In India agriculture employs 80% of rural women. Priyanka Mallick a bio technologist and an expert in the market research domain, with special emphasis on agriculture speaks to Ramdas Shenoy on the changing research landscape, role as an independent director of listed organization and insights to aspiring research professionals.
What made you move from being a biotechnologist to a market research domain?
I would say my move from the field of biotechnology to MR was more of a coincidence. I used to live in the UK and somehow got a bit homesick and returned back to Mumbai. I was exploring other options including advertising, but then, I guess MR was in my genes. My late father was a veteran in this sector and thus I did see a lot of proposals, client pitches, presentations throughout my childhood and when I was growing up. It was he who inducted me into MR and specially in the very niche sector of Agriculture Market Research. My first few years of work was very hands on and learning everything from scratch. I spent a lot of time with consumers in field (this included traveling the width and breadth of rural India) including very close interactions with the operations team. This gave me a very strong grounding early on and it is something I value very much and always tell young graduates.
How has the market research landscape changed in India? What is the future of market research?
I believe the core essence of market research has remained the same for years. We understand the client needs, speak to consumers and generate insights that clients can use for creating strategies/ branding/improving their sales/ reach etc.
However, what has changed is the way MR is done now. In the last few years since digitalization – a lot of MR has become self-filling questionnaires or what we call online panels. These are panels of consumers who can be recruited by the client and canvassed a questionnaire. In this case the consumer fills up and answers the questionnaire themselves. There are some limitations, but none the less, it is quite a cost effective method for during simple but large scale surveys. This is infact the most common method of doing quantitative research now in the world and there are several great panel companies helping MR firms to recruit respondents.
Post-Covid, there has been significant rise in the way qualitative research is carried out. Today consumers like doctors, IT professionals, housewives and even farmers can be recruited and then met online for in-depth discussions. Client sitting in various countries can participate in such research by using interpreters.
Research has become faster with computer aided technology and more quality driven as GPS tagging and many inbuilt features in survey has it quality control better and easier
Since Q&Q specializes in rural research and serves the agriculture sector in the APAC region, what we see is a significant increase in utilization of market research across all kinds of decision making. Earlier it was a few large MNC’s who did the usual brand tracks and utilized the data, but today small domestic companies and even agri tech startups are using MR to understand their consumers better. An industry that was largely driven by ‘gut feeling’ is now relying on numbers and insights.
In terms of methodology, top agriculture brands are now relying on conjoint based price methods to derive a value pricing for their brand launches or even brand price corrections.
This has all happened in the last 5-10 years, and I say the future of MR looks better than ever before.
You are an independent director at Shree Renuka Sugars. How has the role of independent directors been seen in today’s corporate world– indian context?
The role of independent directors has been evolving and has now become significant in overall corporate governance. This is especially important for the boards of companies involving public interest. Interestingly promoters are opting to enrich their board by appointing independent directors of diverse backgrounds. I feel this a great step for us and creates an inclusive approach to governance by taking into consideration the interests of employees, customers, stakeholders and shareholders. This is important for the long-term success of companies and making sure they are adhering to the norms, guidelines and following best practices. Today, I feel our role is becoming more important than ever, it does include asking hard questions, challenging the managements assumptions and if required providing constructive dissent that helps in better decision making. Diverse and effective boards are the corner stone to the long-term success of a business.
What is your vision for Q & Q Research Insights?
We aim to be the best market research provider in the agriculture input and technology sector; our work helps us to bring the voice of the farming community at the forefront of agriculture development. We want to be a company that is vouched for by clients and loved by employees. Being in the client servicing sector, we believe its our people who drive growth and are ultimately responsible for creating customer delight. At the core of our ethos, we are bunch of people who are having way too much fun, while doing some meaningful work.
Who are your idols in life?
I don’t think, I have ever had idols (well maybe, when I was younger. It seemed more like peer pressure to have an idol you can speak about). Today I don’t have an idol because that creates limitation on how much I can achieve. But I’m inspired. I’m inspired by everything and everyone around me!. I am inspired by the lady who comes to my office everyday leaving a 6-month baby at home, because she is adamant on having a great career and is not giving up on her dreams. I’m inspired by my friends who are great women entrepreneurs and doing some mind-blowing work in different sectors from fashion to heath tech to working on respiratory diseases to space designing.
I think today we don’t relate much to celebrities or public figures as much as we relate to ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We have such great role models all around us.
What would be your advice to young professionals who want to pursue a career in the market research domain? How is market research in the agricultural sector different?
By 2025, Indian economy will be 5 trillion dollars, which was 3.05 trillion dollars (236.65 Lakh Crores) in 2021-22. We will be the 5th biggest economy in the world. The Govt. has introduced structural reforms like Production Linked Incentives (PLI) schemes to reach this target. In reference to GVA (Gross Value Added), the service sector is the biggest part of the economy and Agriculture is 2nd second in this sector. Considering 20% of contribution from Agriculture by 2025, the value of the sector will reach up to 50.9 Lakh crores. Thus higher the stake, higher the need for data, consumer behavior and insights. Market Research will become the need of the hour. We will see the growth of data based decision making. The government and various input companies will need to harness farmer data to run schemes, provide services and products to them. This, in addition to growing digitalization in rural India will make it imperative to understand the changing consumer behaviour. My advice to young professionals especially those who are pursuing agri-business degrees is to seriously consider this sector as a strong career option. Q&Q has been meeting young graduates in India’s premier institutes and conducting series of lectures on how MR is a viable and a rewarding career option. It gives you the flexibility to work across categories/ brands/ sectors and the best part is that is there is never a dull day.
Agriculture MR is no different than regular MR. The only difference is that our respondents are in rural areas. We follow the same techniques/ data modelling/ predictive analysis etc. that is used in regular market research. It is only a different category. The consumer always remains the consumer.