Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Boom in Market Research.

From around 10 people in the first few years to 200 people in two centres at Mumbai and Bangalore, Cross-Tab has come a long way to carve a niche for itself as a market research outsourcing provider.

During its seven-year-old history, Cross-Tab had enough brushes with fate to turn into a failed dotcom venture or a small outfit operating from one of the bylanes in Mumbai. But, Cross-Tab successfully negotiated both these challenges to scale up and re-invent itself as a market research outsourcing (MRO) provider. Today, the firm founded by three entrepreneurs — Kedar Sohoni, Ruchika Gupta and Praveen Gupta — operates from one of the spiffy new buildings which have sprung overnight in Malad, the BPO hot spot of the city.

“The entry barriers in this business are not high. But to grow and scale up — that is a high barrier,” says Mr Sohoni, about the firm’s journey from a start-up that wanted to leverage the internet for market research to a domestic market research agency to its current avatar as one of the leading third party MRO players in the country.

From around 10 people in the first few years to 200 people in two centres at Mumbai and Bangalore, the company has come a long way.

Not only have the entrepreneurs made this business transformation, but they have also worked with two sets of investors in the process. The initial investor, ICICI Venture, sold its stake to the Mittal group in 2003 and the new investment in some ways also catalysed the growth of the company in terms of getting another board-level person who could provide strategic inputs to the firm. Kedar, Ruchika and Praveen were IIM and BITS, Pilani graduates with experience in marketing and research, while Ashwin Mittal, who joined the board as one of directors representing the Mittal group, was a former strategy consultant from Cap Gemini in the US.

“The turning point for the company came in 2002-03. Till then, the firm was into market research for domestic firms,” says Ashwin, who after a year of being with the company as an investor was inspired enough to join it full time in 2004. The story goes like this: One day, when Cross-Tab was making a presentation to one of its clients, a senior executive in the audience from the client’s multinational parent was so impressed that he asked Cross-Tab to also work for them.

Around the same time, the company also became a member of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research and started getting a lot of enquiries for doing outsourced market research. The bulk of the work in outsourced market research involves processing information obtained from market research surveys, analysing it and generating reports. Conservatively, the opportunity in this space is estimated to be a quarter or $5 billion of the $25-billion global market research pie. Cross-Tab has already successfully made this transition.

It has also gone a step ahead in doing end-to-end work for corporates that comprises the full spectrum, from designing the survey and managing it to processing the end-results. “For global surveys, we also have tie-ups with partners in other countries,” explains Ashwin.

The challenges it now faces are those that come with scaling the business up to the next level — creating process and systems and also positioning itself in the global market for high-margin business opportunities. At this stage, the company does not have many of the resources that a larger organisation would have — such as a CFO or a human resources head. It also does not have a sales team, which is important if wants to address the corporate market directly. Its board also currently consists only the founders and three directors from the Mittal group.

Some of the initial steps in this direction are just being taken. A few months ago, the company recruited a global CEO with about 13 years of experience from no less a company than Microsoft. It also appointed Simon Chadwick, former CEO of market research company NOP World and who has worked extensively with the WPP Group, as a strategic advisor.

It now plans to set up a global advisory board that will guide the firm, and also give it contacts and credibility. But the journey ahead will not be simple. For one, the firm will have to compete with other MRO players in India (all the top players are estimated to be growing at about 80% annually) as well as global market research agencies, in some cases. Also, a few leading global market research firms have set up captives in the country enabling to compete on price points with Indian players.

But the untapped market opportunity is huge and growing. And Cross-Tab’s entrepreneurs have shown the stomach to emerge successful from tough situations, and the ambition to thing big when the opportunity presents itself.

Ashwin Mittal (L) & Kedar Sohoni Directors, Cross-Tab

About Cross Tab: An Overview

Cross-Tab provides offshore outsourcing and paneling services in the market research & analytics domain to global clients in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. They are also a full service market research agency in India, specializing in online research.

Cross-Tab's offshore outsourcing services for market research and data analytics processes help clients to reduce costs, improve productivity and gain access to the latest tools and technologies. This is done with short turnaround time, high quality and accurate service delivery from their service centers in India.

Cross-Tab is an online survey company having proprietary B2C and B2B online panels in India. Global online research companies and corporates are using Cross-Tab’s panels to reach online target respondents in India. Cross-Tab is presently developing online panels in other Asia Pacific countries to provide global online research companies with a better reach to the online population in the region.

Cross-Tab pioneered online market research in India, and is a leading online survey company in the country. Cross-Tab’s full service market research solutions are empowering clients, with the ability to make better decisions with speed, efficiency and cost effectiveness. Cross-Tab's research products and services enable clients to improve marketing strategies, develop competitive intelligence, increase customer retention and find out for themselves, what respondents have to say.

Cross-Tab integrates multiple research methodologies, so businesses have a bird's-eye-view of the complete customer experience. Cross-Tab is today working closely with many leading businesses and agencies across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

Their name Cross-Tab is derived from the term ‘CROSS-TABulation', an oft-used market research tool that examines responses to one question, relative to responses to one or more other questions.

Professional Memberships & Affiliations

Cross-Tab is a member of key industry bodies and adheres to their standard code(s) of conduct. We are members of:

ESOMAR (European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research)
CASRO (The Council of American Survey Research Organizations)
AMA (American Marketing Association)
MRSI (Market Research Society of India)

Philosophy and Vision

Their vision is to provide our clients with market research, data collection and data analysis solutions through an open and transparent relationship, aimed at achieving common goals and establishing long-lasting co-operations.

Cross-Tab's strategy is to understand the needs of the client and help them identify the best solutions, in the perspective of an optimal cost-benefit ratio. Towards this, we offer a high technology infrastructure with cutting edge tools, strategic inputs and resources that can help you redefine and reposition yourself and make bold growth in a competitive environment.

Article Resources:
N Shivapriya is the cheif editor in the Economic Times, Mumbai and the article appeared in one of their successful columns called "Starship Enterprise.

No comments: