In India, the role, stature and importance of marketing research has been growing steadily in the post-liberalization era. Actually, two developments have taken place in this regard: First firms have strengthened their in-house marketing research capability. Second, firms are also increasingly using the services of external market research agencies. More firms take to MR now.
In the earlier days too, some firms, especially the consumer product ones, were using market research to an extent. HUL is a good example. But, in the post-liberalization era, several companies have turned to MR anew and those who were already using it have stepped up their use several fold. Even HUL, which has strong in-house MR facilities and had also been outsourcing MR extensively, has expanded its MR activities now. HULâ€™s in-house facilities now include a 70 strong staff, 25 of them being managers. It has an annual budget of over Rs 30 crore for MR. If HLLâ€™s in-house MR department were an independent market research company, it would be one of Indiaâ€™s largest. As for outsourcing, HLL uses the services of most major agencies. With the sea change in the marketing environment of the country, especially the intensification of competition in practically every sector and every product category, all firms have been compelled to turn to market research. Since the consumer is now calling the tune, firms have become aware that only consumer driven and consumer driving companies can survive and prosper now. Marketing research is the tool available to these firms for finding out what the consumers actually want and how their marketing offers/4 Ps can be fine tuned in line with their needs and expectations.
Demand for MR services keeps growing; availability keeps matching the demand: No wonder then that the demand for marketing research services has been growing fast in the post-liberalization era. With the demand for the services increasing, there has also been a matching spurt in their availability. The period has led to a substantial growth of MR agencies. The agencies that were already established have expanded considerably; several agencies have come up anew; many advertising agencies have started their MR extensions; and many MR professionals have joined the fray with their single-person outfits. MR thus has become industry in the country. It has actually been growing at 30% in the post liberalization years. The world average in this respect during the period has been only 9%.
A few significant features: New product research is now high on the agenda of many MR agencies in India. Modern MR Services like Micro Test, which predicts sales demand for a new product at an early stage, and Simulated Test Marketing (STM) are now offered by them. The industrial product sector is also now turning to MR in a big way. So is the services sector, consisting of businesses like credit cards, insurance and hotels. Company image research another MR specialty is also gaining ground. Firms are now increasingly interested in tracking image perceptions among buyers, suppliers, employees and shareholders. Another significant development is that international research is becoming a part of the activities of many research agencies. Licensing of particular research techniques or brands in other countries is also in. Quite a few research agencies have set up multi-country syndicated services.
Consumer mobility is one major factor that has led to the growth of MR. Indian consumer has a mobility factor geographic, economic, and social and lifestyle mobility of the Indian consumer and its impact on marketing. This process necessitates continuous marketing research and investigations on what is happening to the consumers. Marketing men have realized that as the profile of the consumer is now rapidly changing, they cannot cling to yesterdaysâ€™ findings in formulating their marketing strategies. They have to have updated findings.