STEVE HAMILTON‑CLARK: The relationship with Aftab Associates started in 1995 and became earnest in 2005; we used that time to get to know each other. This business is based on relationships, so that was the first criteria. The second criteria was the fact that TNS was looking for the best in the sector and Aftab had long had a reputation – 27 years – for being the best; it is well established and does quality work. The third criteria was that
MLA: What will the formalising of this relationship mean for clients?
SHC: One of the big pluses of working in
H. AFTAB AHMAD: Our infrastructure and our local experience combined with TNS’ expertise worldwide and in the region is important. Clients are now looking towards branded solutions and they have been paying a lot of money to buy those solutions from TNS in
MLA: How do you make market research attractive as a career?
HAA: First of all we hire people who are passionate about research and we then give them the freedom to take decisions and make mistakes. This is what distinguishes us from our competition. We also offer a very good environment for women to work in. We have a large team of female researchers; in fact, some of the best researchers worldwide are women.
MLA: What do you see as some of the challenges in
SHC: The biggest challenge is that market research as a service industry is not moving as fast as it could in terms of providing insight into data. It is very easy to generate the data, it is a lot more difficult to interpret it and find the story behind the data. And if you do not have the tools and the framework to analyse the data, it becomes very difficult. The other challenge is the quality of the data. Too few clients take the time to look under the hood to see if there is an engine and what kind of engine it is. And this comes at a price. Clients have to recognise that it is difficult to get good quality data and that it is worth paying for.
MLA: Do clients in
HAA: There is a rapid shift in the use of research in
MLA: Has the economic downturn affected market research?
SHC: Globally the answer would be yes. Typically market research has been seen as recessionary resilient and a lot of market research companies were banking on that and most of them, if not all, succumbed to the global crisis in terms of margins and profits. But
HAA: About 10 years ago only three companies accounted for nearly 60 to 70% of the total revenue pie in terms of market research; they were Unilever, P&G and Pakistan Tobacco. Although in the present environment, their budgets have been slashed, this has been compensated by other companies; the international brands that are trying to enter
MLA: TNS is known for creating products to better understand local consumers. Will we see that sort of thing happening in
SHC: It certainly could. The one service we are very proud of in the
MLA: How will market research develop in
HAA: Until about five years ago, there were a few major players and eight or nine small ones. Now there are 25 to 30 players with four or five major ones. Now with Nielsen and with TNS coming into
SHC: TNS has a strategy of Rapid Growth Emerging Markets – RGEM, which we refer to as ‘our gems’.
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