Interview with Didier Truchot, Chairman & CEO, Ipsos.
MARYLOU ANDREW: Why has Ipsos come to Pakistan now?
DIDIER TRUCHOT: Ipsos is a French company, we started internationally nearly 20 years ago and from this base we expanded to most of the Middle Eastern countries. Many clients are now looking at the market in Pakistan as one of the areas where they will expand activities in the future, so they need to get some information on the market and the Pakistani consumer. However, when you want to establish yourself in a new country, you have to find the right partner. We connected with Babar [Sattar] and his team about 18 months ago.
So because our clients were in some ways insisting on having us in Pakistan and we also found the right partner, we thought it was time to move.
MLA: As demand for market research is increasing, a number of foreign market research firms are coming to Pakistan. In this increasingly competitive environment, what does Ipsos bring to the table?
DT: Ipsos is the third largest market research firm in the world so we are used to competing with global and local competitors and when I look at the differences between us and other companies, there are several things I would like to mention. One, Ipsos is the only large research company which is still owned and managed by research professionals. I am a researcher and started my career in 1968. Most of the Ipsos leadership teams are also research professionals so our approach to our clients is driven by that outlook. Secondly, we decided a long time ago that we would not organise ourselves vertically by sectors; rather by practice or specialisation. This means when you are working with Ipsos, you will work with a team that has strong expertise in the area of research you want to do. For example, if you want to launch a new product, you will be working with a local team which is connected to a global team which has lots of ideas and expertise in new product launches.
#### “The challenge for the market research industry is to maintain our position as the main provider of consumer information”
MLA: How are global attitudes towards market research changing and evolving?
DT: Twenty years ago anyone who could have predicted what would happen in 2012 would have said that the world would be dominated by global companies, such as Unilever, etc. In fact, what has happened, especially in the last five years, is quite different. For our Western-based clients, it has become increasingly difficult to keep their business and market share in their own market, so they have no other choice but to move to new markets and in many cases, these new markets represent the future of these companies. New markets are good in that there are more people to buy products, more people are watching TV, the organisation of the trade is better, etc. At the same time every global company is doing the same thing and then there are local companies competing with the multinationals. In many cases the local companies are more successful because their cost structure is lower so they can price their products lower, they know the local market better and in some ways they are ‘playing at home’ to use a sports analogy. Therefore many of our clients are working outside their comfort zone. The world is changing not only because there is a new balancing centre of prosperity from West to East and from North to South but also because our clients are facing consumers who are more educated, less naïve and in many cases can speak to their counterparts via social media. When you have to engage educated young people, it is not exactly the same as engaging people with a lower level of education. Therefore for brands and companies, there is a switch in how they have to communicate, advertise, sell, etc., and because of this you have to question whether you can continue working the way you did 10 years ago or whether you have to change. There are lots of new questions and although many are being addressed to market research providers, they are also being addressed to media agencies, advertising agencies, even to Google. The challenge for the market research industry is to maintain our position as the main provider of consumer information and insights and not to be overwhelmed by newcomers.
MLA: Have market research companies been able to rise to that challenge?
DT: We are working on it and we will do it as an industry. Why? Because we are neutral and we have nothing to sell to our clients but information. Secondly, because this industry, which was very fragmented, has been able to see the development of large and influential companies like Ipsos, Kantar, Nielsen etc. Thirdly, we know what numbers and information are all about. I like ad agencies very much but their approach is very different from market research companies. We are all about information, whereas the ad agency is thinking about the client’s business, how to sell their next creative campaign, their media plan, etc. Market research has a competitive advantage against many industries but it is up to us not to just say that we are the most relevant supplier of information but to prove it. To do so we have to change the old, very historical paradigm of the research industry which is to produce info, analyse it and deliver it to the client. This approach divides the picture into pieces and then we speak to our clients about each of these pieces, which is a comfortable position. But if we want to deliver a new level of services, we need to get a broader picture of what is going on; we need to connect the information and look at what is going on outside what we already know. We believe that our clients want us to deliver information that is accurate, relevant to their business and easy to understand.
MLA: Is it difficult to attract skilled people to market research?
DT: In Pakistan, like in some other markets that has been a problem just because, for some historical reason, the prices are too low. As a client you get what you buy. This is not the case everywhere in the world but certainly in India and Pakistan, this is an issue.
We need to work with our clients here and tell them that they don’t need to go to Dubai to get a good piece of research. We will do it; Ipsos is not willing to be cheap but we also won’t be atrociously expensive.
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