Monday, August 27

In the Holy name of Market Research!

~ Santosh Srinivas

Click below to listen to my lame attempt at Podcast (don't laugh :) )

Someone once quipped "Market Research (MR) can establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that the egg is a sad and sorry product and that it obviously will not continue to sell; as after all, eggs won't stand up by themselves, roll too easily, are too easily broken, require special packaging, look alike, are difficult to open and won't stack on the shelf". But the stereotyped MBA school of thought cannot emphasize enough the ceremonial need for MR as a precursor to any prudent marketing decision. Though I am notoriously known to be highly opinionated and pugnacious on any subject matter, I would like to tread on the safe mid-way at this juncture and not subscribe to either extreme views. Well, the reason, in the name of MR I got to travel to the exotic North East - a straight out unblemished paradise of India. Though the dual purpose of Swati's and my trip to Arunachal Pradesh was to first-hand document customer pain-points and to conduct the quarterly monitoring and evaluation of schools where our LS have been deployed, the trip turned out in many ways to be an eye-opener, both personally and professionally.

Personally, though I was gushing to drive through the breathtaking and harmonious hills of Arunacahal Pradesh, the routine enduring 10-14 hour drive along the steep hair-pin curves took its toll after couple of days. Treading through aromatic greens of the tea plantation, savoring hot masala chai and boiled eggs at a height of 14000 feet, meditating in the tranquility of Tawang monastery, pleasant moments with the bustling army jawans at the Jaswant Ghar, and of course admiring the adorable tribal women - was certainly enthralling.

On the other hand - overlong wait in Assam border for military escort to go across the insecure Bodo terrorist dominion and the later convoy trip cutting through the dense jungles with burnt vehicles and blown-away bridges along the way, losing our way back from Palezi due to low-visibility and subsequent harassment and humiliating interrogation by a drunk army major and his brotherhood for the apparent reason that I could not prove my identity and purpose of the visit, and hours of helpless entrapment due to car breakdown amidst no-man's land with no connectivity whatsoever - unveiled the clouded wilderness of North-East.

On the professional front, it was a hodgepodge of Good-Bad-Ugly experiences -
The Good

  • At most of the schools, we got to meet all the stakeholders of LS - district education officials, teachers, students and community members
  • Stakeholders were so enthused about the benefits of the LS for themselves that they made written recommendations and requests to government for sanctioning additional LS
  • At one of the schools, the headmaster though had zilch knowledge of PC, had championed the cause and had set clear directions on how to best utilize the system
The Bad

  • Tacit mandate from the government to select a few schools even when they did not fit the LS site selection criteria
  • Seldom utilized LS due to variety of reasons - technical breakdown, power supply shortage, lack of teacher with basic computer literacy and extreme weather conditions
  • No basic troubleshooting guide and technical support contact details with the customer
  • Abysmal HiWEL brand awareness
The Ugly

  • Instances of misuse of LS for pornography content
  • Cases of pirated software installations
  • Services offered by HiWEL - Community mobilization, and Monitoring and Evaluation - were not timely and of much value
Overall, the multi-fold insights from the trip, have so far helped us in making a few marketing decisions,. But as we draw conclusions from the trip, I accede with David Ogilvy who said "I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination".


Raina said...

I couldn't agree MORE with your comment on your yourself "I am highly opinionated and pugnacious" :)

Anonymous said...

I had my experiences with the services we did for some of the slum areas in Mumbai. We (a team of 5 IITian) would regularly go to local schools and "try" to teach some basic computers (got from US for free as some of them were very basic or outdated technology but good enough to teach basic stuff). We even went their houses to call kids for classes.
The bad part came later as a local politician thought we were trying to spoil kids. According to him, the use of computers was for games and movies. We had a hard time and finally we were asked to leave and not to teach anymore there.

I guess, in all these situations, we have a good and a bad part (not sure about the ugly)

Santosh Srinivas said...

Sometimes such nuances are part-n-parcel of the development sector I guess :)

ram said...

it is nice to see such experience being will probably equip me and others who are likely to venture into such areas [for variety of reasons..."outing" being the most likely] .. I currently have no such romantic ambitions, but am involved in a micro finance project in some naxal infested areas in Andhra....

Apart from talking about my own experience and suggesting a few things to keep in mind - which I will share at a future post/comment - I cant but resist sharing a incident which is actually commonplace and a part of our life.

During a recent visit of the state VIP [the CM to be precise], one was appalled to see the basic freedom of the villagers to move around in their own habitat-all in the name of making the area "sterile" for the "distinguished" visitor who was there to appease his vote bank- to inaugurate some mindless scheme which will ensure that the populace will remain the way they are for the 60 last years.

Santosh Srinivas said...

Hey Ram

We'd love to hear your Micro fin experience in the Naxal area.

- santosh

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