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Research Agencies, Are They The Solution In Developing Markets?

In a previous article, I discussed the in-house market research approach we applied in developing markets where we faced the deficiency in existing data. Due to some wrong decisions taken because of the lack of clear process on in-house developed market research, we decided to reach for the expertise of research agencies.

The problem that you can face in many developing markets is that research agencies, if existing, are as developed as the market they operate in. Their own information may be outdated and does not reflect the current market status.

While we opted to include independent market research agencies and not only depend on our in-house generated researches, we were faced with two types of research companies, local and multi-national. The problems I faced with those agencies were as follows:

  • Local research Agencies: With much of the same outdated data, they had the ability to conduct field visits and update some of the information. However, they lacked the knowhow and the presentation skills.

In most cases, they were telling us what we wanted to hear rather than reflecting real market research data. The results of focus groups’ reports for example reflected the personal thoughts of the person who conducted the study.

For a more comprehensive approach we were supposed to provide the expectations and explain the methodology in which we wanted the research to be conducted which practically meant an extension of in-house data collection rather than relying on a fully independent resource.

  • Multi-national agencies: Their approach was mostly like our head office approach. They conducted short field visits while relying heavily on public data found on the internet.

They differed in their presentation ability that made the information look personalized and focusing on our company’s interest.  In many cases the researchers sent to execute the task lacked the understanding of the market which was reflected in their reports.

Either approach had its supporters within our company. Lower cost and knowledge of local markets were the arguments used to support the local agencies while the assumptions of the knowhow and multi -national experience were the arguments used to support the reliance on multi-national agencies.

Either approach proved to be less than expected when it came to accurate market data and analysis. However it provided what you can call a second opinion. If you can afford it you can probably use all of these options, in-house, local, and multi-national.

The challenge of information in developing markets remains widespread. It is not only specific to mobile market data but rather spreads throughout various industries. This does not deny that improvements are noticeable in some markets due to the involvement of International agencies and NGOs focusing on economic development.

Mobile telecom information faces a different type of challenge when it comes to existing data. What is thought to be comprehensive reports published in one type of media or another has proven over the years to be grossly manipulated, a subject that I will discuss in a different article.

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