11 Nov 10 From information to intelligence

All competitors have access to the similar data and information. But only a few of them are able to leverage it to ink success stories.

While data constitutes fragments of information that are unconnected to each other or the environment, information is the knowledge build by putting several data points together. Intelligence is understanding the implication of the information for a company. So, although all competitors have access to the same information, they are likely to use it (or not) in different ways. This is where the skill of a competitive intelligence professional is really put to the test.

The recent success of Micromax in India aptly illustrates this point.  Micromax is a manufacturer of mobile phones, which, in less than 3 years of launching its first product, is the third largest player in India after goliaths like Nokia and Samsung. This, despite the fact that the mobile market is intensely competitive with over 50 companies selling mobile phones in all price ranges.

Micromax has effectively identified gaps in the market and created phones with features that meet the “real needs” of the ordinary Indian customers. Their most talked about winning idea was introduction of phones with larger batteries that supposedly have a 30-day life in standby mode. This immediately appealed to rural Indian consumers who face long electricity outages.

That the rural areas go without electricity for long periods every day is a fact commonly known to all in India! It seems elementary and obvious, that a phone that works in these conditions will appeal to rural consumers. Surely, Micromax can’t have been the only one to see this gap?

CI analysts often (mistakenly) spend far more time and effort finding sources of more and better data than on actually analysing the information to find the implications of it for the company. In their endeavour to find “hidden” information, they could actually be missing something that is staring them in the eye!

Varsha Chitale

Varsha led the competitive intelligence practice at ValueNotes. As part of her drive to educate India Inc. on the merits of competitive intelligence, she often conducted webinars and seminars on CI for senior executives of Indian companies.

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