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Growing the local market for research

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IndoChina Research General Manager Laurent Notin talks to the Post about the perceptions of market research in Cambodia and the growth potential in the sector

Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON

IndoChina Research General Manager Laurent Notin aims to educate the local business community about market research.

What is market research?

The aim of market research is to help organisations collect information so they can make informed decisions and reduce risks. If I want to launch a product, I want to know if it is going to work. If it is not going to work, then I have only spent money on market research; I have not entered the market and wasted money launching a failed product.

How much market research is done in Cambodia?

The market can be split into commercial clients and non-commercial clients like NGOs, which we call social research. For commercial clients the market is quite limited because there are only a limited number of players who know what market research is and what the benefits are. But it can only grow in the future.

Who are your major clients?

Our clients right now are international companies based locally in telecommunications, in FMCGs [fast-moving consumer goods], in banking, for example. International organisations and UN agencies - social research - represents about 30 percent of our revenue.

They know what market research is, but the future for us is local businesses, for which marketing in general and particularly market research is very new. They don't understand the benefits of market research. They see it as a cost rather than an investment or they say, "I know everything about the market already, I don't need market research".

The future for us is local businesses, for which ... market research is very new.

How do you change that?

It's very challenging because Cambodia is in the early stages of marketing, with market research being a component of that. The comprehension and the knowledge of market research is very low so we need to find ways to educate local companies so they know what they can gain by using market research, and so they understand what they should be trying to do with market research. We are not trying to just sell market research for the sake of it; we want to make sure that our clients understand why they need it and what it is about.

What is your market share?

We do have competitors, but it's hard to give you an accurate answer to that question because we don't talk to each other and there is no publicly available information on the sector. We know we are the biggest, but how much of the total market research we contribute to, I don't know.

That lack of publicly available information is pretty common in Cambodia. Is that a help or a hindrance for your company?

For any investor that wants to come here it's a big problem. When you are an investor, you want to know the basic information like who are the main players, what is the size of the market. This information is widely available in other countries but not here.

That information could come from us, but there are things that we don't do, economic feasibility studies for example. We are very much focused on the consumers or the size of the market. We have tools to evaluate potential volume of products, but we want to make sure that our estimates are right, and it would be very good if we could have access to information collected by local authorities to use that as a proxy. That is where we have the most difficulties.

In terms of staff, what are the major skills issues you face?

The first is that there is a lack of knowledge about market research and what it involves. But that can easily be solved.

On the operational side there are not many issues. All our operational people used to be part-time interviewers, so have acquired experience in the field. Most of them have been promoted to full time and are climbing the career ladder.

The biggest challenge is on the client service side in terms of analytical skills. Market research is not only about collecting information; it is also about interpreting the data and answering the questions posed by the client. To do that you need to have analytical skills and critical thinking; this is where we face the biggest difficulties because the educational system does not promote critical thinking. You need to be able to take a step back, look at the big picture of all the data and determine what story the data is telling me. We have to do a lot of internal auditing with our staff. It is challenging, but our client service staff love learning.

Do you have expansion plans?

We are always trying to expand. As a company, the purpose is to grow. This year is going to be a bit tough maybe, but we have lots of plans for the future.

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