By Dipali Banka
Having sharpened its tools in qualitative market research for 20 years, Quantum Consumer Solutions has extended its products into larger divisions to provide a holistic view of today’s consumer.
Rinita Singh, Managing Director, Quantum Consumer Solutions Pvt Ltd, set up the Kolkata office of Quantum in 1992. She has been instrumental in the group’s business development and growth strategy across divisions and geographies. Singh shares with IMPACT her industry insights and the company’s plans going forward.
What has been the recent re-structuring at Quantum? What will the new divisions look into?
Since its inception 20 years ago, Quantum market research has been involved in qualitative research and expanded in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Singapore and Jakarta. Besides, we had been incubating several allied marketing tool services. We had been driving them as products and this year, we restructured ourselves into Quantum Consumer Solutions and converted those products into different divisions. Ethnography is one division created to understand cultural connotations of consumers. Another one is Quantum Live. As every company across India and many parts of Asia is genuinely interested in understanding the consumer, they want their internal managers - not just the marketing people - to know the consumer better. Through Live, we set up annual programmes for companies to facilitate on-ground consumer interaction. We take them to watch the consumer shop, smoke, drink, eat... to schools to watch what children are doing. They actually experience the consumer live. The last division is called 360, for consumer consulting. We actually get the consumer’s perspective and then use that to device strategy for brands.
Can you cite any examples of how clients changed their marketing strategy based on your research?
There have been instances of consumers saying that they do not like a piece of advertising. We’ve actually told clients that even though the consumer is saying this, it is important for you to go ahead with the advertising because it is preparing your brand for the next stage and the client has listened to us and it has worked. We work as a partner with the client company and their brand. I can’t share details, but of the top 20 brands every year, we’d have worked with 15.
What change have you noticed in the industry over the years? How do you think it has evolved?
Twenty years ago, very few multinational clients knew how to handle market research. Everyone knew about questionnaires and surveys, but there was not much understanding of why I want to understand the consumer. Today, the big change is that market research has become an essential tool for marketing. Also, there is a lot more partnering between the client and the agency. Another big change due to the clutter in brand choices and media is that market research is used to predict what’s going to happen. The market research industry has actually matured and attained more gravity in the scheme of things.
How big is the size of the industry in India and globally?
Unfortunately in India, we do not really know the size of the industry because it does not have a capitalized billing process as in advertising. There are no organised bodies other than the MRSI (Market Research Society of India) which attempts to come up with some sort of sizing annually, but it doesn’t really work. The thumb rule that we go by is that the quantitative research industry is about 85 per cent and quality research about 15 per cent of the market. The top five quantitative agencies would have the lion’s share of the market. In India, Quantum would have a business of roughly Rs 40 crore.
What are the key characteristics of this industry in India as compared to other markets?
UK and parts of Europe have always been very mature in market research. In America, market research is more direct and rational and the relationship is more like a supplier-vendor. In India, the industry is much more vibrant and on the ground now. There is a sense of humility in the industry because of the belief that consumers know exactly what they want to do and the industry wants to approach them as a friend to serve them better.
What are the key opportunities and challenges for market research agencies?
The biggest challenge in the global market research scene is mergers. As the big companies go global, many of them are buying out smaller boutique agencies. They are constantly looking for smaller companies in the emerging markets to add to their basket. The biggest challenge in India is the price undercutting. With a lot of small agencies over and above the qualitative research, there are a lot of price wars. The second massive challenge globally and in India is people - finding the right talent and being able to train them. We need the right kind of people interested in consumers and brands.
With social media playing a big role in consumer feedback, will the importance of surveys decline?
I don’t think the importance of reaching out to a large number of people and understanding the mathematics is going to change. But the whole concept of social media and networking is going to change the way we distribute, market and get feedback on brands. Surveys will not become irrelevant, but modify the way they collect and analyse data.