analytics companies working with panel providers who have been bought together by Ericsson.

The fragmented market research industry is a blessing in disguise since you have new players emerging on the scene each day, they are small but nimble. They do not carry the baggage that most big agencies do and hence have a more proactive approach to walking an extra mile and meeting our needs.

Q5: How keen are clients these days on testing the waters with new solutions and approaches?

Pooja Haldea: It is totally dependent on the person involved. We are constantly looking for a client who is brave and at the same time has influence to bring about change. And you can find such a person within any company.

Q6. How do you expect suppliers to invest in innovation considering the severe budgetary constraints MR clients always cite?

Jasmeet Sethi: Innovation is not necessarily about the most sexy or expensive methodology.

Do I have to always invest in online insight communities or neuroscience to come across as doing something new? Not really. Often clients and agencies would ridicule themselves for not being innovative and would go for a Band-Aid approach; agencies will quickly add the latest that is missing from their existing offerings and clients will blindly invest without a deep assessment.

At times what is needed is to just revisit an existing approach and refine it further to yield better results and insights or even a frugal mindset to explore how we could use existing tools available to us in ways that have never been explored before. Unfortunately clients aren’t not challenging their agencies/suppliers enough to think around fresh approaches to existing problems while working within the existing limitations of budgets and resources. Without a challenge, there is not enough stimuli to elicit creative responses.

Q6. What are the challenges that you face in order to invest in innovation as part of ways of working on projects?

Pooja Haldea: No challenges really. In fact since we don’t have a ‘core’, traditional business to protect, we can pretty much do whatever we want. And that is the company’s philosophy. We often fail and are the first ones to admit it. But without these failures, we would not come up with anything path-breaking – that is the paradox of success.

Q7: Are corporate researchers and agencies prepared to change their legacy ways of working?

Jasmeet Sethi: The world and its consumers are changing fast around us, driven by technology, social media, new devices and this impacts how decision making works. Researchers need to react and keep pace with these changes in order not to appear obsolete.

There are factors that I believe will drive this change. Most corporate researchers in India seem to be interested in newer capabilities and new ways of working, but a select few who are unconventional have undergone this change and eventually will make others follow them. Secondly, old school of market researchers will give way to smart, tech savvy, high risk appetite millennial researchers who are going to be the game changers for the industry.

Finally with no perceptible differentiation existing among various research suppliers, change would be hard to resist in order stay ahead of the market.

Pooja Haldea: It’s always hard. If there’s one thing we know from behavioural economics, it is that we all resist change, that we love status quo.

There’s this powerful concept called ‘loss aversion’ in BE, which suggests that we are so averse to loss that in terms of our emotions gaining Rs 100 will not make us as happy as losing Rs 100 will make us sad.

What this implies is that often companies are very scared of ‘losing’ all the norms they may have collected over years or change the methodologies they are familiar with, even though they know that these are not good enough!

Our aim is not to try and change everyone in a company at the same time, but, as I said look for that one brave soul who will champion the cause. And we do believe that once people see our results, they will come back for more. In India, 80% of our business is already repeat business!

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