RW Connect has scoured the globe for a group of young researchers that will share their thoughts and journeys as they begin their careers in market research. In the first post of an on-going series, say hello to Tanvi Gupta in India.

Who am I?

I am a young researcher who loves conversing with herself to explore her own mind. I sometimes surprise myself with the thoughts my mind throws up at me!

My journey with market research so far has been a short and exciting one. I still have a very long way to go. Currently, I am finishing my post-graduate program in Communications Management with a major in Market Research from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA), India. Being a gold medalist in academics in the first year of post graduation, I received the “Director’s Award for Academic Excellence” for the year 2009-10 at MICA. I am also a member of the core team of a student-run marketing and communications journal called “MICA Communications Review (MCR)”.

Last summer, I got an excellent opportunity to represent India as a student guide at the ESOMAR Asia Pacific Conference held in Kuala Lumpur under ESOMAR’s “Developing Talent Initiative – Future Talent Meets the Industry”. It was a life-changing experience for me because I got an opportunity to work closely with the ESOMAR team and also to learn from and network with the who’s who of the Market Research fraternity. The creative ground-breaking ideas that I witnessed at the conference sparked off a desire in me to immerse myself further in the challenging field of market research.

My affinity towards consumer behavior dates back to my early years of high school when I started working part time with an event management company. I have been exposed to field work and one-to-one interaction with consumers since the age of 16. For 3 years, I spent all my weekends volunteering in a plethora of events and brand activations including mall-activities, road shows, concerts, customer get-togethers, employee get-togethers, brand-sponsored competitions, exhibitions, et al. I have worked with clients including media houses, telecom brands, automobile brands, apparel brands, FMCGs and educational institutes. It was this experience that triggered my decision to seek further education in the field of management. Since then, I have been an eternal student who has been diving deeper and deeper into Business Management > Marketing > Brand Management > Advertising > Consumer Behavior > Market Research > Semiotics and a lot more.

I have deep-rooted interest in the field of psychology and behavioral economics and its extension to the field of marketing and communications. I am driven by a passion to explore unknown facets of the human mind and to apply research for the betterment of the society and the industry. As I gear up to complete my post graduation and enter the market research industry this summer, I carry a vision of blending the two worlds of creativity and market research in the near future. I am not aware of what the future holds for me in MR, but I am sure that it is definitely going to be an exciting adventure. I cannot wait to plunge in!

How do I see the role of market research?

I do not consider research to just be a ‘job’ or an ‘industry’ that I will be stepping into. I see it as ‘a way of life’. From the day we are born, we are inquisitive about everything around us. When we hear a loud noise outside, we run towards the window to see what is happening outside. When we see someone upset, we approach her to find out what is wrong. Life always throws mysteries at us that provoke our minds. We are not at peace until we find answers to solve those mysteries. One can draw a parallel to the ‘Laws of Karma’ from Indian spirituality that says that there are many incomplete equations in this world that need to be completed and written-off. Life will give us a chance to solve each of these equations from time to time. We need to be equipped with the spirit of research to solve those mysteries. With research as our way of life, we will be able to make informed decisions at every step and help reduce the level of chaos in today’s world. Well researched decisions are well balanced decisions.

Market Research is a very interesting field. Throughout our academic life, from school to graduation, we have been reading books written by others. We have been studying theories founded by thinkers over the years. Research is the only way we can create something new and original to the existing knowledge base in this world. The human mind and intellect is capable to finding answers to the deepest unanswered or even unasked questions. If we keenly observe what’s happening around us every day, we will come across many such activities that have no explanation. It would be interesting to find the cause behind such things. Blindly accepting the conventional wisdom is not the right thing to do. According to Galbraith, conventional wisdom is simple, convenient, comfortable and comforting. We need to think out of our comfort zone to find the real answers.
The role of a market researcher is a very exciting one. I believe that it encompasses numerous other roles that would give me a well-rounded personality. Firstly, it makes me feel like a detective who has been hired by her client to solve a ‘market mystery’. It is my responsibility to collect evidences and deduce insights from the same. Secondly, it makes me feel like a doctor who needs to diagnose the ‘health issues’ with the client’s business and provide them with ‘medicinal insights’ that would heal them. And thirdly, it makes me feel like an explorer who is diving into fathoms of the conscious and the unconscious minds of people to bring out pearls of insights to share with the rest of the world. These are three different worlds that come together to create the MR world. But the common philosophy that runs through all these roles is of being ‘solution-oriented’.

I recently attended a panel interview where I was asked a question by a gentleman:

“Can you give me an example of a well-researched product that did not do well in India?”

It was a thought-provoking question. As I tried to analyse the question in my mind, I realised that it was actually an invalid question, an oxymoron to be more precise. We need to first define what ‘well-researched’ means. The fact that the product has not done well in the market proves that it was NOT well-researched in the first place! How would you rate research as good or bad? I firmly believe that the ‘mystery-solving’ ability of the research determines its quality. The general belief (especially among non-MR managers) is that a ‘well-researched’ project is one with a complex research methodology conducted at a large scale with numerous jargons, statistics and reports. But the fact is that if the simplest method of research is able to find answers and solve the problem, it will score better than any mammoth project that just ‘beats around the bush’. Sometimes, the journey (methodology) becomes more overbearing than the destination (solution). We must remember that some of the world’s most revolutionary discoveries happened by the most fascinating methodology of nature called ‘serendipity’.

What do I see as the future of market research?

Being from a generation that lives a life that is ‘made for Facebook’, I clearly see a large chunk of MR being done on social media. I refresh my email inbox, Facebook, twitter and linkedin profile every 10 minutes because I am completely addicted to what the world is doing online. It is the same with all other people of my age. ‘Google’ has become a verb for us and we have information about anything under the sun at our fingertips. We do not see these portals as ‘new’ or ‘technology’. It has become a natural part of our lives. I see myself extensively using social media for research.

The future is more about non-intrusive research where the researcher will be engaging respondents at a higher level. I see market research focusing on further value addition to the respondent in the form of entertainment. The MR industry will create a blue ocean strategy where it will blend in with the online gaming industry to create more interactive and exciting encounters with respondents.

We know that intelligence quotient (IQ) is a hygiene factor for any individual to excel in a knowledge-based environment. But market research requires a much deeper level of understanding of oneself and of others. Hence, emotional intelligence and empathy is very important to be able to clearly extract insights from the human mind. A market researcher needs to possess high emotional quotient (EQ) and be able to step out of the problem to analyze it objectively. She needs to understand her own mind before she can start understanding the consumer’s mind because her own mind will create many biases in her analysis. And finally, she needs to be stung by the “asking bug”. Since childhood we have been encouraged to raise our hand and ask the most stupid questions. We won’t get any answers until we ask questions. Fear of making mistakes stops us from being creative. As Sir Ken Robinson said in his TED talk,

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original… And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.”

Courage to question the norms, to think of out-of-the-box ideas and to turn them into reality is what is needed to boost the MR industry further into the future. We all have an urge, a need to move forward into the future. But before we move forward, we must learn to look backward and learn from our past. We must learn to be like kids again.

TANVI GUPTA, Eternal Student and Research Associate at Millward Brown, India. Reach me on twitter @Tanvi_MR