MR agencies in India and their activity

Currently, the size of India’s Market Research (MR) industry is of the order of Rs. 200 crore. Though a multitude of players are in fray, only a handful of them are large scale operators.

The MR industry in India is generally rated as superior on skills and low on prices when compared to its counterparts in South and South East Asia.

Multinationals (MNC) become the major force:

In recent years, with the growth in the MR industry in the country, and the liberalization of the economy, MNC MR outfits like AC Nielsen, MBL (now owned by NFO) and Sofres have entered the Indian MR industry. On the ownership side, MNCs like WPP and VNU have become major forces in the MR industry in the country. Nearly all the larger Indian market research companies are now MNC-owned.

The Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) is now a member of the WPP Group, as the latter owns Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA) which owns IMRB. WPP is an international firm offering advertising and marketing research services throughout the world. WPP is now pumping in Rs.57.6 crore to pick up an additional 14% stake in HTA. With this, its stake in HTA will go up from 60% to 74%. As for Operations Research Group (ORG) and MARG (Marketing and Research Group), the $2.7 billion Dutch publishing/ media/ information conglomerate VNU has recently invested Rs 26 crore in it and acquired a 26% stake. US based global market research leader AC Nielsen made its presence in India through a 70:30 JV with MRAS Burke. The JV was known as Nielsen-MRAS. Subsequently, in 1977 it took full control of the JV. And, Nielsen –MRAS became AC Nielsen India. AC Nielsen is a part of Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, the world’s largest provider of business information and related services.

VNU has since acquired AC Nielsen as well. It is possible that with ORG – MARG and AC Nielsen India coming into a single fold, ORG-MARG may become part of AC Nielsen’s Asia-Pacific network.

Let us see some details regarding the larger players,

ORG-MARG came into being with the merger of ORG and MARG, two leading MR agencies of India. Operations Research Group (ORG) belonged to the Vikram Sarabhai Group and was established in 1960, with headquarters at Vadodara. ORG’s main job was, as its name indicates, operations research of various kinds. ORG had a large field set-up supported by full-time investigators, practically in all states. It had its zonal offices in major metros of India. It used to evaluate, monitor and analyze consumer, trade, community and organizational-level behavior and practices. Retail-store audit, readership studies, social and economic evaluation, media trends and new products launch were its strong areas. Range of services offered included demand forecast, distribution planning, sales analysis, project management, production optimization, test marketing, promotion and advertising consumer buying habits and organizational studies. It was ORG which started retail audit surveys and measurement of consumer off take in India. The advertisement audit, continuous monitoring of advertisings released through press and TV was another syndicated MR services offered by ORG. It provided advertising information that was useful to both advertisers and agencies. Reports were published monthly on a product category giving estimates of expenditure and exposure achieved by each of the brands advertised. ORG also conducted the first National Readership Survey (NRS 1).

Marketing and Research Group (MARG) was a Mumbai based marketing research agency with clients all over India. It offered customized and syndicate marketing research services. MARG had two specialized divisions, Media Search, devoted to media studies and media planning efforts, and Quest, devoted to qualitative research. MARG was one of the earliest among the MR agencies in India to conduct a major study on the advertising agencies in the country. MARG also had a separate division called Start-edge which undertook assignments to advise companies on business strategy. MARG merged with ORG with the strategic aim of building a large, efficient, national MR entity. Today, ORG-MARG is India’s largest market.

ORG-MARG has also acquired Indian Research & Information Services (IRIS), a telecom related Market Research Company by picking up 100% stake in it. Tracking services in the telecom sector is the main job of this outfit. Philips and Hutchison Max are its major clients.


The Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) is the second largest among the market research agencies operating in India. Promoted by Hindustan Thompson Associates (HTA) the country’s largest advertising agency with more than Rs. 1,500 crore billings and established in 1971, IMRB is now a member of the WPP Group. IMRB is a full-fledged professionally equipped, nationwide marketing research agency, providing a wide variety of market research services. With its association with the WPP Group, IMRB now has access to international research experience and research technology.