international research business in China

Podcast transcript #56: How to develop international research business in China and India

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on email

Find here the full transcript of China paradigm episode 56. Learn more about Navin Williams’ story developing an international research business in China and find all the details and additional links below.

Full transcript below:

Matthieu David: Hi everyone I’m Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue consulting, China market research company, and its podcast China Paradigm, and today I am with Navin Williams, you are the CEO of Mobile Measure and director of FuguMobiles and in partnership with Prediqt. You’ll have to tell me how you can do so many things, especially in international research business in India and China, and that’s one of my questions.

You’ve been in China since 2008 so more than 10 years – 11 years. Just before the Olympic Games, and I feel there are two types of people who arrived in China. People who arrived before the Olympic Games and people who arrived after the Olympic Games. You arrived just right before, so you saw all the changes which happened after the Olympic games and I’m talking about the crisis when China became more and more important, bigger, and more paradigm. If I want to use the name of our podcast.

Mobile measure is a research company. I feel you do a lot of panels as well and you are very tech-oriented. Actually, when reading your powerpoint and your presentation, I saw many things that were hard for me to understand how to present Mobile Measure. One thing I share is outstanding, different from many others. That you have many products with online community, moderating a community online, with a diary, getting information in the daily life of people. That’s something I would be very interested to dig in, for example, how you conduct Chinese customer data management. So, thank you very much for being with us today, this morning.

The first question, I always have this question, what’s the size of your business, if you can share some metrics?

Navin Williams: Right, so actually as you said, we have three different businesses. So, the scale of each is very different, and two of them are companies that I don’t manage directly but I’m involved in a capacity as either consulting or managing part of their business.

So, I can tell you Mobile Measure, because that’s figures that I control and I am happy to share and so Mobile Measure we are depending on the year, anything between $750,000 going up to 1.5 million US. So, that’s the scale, it’s not huge, it’s not small, but we are very focused on technology-enabled market research. So that is the niche we have picked and we also do, you know – bread and butter research which is maybe just online, or SGD’s, but we are known and our strength is technology-enabled research.

Matthieu David: What does it mean?

Navin Williams: Yeah?

Matthieu David: That thing, what does it mean? Because you said it could be anything, how can you be in the technological world? How can you be anything, because you have to build a product, you have to deliver a solution? How can you manage to have so many things? How can you do an international research business in India and China at the same time?

Navin Williams: The product I built very early, in around 2010 and we called it TPV – which stands for Text, Photo, Video. So, at that time it was simply an app which allowed you to capture text, photos, and video. So, you know, very easy to use from a research perspective for communities. So, allowing consumers to go and collect real-time data and share their opinion real-time. So, it’s basically that’s what we built and it’s not that – so that is the core platform. Around it we do a lot of things, so it could be we layer it with survey data, we layer it with maybe an in-depth interview because that data is very fragmented because it’s just videos, shot videos, photos, and just comments and views. Similarly, we could – we do FGD’s so we have a larger group as well. When I say that we are a traditional research company, but enabled by technology. So, if a client came in and told me they want to do FGD’s, I would say yes sure, let’s do FGD’s but in addition to that for a few of our consumers, we will also gather some additional data and thing. And it could be even just scraping the web to see where a category is at the moment. So, otherwise it’s hard for us to compete at our size.

Matthieu David: I see, I see. Do you develop any internally a software or you also sold the software?

Navin Williams: When I started … A bit about myself in the sense that I came here as the head of consumer research for Nielsen China and within a year – that was the worst time to be in China, you know – the market tanked and effectively within a year I was being relocated to India  on another job assignment within Nielsen. But my family was having too much fun in China so they didn’t want to leave. So, I decided to leave Nielsen and then I joined FuguMobile. A digital agency in China which has many cases of Chinese customer data management.

So, I joined them and while they’re a digital agency, my background is in research, so within FuguMobile I started Mobile Measure and then – and in fact even today we are collocated with FuguMobile who have their own development team.

So, we ride on their development team and designers to build and maintain our digital products for Chinese customer data management. (In 2009 I designed it and started building it out and 2010 we launched it and in those days it was like really no one wanted to touch it because they didn’t feel that it had the scale.  We actually partnered with Kantar – TNS and we did a lot of international research business in India and China, and other countries in Asia Pacific, and Africa as well.

So, in the early days it was more about concept selling and trying and getting people to actually believe that mobile would actually rule the world and it’s funny to think that actually 10 years ago, that was a hard job.

Matthieu David: Exactly, I interviewed someone who has the same intuition, the founder of Mobile Now, 10 years ago – and this name, the word mobile, as for you there is the word Mobile, but 10 years ago, it was pretty new. Could you tell us first to understand, in your international research business in India and China, why a company like Kantar would use your technology? They’re so big, what did they find in your technology that they cannot find internally?

Navin Williams: Right. So one is that I have been – before I started Mobile Measure, I was in research for almost 15 years. So, I have been in research and in those 15 years, around 5 years I worked for a telecom company as well. So, I have a strong grounding in technology and market research. So, I knew the players, I know the market, I know where the gaps are and maybe I was early into the game. I was actually. So, it’s not that – so when I talked to researchers who wanted to evolve, they got what I was saying, but maybe – you know if you’re early into the market then you need to do a lot of concept selling. So, for them yes, it’s not like they were like just adopting our technology whole house, but they were definitely willing to try it, and that definitely helped. Especially in the early years.

Matthieu David: I see, because you believe that you were early, that’s what actually brought them to your software, your solution because it didn’t have – they hadn’t developed yet or it was too early to make it mainstream. To make it big enough for them to do it internally.

Navin Williams: Yes and no, because now the situation today is again, you know I still work with Kantar and other big groups in international research business in India and China but the thing is that research companies, especially the large ones, work in silos. So, either they understand research or technology and the technology part if there is within the company, it is secondary, in the sensitive part of operational services. So, getting these two together is not so easy. So, a company, a research company especially large ones where they see an opportunity or they have a desire to move into technology-enabled research, they need someone who understands both the technology world and the research world, to distill that for them and that’s where we come in. Otherwise a lot of companies, they can go to technology providers to help them say with the research product. However, if the technology services company does not understand research and there’s no one who can convert research into technical language and the other way round, it’s hard to build something that is actually usable.

Matthieu David: I see, I see. So initially you had this app called TPV, I don’t know if you changed the name or not after, it was an app?

Navin Williams: Correct, correct. It’s still there yeah.

Matthieu David: And how has it evolved now? It was about Text, Photo, picture, and video. How has it evolved now? Again, in your – you’re talking about Mobile to me, so I want to know more about how much we can do with your solution and what’s was your leverage?

Navin Williams: Right, right. So online communities actually are quite established and work well. Now like Chinese mobile communities – so our tool works well on that but there are certain things which because of the size of the screen and attention levels in mobile, you might not be able to do. So, you get larger screens of data, but in smaller chunks. Yeah. So, think of it as me writing a letter to you detailing what we want to do. So, I can do an introduction. But in mobile, it’s just bits right.

So, for example when we did the audio check, I would have sent you an email saying this is the problem and you would have sent back a response saying this is the answer, but because we were trying to resolve it on the Chinese mobile community like WeChat, we were not communicating the whole problem properly, so the solution also was coming in bits. Right. So mobile has this thing of continuity. You can have a discussion for longer periods but it’s coming in chunks. So it’s very useful for – if you’re like – day in the life of, you know – so you say Sunday is your shopping day and I request you to mobile connect through our app and engage with us and the moderator through the day, and I give you tasks. So, when you go, I want you to take photographs or videos and give us context to whatever information you’re giving. And then that’s very useful data, and it’s easier to think. So, when it comes to real-time and instinctive kind of responses that we want, intuitive responses – mobile scores way over online communities and that is a way of Chinese customer data management. So I think both have their strengths, so it all depends on how deep you want to go or you’re looking for something way beyond – if you’re looking for surprises I would think mobile would give you more, because you can actually have people go out and surprise themselves, forget about the researcher.

Matthieu David: How does it work? So, with a client you have, when he used your product, your tech product, they make their Chinese mobile community, so you pick some of the clients, they download your app, I mean the clients of the clients – the end clients. They download your app and then you moderate through an app, interactions with this Chinese mobile community. And it could be on Sunday as you said, take a picture of like what is happiness for you? It would take a picture of the blue skies. Could you describe a typical mission and how it works step by step?

Navin Williams: Right. So, say we recruit ten people, and then if we – if a moderator were to live chat with all ten and communicate with them, it can get very heavy. Even if you’re talking about just ten people. So instead what we do is, we break it up into tasks, so there are defined tasks. So, what we call mini-surveys, but actually they say simple three questions. So first tell me where you are? So, it could be a drop-down because we are only looking at type of retail outlet, yeah. So, you select the type of retail outlet and then it says take a photo, video or video. Yeah. So, once you enter you take a photo or a video, and then it gives you an open-ended allowing you to give context to the photo or video you have given. Yeah. Or take an audio recording if that is easier for you. So that’s it. So effectively it is three questions, right. If you want to simplify it. So that we would call one mini-survey, and that mini-survey say would be titled retail. So, every time they walked into a retail space, they’re expected to tap on retail, identify which retail outlet they are in, then, of course, you take a photograph or –

Matthieu David: I see, and send to you? Do you get an incentive when they answer each question?

Navin Williams: No. No, generally it is for the exercise, so say we tell them that we want you to work with us for a week, so generally, they are incentivized for that period of participation.

Matthieu David: Per week?

Navin Williams: Not per upload. So, then we get all these feeds, so it could be retail, it could be consumed, it could be whatever. So, it could be different things that we are evaluating, or it could be simply communication. So, we can send them videos to view or tell them identify ads in the market out there in your daily life. That you can relate to this ad and tell us. Give us your feedback. To see what concepts work, don’t work.

Matthieu David: Okay I understand. So, you have an app, this app has notifications. Its pop-up notification for the people in the Chinese mobile community, in order to achieve Chinese customer data management, people who have the app, different notifications with different communities, to say open the app and now look at the video, what’s the video. Survey on the video, like a 15 seconds video of coca cola and then a small survey to say what do you remember of the video. Or, if they are in retail, they should actually open the app, because you already told them to do that before, and then they use that app to take a picture to shoot a video or to write up text. Am I correct? I have a good understanding?

Navin Williams: Exactly. Exactly. And it could be like – one could be ad relationship. So as you said, there’s a 15 second TVC that you’ve exposed the consumer to because when he clicks it plays that video and after they view the video then they are asked – how can you take a photograph or a video of a scene in your daily life, in your immediate surrounding, that you feel you can match with this video in your life. That it makes sense. Or they don’t want to do it and they just need to write an open-ended – I don’t see anything that actually – that this ad is showing me. Or they say that yes – this is very similar to me doing this, or they take a photograph of something that they see and say that, yes this resonates with me.

Matthieu David: I see, do you have the function of a chat room in your app?

Navin Williams: So, we have not added chat, we have the option of doing it but we just found it very stressful –

Matthieu David: For you or for the users?

Navin Williams: No, not for the users, for the moderator.

Matthieu David: Yes. Very time-consuming.

Navin Williams: Because from their perspective it’s a bit stressful, so we don’t normally use it, but it’s not something that we cannot layer in.

Matthieu David: So, you created your own app. It was a native app right, one for IOS and one for android. So, two app, native apps and like seven years ago, WeChat – how did you think about integrating with WeChat and using the API of WeChat, have you done something with WeChat or other Chinese mobile community? Are you still running it independently and asking the users to download your app?

Navin Williams: We are still adhoc largely. We have integrated with WeChat and however we have not really been able to sell it effectively. So, I think because the protocols are not there, even in fact for our app-based research protocols are not there and qual research alone I believe is a very hard business to scale, so in fact that’s one of the reasons that I started this company with a partner of mine called Prediqt and Prediqt is a mobile-enabled panel and that’s a global panel and in that we plan to add a lot of qualitative functionality. So actually, having consumers from our learning’s of TPV, so have consumers who are doing surveys and polls to actually also capture media on our behalf. So, videos, audio recording, photographs. So, it’s still early days because there we are already getting scale on the panel side. Online quant studies, so that’s a new kind of experience and learning for us, but we will add these features on it. So hopefully we will be able to not only conduct Chinese customer data management but also scale qual as well, using this huge panel we have.

Matthieu David: So, correct me if I’m mistaken, but what you are saying is that because you work with this panel company called Prediqt, you use your app and you don’t connect with WeChat because Prediqt is worldwide and WeChat is China-centric. So, it wouldn’t make sense? Am I correct or -?

Navin Williams: Not that, I think one of the reasons we don’t use WeChat is – one is that we have our own platform and WeChat is not scalable beyond China. You are right about that. That is one part and the second part is that I am not sure if we were to focus on the WeChat based community for Chinese customer data management. If we would be able to compete with some of the very basic ways that research is sometimes being conducted using WeChat. So, sometimes where clients are not willing to spend, you can actually just create a WeChat group of consumers and run a small Chinese mobile community for a small period of time and you don’t really have to build the client for software or anything like that, and there is no development. So, it’s just the data that you collect during those sessions and take that and analyze it and you deliver. So, I think that that’s a tough fight unless you’re building a much wider offer of a long-term community base and panel – a community-based solution sorry, for clients – and I haven’t seen yet a really fleshed out requirement for that.

Matthieu David: So, we understand what the users have, the app, I will say in China, where they can upload documents, they can interact with you, what about the client? What do you get as a Chinese customer data management system? You moderate yourself, you interact with the users, but the client is seeing the results live. Could you describe a bit more about the – do you call that CMS or -?

Navin Williams: Yeah so, the CMS has two functions. One is for the setup of the survey as the mini-surveys we spoke about to actually have those sessions go on and then the reporting part where you have those data feeds coming in life. So, we have a client view CMS, so clients can view only the data coming live. They cannot edit, they have no reading or writing rights, so that is there and then they get a few other metrics like how connected the consumers in Chinese mobile community are. Who is the most active, inactive? Things like that. But yeah – and what we would be able to do the Chinese customer data management at our end is we can download all that feed on a daily basis or an hourly basis, how frequent we want to analyze that data. c

Matthieu David: Okay, you struck on the CSV.

Navin Williams: Yeah exactly, and all the data gets sorted by topic, by the grouping. So, if we have a mini-survey on retail, all the videos, and pictures that come can be sorted by that topic or by user or by date. So very often we want to see maybe on a weekend – what the output was or we want to see by topic whatever was done in retail, or at consumer in-home – so based on that we can sort the media as well and once you sort the media, it’s easier to analyze as well.

Matthieu David: Would you mind sharing one or two or three cases to illustrate how it has been used. I saw on your document you’re talking about Coca Cola which uses your platform. You talk about many other companies which are a part of – especially for mobile community interaction and diary as well. Would you mind sharing two or three cases?

Navin Williams: Yeah, so the coke case you’re talking about actually was our first client customer. That was I think 2010 and it was so long ago that we actually created the solution on blackberry’s – so nobody even probably remembers Blackberry. So, we actually built it internally for the coke team globally. So, coke global, the team globally could actually in a way build a community of their own of people they identified in different countries coke operated and they all had Blackberry’s which is company phone and then it moved to IOS as well.

So, they allowed these employees to look at coke global objective and feedback very quickly. So, what happened was – say there was the Olympics and there was a campaign going globally, but that campaign did very well in Chinese mobile community, that same campaign didn’t do well in India. By a couple of weeks. Because the global insight team had these people who used the app to walk in to a store and say that the display is – the retailer is hiding because he feels it is not doing well, or they are very proud of it and it seems people are crowding, and those photographs were uploaded using the app and sent centrally. So, the team could quickly look at the results and go to Chinese customer data management and tell them that working in China, not working in India- things like that. So that project we did for around two years for Coke before it was disbanded.

Matthieu David: Two years.

Navin Williams: Yeah, we did that for two years, I think 10 and 11 I think or 11 and 12.

11 and 12 yeah and then we have also done food tracking– so day in the life of – so we don’t realize the amount of snacking we do and you know we were trying to find out for a dairy client of the snacking, how much was milk-based and we saw people were having a lot of milk-based drinks, yogurt and then mixing it up with chips, biscuits and other – and a lot of traditional food as well and the snacking pattern is throughout the day. So, it’s not like there are fixed mealtimes. And we did it at actually quite a large sample size and we found that snacking was literally a 24-hour process, except when you’re sleeping, you’re not snacking. And a large portion of that is milk-based products. So that was quite revealing for the client.

Another one we did was in the retail space, so we know that natural foods, organic – that is a big theme and packaging companies want to get out of – get into that space. So, when health becomes more heightened, their products – they are there to offer products for clients. So, one of the things we did for a beverage company was actually go into – consumers went into stores and they went to the fresh produce section and then they identified fruits and vegetables they considered to be fresh. Yeah. Fresh and clean.

Now, we matched that with another exercise they did, where they went to the packaged goods section and identified products and goods and brands that they thought were natural and refreshing and pure and then we could see what is working, what competition is doing. Are we in the considered set? And are there any gaps for innovation in products?

Matthieu David: I see. You’re talking about passive tracking of Chinese customers in your PPT and for me passive tracking is related to localization, so it’s the GPS or the mobile or so on, so you can know what people do but also, maybe what people browsed on their mobile. Could you tell us more about that? What is passive tracking? What do you do with passive tracking of Chinese customers? And is it the same app you are using or it’s another solution? How many solutions do you have by the way?

Navin Williams: Okay. So, our main product is the on the quality side, we use a lot of TPV, WAP-based. On the quant side we do a lot of online surveys in Chinese mobile community. And then – actually my partnership with Prediqt started with passive tracking of Chinese customers, so they initially had built this passive tracking solution and them – I started working with them to fine-tune that. Over time what has happened is that passive tracking of data has – so apple doesn’t allow you to do the Chinese customer data management and now android doesn’t allow you to do it as well.

Matthieu David: How do we find passive tracking?

Navin Williams: So, you can monitor all browser activity on the mobile phone. You can monitor all activity of apps to manage Chinese customer data, what app is being used, how long it’s being used, when its being used and of course location services will allow you to know that where they are using these apps, where they are at a given point of time and yeah – so that is effectively it.

Now the really powerful data from passive tracking of Chinese customers is if I can tell you if you’re using a shopping app and within that app – you know what I browsed, what I bought, what I did not buy, but considered to buy, you know this is powerful information in Chinese customer data management and that is something that clients are willing to pay for. And that, unfortunately, is the gap in passive tracking on the mobile because unless you have cooperation of these apps itself, you cannot know that data.

So, as I told you, there are a lot of security restrictions now. So, you can get how long, the session you had in a certain app, say a shopping app and you spend half an hour on it. You know between so and so and so and so but I cannot tell you what you browsed, what you bought and things like that. So, while passive tracking of Chinese customers the same thing can be done online. Online you are getting that information. So that data of Chinese customers are actually with Prediqt – in the US they have some clients where we sell it. We have consumers, so you will be able to know the basket that the consumers on that panel study, have done, bought in a week.

What they bought, categories, scales, like that, those details and also which online platform they bought it on. So that is slightly more evolved on the online side but I think for the developing world where we are generally one device users, so most people do not have tablets, or your PC’s, and laptops, but penetration of mobile is very high and that is increasing and all their lives and all their interactions are happening on the mobile phone. So, if you don’t get that depth in mobile, then passive I think is very tough and also, I think with the whole privacy concerns some of our clients in fact, when they went back to their legal teams and said that no you cannot do this with consumers. So even if we offered it from our largest clients wouldn’t do this research.

Matthieu David: Even with the consent of the consumers. You said that passive tracking of Chinese customers was more possible on online, on PC and more difficult on mobile. So technically speaking on mobile, you were using the API or CLDK on the phone or the company OS and for online or for computers you would basically add a plugin to the browser, on chrome and then explore the data of Chinese customers? And then you get the consent of the user and you will be able to track Chinese customers. Am I correct?

Navin Williams: Yes, yes, that’s exactly.

Matthieu David:  I See I see I understand. Ok, I got it. So, you are partnering with this company called Prediqt and I looked at your data. And what is funny, is, it’s more of inside and something very deep I am going to talk about but is that the gender balance between men and women, it didn’t vary a lot. And in India, I think you have 65% of male and 35% of women, as it is same in Japan. How can you do the international research business in India and China with such an unbalance when China is pretty, the panel you have is like 55 – 45%. How do you explain that?

international research business in China

Navin Williams: I think that social differences are very high in international research business in India and China, and usage and access differ largely. So, 60-40 is not so bad. If you went to say, some other countries like Bangladesh, and I think where we are opening panels now, the difference is even starker, so you know –

Matthieu David: Access to mobile.

Navin Williams: Yeah, so I think it depends on the country and society. If you go to Indonesia, penetration of smoking is very high, but not amongst women. So, you know, it’s just demographics differ and acceptance and penetration within those societies differ. Very often, it’s a single phone household and the male member of the family; he is the one carrying the phone. And everyone else, if they wanted to use it, they had naturally had to request usage of that.

Matthieu David: I see. We just talked about the panel in India and you have been working in India. You are from India?

Navin Williams: Yeah, I am from India.

Matthieu David: How would you compare these two countries, regarding international research business in India and China? That’s a broader question here but – I remember when I was studying in Peking University, there was this book called Chindia – like china-India together. And I always, I knew there was this book that was saying – is it really a concept? Can we really put those two countries together in international research in India and China and think it’s like an economic zone? I felt that very different. The only point in common they have that it’s a very big population. It’s the biggest population in the world. How do you compare both of India and China which are rising countries, economically speaking but my point of view that I don’t know India as much as you do, is that they are still very, very, very different?

Navin Williams: Yeah, it’s very different and if you take China, there is a lot of strength in term of infrastructure support,  Chinese consumers have access to a lot more resources. While in India, a lot of the country is still underdeveloped and rural. And even in urban there is a big divide between, the socio-economic classes. So, because of that, in some categories, they are very mature and there are a huge history and legacy of brands and things for decades. You know almost a century old. While brands here may not have that legacy. Maybe 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40-year-old brands maybe if you are lucky. But I mean, take coffee consumption as an example in international research business in India and China. Traditionally not a coffee-drinking country but coffee sales in China has such huge growth and for Starbucks, it’s their number one market. And in India they barely have a few stores at airports and select few cities. So, it’s a very rare thing to see, that’s because coffee has been in India for a hundred years and a consumer knows their coffee.

And they can get a good coffee for, half a dollar or less. So, what will make them pay $5 for a coffee? Do you know how many people are there to do that? So very valued conscious consumers, and so it’s not just the power of the brand but the product as well. Not that it’s any different here, but I am saying new categories I think have acceptance is far greater in China than say in India where you already have a lot of these categories established for long periods of time.

Even if it’s small pockets. So, in India we have coffee preference regions, tea preference regions, and so distinct markets. And even within the tea market, how the tea is drunk in one part of the market is different from another part of the country. So, we have officially over 22 languages and even doing research is a challenge because you need to have that much if you really want a national perspective, it’s very hard to get in it in India. It’s like literally you have 22 plus different distinct cultures out there to deal with.

Matthieu David: I have a question actually about international research business in India and China. India is known to be able to develop a lot of techs; I think Sapiens has a lot of his team in India. Have you been able to experience for your own company this and to develop in India your solution to be able to leverage for China and for the world? Or you have done everything in China locally?

Navin Williams: No, the early days we did everything in China but we do maintain a team in India. We find that development in China is more efficient and faster. That maybe just our experience because we sit here, I guess we can put more attention to it. In India we do a lot of the RND work in India. So, you know, so if we are talking about 3D imagery, how to add it for the product testing or things like that. Something like that is not mainstream but we think that you know that –

Matthieu David: I see.

Navin Williams: So, we will have our team. Anything that is a non-critical thing we use our India team. Or if here there is overflow of work we use the India team. And increasingly, I think for a lot of the operational work, research, scripting of surveys, and things, that again we have started to use the India team more.

Matthieu David: So, Mobile Measures you have a part of your team in India. I didn’t ask you the size of your team actually.

Navin Williams: We are still actually very small. So, in China, actually only five, because we don’t count any of the developers as our team. They are all Fugu and Fugu is around 50-55 people, and so together we are around six teams and in India it’s around 12 people. So total 17-18 people.

Matthieu David: Ok, ok. But you are mixing with Fugu mobile and working within Mobile Measure. How many in India working for Mobile Measure or its mixed?

Navin Williams: Oh, the India team is Prediqt and Mobile Measure. Fugu has another team as well. Which is again the same size.

Matthieu David: Okay, okay, I see, Interesting. That is actually linked with another question I have with international research business in India and China. I think there is a lot of calamities in India in research. There are so many research companies that are contacting us. We are in touch with a firm in India which are doing market research all over the world. And I don’t know if you have foundered, but they are very, very, very value-conscious. I mean they want the lowest cost possible, And I don’t even know it’s possible to run research with such cost structure. How do you react to that? Did you have the same experience?

Navin Williams: Yeah, so, in China – again I think it comes down to – let’s just talk about Kantar’s Research Company in India (IMRB) has been in the operation since the 20’s or 30’s. Yeah, so, almost 100 years of operations. So, research has formerly been conducted for that long. While in Chinese customer data management again, the industry is not that old, from an industry perspective but its evolution has been actually very rapid. So, you have a market which is huge, so almost a billion is what the research market in China is, and where it is still fine-tuning. While in India, very savvy researchers because they have been used to it for a long time.

But the project value is very low and if you are not doing volumes, it’s very hard to sustain in India. But for an international research  business in China and India or you are doing a lot of multi-country studies, India works well because it’s a good low-cost base with high talent. So, you could do some processes in India, do other processes that you need more hands-on and be there where ever you are located. That’s actually been India’s strength for many, now I would say a couple of decades, with a lot of the multi-nationals moving their RND centers, their development centers, their entire – even customer relationship, a lot of things, the non-face to face have all moved there. But I think that also is evolving because costs are not stagnant, that’s also rising. So, there is a shakedown in the Indian market as well.

Matthieu David: Last question for you, especially again relationship between research business in China and India. we have seen Chinese companies going overseas, and when they go to Europe and they see so many countries, so small countries like some countries are not even the size of the city of China. Like Belgium is smaller than Shanghai and France is the size of one province in China. It’s difficult for them to be massive, to sell a brand, to sell a specific product like Xiaomi, like Oppo and some apps as well are going overseas. And we found out from someone on research that Chinese companies are doing pretty well actually in India, some of them. Some of the top apps in India are Chinese. A third – 1/3rd or maybe 25% I maybe, it may be less but its massive. Do you see this trend? Are you living it? Do you have some Chinese clients who are asking you advise you to go to India?

Navin Williams: We have ad hoc work for local clients but more active kind of relationship at the moment. In fact, in India, the number one phone company is actually Xiaomi, so I think as I said, India is very value-driven and if they see value in a product or service, I think they would give it a shot. So in the early days I would say not the top end products really reached the Indian market.

So, from international research business in China and India we could find that there was a low reputation for the products coming from China and they didn’t do well. But now, increasingly some of the companies are investing and offering their services, which is being bought. So, I think localization, how well the Chinese companies continue to do in India would be driven by localization. Because India is not one victory, it’s like, could be a thousand, a million Belgium’s. So, it’s a very diverse country and you have to win all those battles. It’s a very tough market referring to international research business in India and China.

Matthieu David: Let’s not fragment it by what we think.

Navin Williams: Very, very much so.

Matthieu David: Interesting, thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate. That was very interesting, we went depth in technology, in cases and I really liked to share with you about the differences between research business in China and India. The other question I would like to ask about blockchain, about surveys, about maintaining your panels that would be maybe another podcast because we went a bit off time, it’s already one hour of interview. Thank you very much again and hope everyone enjoyed the talk.

Navin Williams: Thank you, thank you, Matthieu. Ok, good talking, ok buy-buy.


China paradigm is a China business podcast sponsored by Daxue Consulting where we interview successful entrepreneurs about their businesses in China. You can access all available episodes from the China paradigm Youtube page.

Do not hesitate to reach out our project managers at dx@daxue-consulting.com to get all answers to your questions

marketing research china
We are unable to validate your subscription, make sure your information is correct!
Thank you for your subscription!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated on the Chinese market

Contact us