02 Jan 14 Top Ten Research and Competitive Intelligence Trends 2014 – India

The New Year invariably prompts writers and bloggers to introspect, ruminate and summarize. And I’m not immune to the syndrome, so here are some thoughts on how the business research and competitive/market intelligence landscape in India will evolve in 2014.

More strategic research: In recent years, many large companies (especially multinationals in India) have built internal strategy teams. It is becoming fashionable to hire strategy consultants from leading consultancies like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, etc. Such consultants tend to be very data focused and will drive spend on research. A corollary will be increased sophistication of research definition (KIQs/scope) and data needs.

Emphasis shifts to small towns: With incomes and consumption rising faster outside of metros and tier I cities, research focus is also shifting. While the FMCG, white goods and consumer electronics multinationals are ahead on this curve, this is becoming a necessity for all marketers and strategists. We will see rising interest in researching small-town and rural Indian markets, with demand being driven by healthcare, financial services, building materials, retail, auto and several other consumption-led businesses.

Focus on channels: It is well known that in India’s large and heterogenous market, distribution and access are huge barriers. For companies like Hindustan Unilever and ITC, distribution and reach across India are one of their biggest competitive advantages. Such networks take time and effort to build, and acquisitions are expensive. Adding to the problem, third party distribution is relatively unorganized, localized and fragmented. We have seen rising interest in research to understand channel dynamics in local markets, and believe this will be a big growth area in 2014 and beyond.

Outward bound: Indian companies are trying to become global – and several high-profile acquisitions in the past decade underline this trend. But it’s not only M&A – and there will be a new focus on organic growth in overseas markets – especially by small and mid-sized companies. Increasingly, this will trigger rising demand for market research in non-India geographies. This demand will largely be driven by IT, knowledge services, pharma, minerals and metals, auto and engineering.

SME’s more open to research: In the past, spending on market research or competitive intelligence was limited to multinationals or the very large Indian companies. This is set to change, with SME’s becoming more professionalized and ambitious. The realization that better decision making depends on better information is now sinking in (better late than never!). However, most of these companies have not commissioned research before, and their managers not always familiar with research. Client education, budgets, scope definition and expectation setting will be big challenges for research providers. Interestingly, a lot of SME driven research will be related to diversification efforts, as traditional family-owned businesses look at new-age growth options. Research interest will be across sectors, but high growth areas will include hospitality, healthcare, restaurants, education, KPO, non-conventional energy and such like.

Best of breed providers: As companies mature in their understanding and application of research, the trend towards best-of-breed vendors will accelerate. No longer will they be happy with an existing vendor to serve all their needs, but look to specialized firms – those who are able to offer customized solutions and proven methodologies for brand measurement, sales effectiveness, market sizing, competitive benchmarking, channel checking, etc.

In-house analyst teams: Earlier prevalent amongst IT companies and multinationals, this trend is now spreading to more Indian companies, and partly driven by stronger in-house strategy teams. Challenges will arise due to small teams, incomplete set of competencies. Knowing what to do in-house and what to outsource is a big challenge/learning that will take time to sort out.

Realism about analytics: Hey, it won’t solve all our problems! This trend mirrors a global phenomenon, as people jump into big data or analytics solutions – driven by the hype. 2014 will bring a realization that though big data analytics will grow enormously, it will not answer all our questions. We still need better definition of problems, data needs and analysis. Overall, however, this learning will lead to growing maturity and an understanding that certain questions may be better answered by small sets of proprietary or external data, typically gathered or collated by conventional market research methods.

Adoption of smart phone/mobile technologies: Companies with large sales forces (typically in consumer goods) have long struggled with leveraging their sales force to collect real-time, on-the-ground data. In the past, multinational FMCG and pharma companies have implemented technology solutions that typically include a hand-held device with proprietary software. This is costly and often not feasible for smaller companies. However, the proliferation of smart phones and relevant apps now offers low cost solutions for distributed data collection – and this will be a big trend 2014 onwards.

And the 10th trend is: … despite much racking of brain cells, I couldn’t find a tenth idea! Maybe you can help me? Can you think of another big trend (or trends) you see for the research and intelligence community in 2014 and beyond? Please leave a comment.

Arun Jethmalani

Arun is one of the founders of ValueNotes. Apart from trying to build a high-quality research business, he has spent the last 27 years researching, analyzing, and dissecting companies and industries. He has worked with clients of all shapes and sizes, from all parts of the world – in providing them insights that make a difference to their business.
Prior to ValueNotes, he was an equity analyst/advisor, and wrote extensively on investing – including a column titled “Value for Money” which ran for 10 years in the Sunday edition of the Economic Times. To this day, he remains an avid “value” investor.
He has also been published in several other publications, and is a regular speaker at events related to technology, investing, competitive intelligence, business process management, Internet, etc. See: Valuenotes Events
He has been instrumental in developing a community of research and intelligence professionals in India, and is the founder and current chairman of the SCIP (India) Chapter. Arun holds a B Tech from IIT, Bombay and an MS from Duke University, NC, USA. LinkedIn Profile

  • Subrata Majumdar
    Posted at 04:22h, 10 February Reply

    Dear Arun
    The 10th trend could well be that of an integrated approach to gathering-actioning-measuring market intelligence and how it plays with a firms’ internal resources. For a while now firms have invested in market research/intelligence as a more strategy setting and directional exercise rather than devising ways to make the information actionable. In my experience, even firms more mature in consuming external intelligence is waking up to finding ways of last mile effectiveness of the intelligence. I think this trend will deepen

    • Arun Jethmalani
      Posted at 14:17h, 10 February Reply

      Thanks for your comment.
      While I agree that this is desirable and necessary, I’m not sure that enough people will actually do this, and thereby make it a trend – at least in the near future.

  • Arun Jethmalani
    Posted at 12:12h, 30 January Reply

    Deepak and Raj,
    Many thanks for your comments.
    Deepak: you make a good point with respect to Voice of Customer, and the impact of social media on assessing VoC. In fact, in several research studies, we have leverage social media in deriving competitive intelligence inputs. However, one cannot rely purely on social media as one doesn’t really know how much of it is genuine – so validation using conventional methods is required.

  • Deepak Motiramani
    Posted at 04:00h, 29 January Reply

    Great article Arun. Thanks for sharing it.
    May be the 10th trend is voice of the consumer. I can clearly see social media being a good secondary data point to understand the voice of the consumer. Being a customer i have all the right to talk about the quality of service being provided by my principal. Competitors would certainly be interested in it.

  • Raj
    Posted at 14:24h, 28 January Reply

    Very well thought, identified and articulated.
    I will put down thoughts for that 10th trend if ever I happen to find it.

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