31 May 13 Online surveys in India- When does it work?

“Sir, we are conducting research on xxx industry,” and the phone goes dead.

Having done primary research myself for more than a year now, I am quite used to people refusing to answer, banging the phone down, ignoring calls despite fixing an appointment, and so on. In order to avoid this, many researchers globally have substituted the conventional methods of data collection with online surveys, which is an economical and relatively easier method of  collecting data. However, it still doesn’t seem to be a good idea to conduct an online survey in the Indian market.

Why? Because…

  •  Unbalanced development of different sectors/classes

India is a diverse country, not just culture-wise but also in terms of economic development. We end up interacting with people from diverse sectors while conducting a survey. IT, BPO, BFSI and entertainment are a few sectors where online surveys might be possible but they definitely wouldn’t be a good idea for the manufacturing industries. For example, a study on the attributes of online shoppers can be conducted online since most online shoppers are technologically savvy; but an online survey while doing research on the production and design of compressors in India could be quite problematic. The biggest challenge would be the lack of tech savvy people in the manufacturing sector engaged at the production level, which would lead to non-participation in and failure of online surveys.

  •  Highly heterogeneous and multilingual country

In India, it is common to come across respondents who are not comfortable speaking in English or even in Hindi. One of the most common problems that I have faced while conducting primary research is that even though respondents start the conversation in English, they eventually end up speaking in Hindi or another regional language. So you can imagine what would happen to an online survey in the Indian market which is put up in only one language. Also, the Indian population is predominantly heterogeneous and conducting the same survey in the vastly diverse geographic country is neither possible nor feasible. On the other hand, conducting surveys in multiple languages for different groups of people is not convenient and completely impractical, as data collection and data analysis would become difficult.

When does an online survey work?

With all these challenges how do you ensure that an online survey works in India? It is a good idea to conduct one only when the following points are taken care of:

  • Make sure that the desired survey panel has access to the internet
  • Include only those people who have knowledge about the working of the industry and are fluent in the language in which the survey is being conducted
  • Shorter online surveys usually have a higher response rate with better answers

An example where an online survey was successful in the Indian market was when an index we were tracking required us to reach out to investors. This worked because our survey panel consisted of people who had access to the internet and were knowledgeable about the sector.

 In conclusion…

All I can say is that for the kind of research projects that are conducted in India and the kind of challenges which come up while doing an online survey, it looks like I will be stuck with telephonic and face-to-face interviews for some more time. As of now, successful working of online surveys in the Indian market seems like a distant dream!

Tejaswee Shrestha

Tejaswee was a senior research analyst at ValueNotes. Her main area of focus was customer engagement studies for the lighting and engineering industries.

  • Karan
    Posted at 10:14h, 16 November Reply

    Great article which shows that online survey’s are not always correct.
    you can predict the outcome but its not always correct.There are lots of things which a person should have to consider while surveying.

  • Aniket Pargaonkar
    Posted at 10:41h, 31 May Reply

    Online Survey in India-When does it work? http://t.co/L9jAeO4pMl

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