Srinivasan Raman, Market Researcher – The confusions of a young mind and career overview of a Market Researcher.

Srinivasan Raman is Vice President of Quest, a division of ORG-MARG Research Ltd

Were you always very clear about what you wanted to be?
No not at all. In fact after completing my graduation in chemistry, I spent close to a year trying to find out where I wanted to go. I was sure that that I did not want to pursue a postgraduate degree in Chemistry nor did I want to take a up a job immediately. So after talking to numerous people and finding out about all possible courses, I decided to pursue the Master's programme in Social Welfare (MSW) at Nirmala Niketan's Institute of Social Science.

So you decided to become a social worker then?
The institution and course were reputed and I felt that the curriculum would give me exposure to human behaviour at a micro as well as at a macro level and contribute to the overall development of my personality. So the decision to opt for this course was taken purely on the course contents rather than with an eye on any future profession.

Can you tell us about your early professional years?
After completing my MSW, I joined an organisation called SPARC, which was involved in the research evaluation and training of NGOs and worked there for around two years. Here I took an interest in the areas of occupational health and environmental health. I co authored several publications on these issues as well as going to industry and educating workers about these problems and mobilising them to secure solutions.

I got an opportunity to interact with all sorts of people and agencies both  governmental and non-governmental agencies. I learnt to talk to different people in different language and tones.

I then went back to my Alma Mata, The Institute of Social Science, Nirmala Niketan where I set up the forum for environmental concerns. I worked there for around one and a half years before joining Quest a division of ORG-MARG.

Did your background in social service help in your job at ORG-MARG?
Oh yes. In fact I was one of the few early risers as I was quick to adapt to the needs of the organisation. But the first year was especially trying for me, as I had to pull myself out of my social mindset and look at the projects in a commercial sense. I remember when I completed my first costing I was told," Are you running a charity?"

Tell us about your career growth at ORG-MARG
I joined in as a research executive. Although I did not have any formal management degree, I possessed good communication skills, which came naturally to me. I steadily grew on from senior research executive to associate research director and research director. After this I became increasingly responsible for the business in Mumbai.

Currently as Vice President, I also have to look after our future plans and strategies and putting relevant systems in place. Most of my time is spent interacting with my team, the various group heads and the researchers as well. I also have to look into any problems that may have crept up in projects and devising their solutions.

I also interact a lot with my clients as well as try to get new clients. Often I end up spending long hours making business proposals for them.

What are the challenges that you face?
The nature of the job is such that you are working on projects that differ from industry to industry and from company to company in each industry. The competition is tough and one has to constantly update and innovate the research process. There is also some amount of cynicism associated with the concept of market research. Getting industry to appreciate it remains one of our foremost challenges.

What are the qualities required to be a good market researcher?
The two major skills that a market research company looks for are a slightly formal training in management or marketing and good communication and people skills. Besides these, you need to be well versed in the various research techniques and methodologies and be proficient enough to decide which one suits the project on hand the best. A good understanding of the industry and the way in which it behaves will go a long way in making you an expert in that particular field.

What are the recruitment and training procedures adopted by Market research agencies?
Trainee executives are usually picked up from business schools using an aptitude test comprising of mathematical, logical and statistical reasoning. Exceptional students from institutes like TISS (Tata Institute of Social Science) and graduates in mathematics and Statistics from top colleges are also taken in.

All trainees are put through a training programme of around four to six months where in they work in all departments like research, analysis, data collection etc. They also assist in current projects handled by the organisation. After this you join in as a research executive and grow into your specialty as time goes by.

What other fields can a market researcher branch into?
Two main areas that a market researcher can branch into are Advertising and Brand Management. Being involved in so many research projects helps a potential brand manager or advertiser target his audience better.

One of the up coming areas of market research itself is the domain of Adverting research. This involves studying the advertising campaigns of brands, analysing it an suggesting changes if needed.

What is the biggest misconceptions about the field of market research?
Most organisations feel that market research will provide solutions to their entire problem. That is simply not the case. Market research reduces risks, it does not eliminate them.

What is the best part about this job?
This job requires you to tax your brain. It is the cerebral nature of this job that appeals to me the most

Anything you do not particularly like?
Sometimes the workload becomes too much for you both mentally and physically. But one has to fight it out to come on tops.

What is your advice to youngsters in this field?
Keep exploring the different areas of work in the field of market research. Give yourself adequate time before making up your mind. Do not expect things to happen over night.

How do you relax in your free time?
I am a very social person and any free time I get I spend out with friends and family. My taste in music is a bit odd as I love both soft hindi tunes as well as hard rock!