Muralidhar Salvateeswaran is a management professional with close to 18 years of experience in the Market Research and MR Off shoring industry spanning Gallup, NFO/TNS, and Kantar Operations. Currently, Managing Director of Millward Brown, South India, he joined Millward Brown in January 2011.
Muralidhar has worked with and consulted leading organizations in India across consumer, telecom, e-com, technology, automotive, and retail sector. He has a wide knowledge and experience in the Brand, Media and Communications research.
BBF: How does it feel to be here in Bangladesh? Share some of your observations.
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: Well, this is my fourth visit to Bangladesh. It’s an amazing experience visiting this country. Every time I come here, I get to know more new things about this country – new ideas, new way of thinking and so forth. Visiting Bangladesh, one can know how differently beautiful some parts of the world are.
BBF: You are one of the renowned multi-faceted management professionals with hands full of experience in Market Research. In your opinion, what are the changes that took place in Market Research over the last decade?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: I have been in this business for almost 19 years now. When I started, research was just about providing data. Clients would say, “Do the research, give me the data and I will decide what I am going to do.” I think what has happened, over the period of time is that the client expectation has changed. They want the research industry to go beyond the data and to tell them what those key decisions are they can take. Thus, the researchers now focus on understanding the clients’ businesses well enough first, then the problems they are having, and finally they come up with sharp actionable recommendations. Providing these sharp actionable recommendations is the major change that took place in the research trend.
Along with that, the technology has shaped the way of collecting data in a new dimension. Gone are the days when we used to take interviews using a paper – we moved on to using mobile, tablets and other tech tools. Previously, delivering the data to the clients was also a hassle with all those large Excel files. Now, we can easily set a portal or dashboards where all the recipients can access the data simultaneously.
BBF: Stereotypes are there that Market Research is only suitable when a new product is being launched. Do you agree with it?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: Not at all! I think it used to be the thinking many years back. See, what are the researches actually for? They are for giving inputs to key decisions makers in the business to take the best decisions. Moreover, marketers face decision making every single day of their lives. So, in every stage of the product life cycle, marketers need to make decisions to reach the next one. Assume you have launched the product but you do not know how your consumers are responding to it, can you survive in the long run?
Even if you are a big brand, your brand can decline anytime; there are numbers of examples of such brands. In that case the first thing you do is a call for research on the reason behind this declination. Therefore, market research is essential for every stage of the product life cycle.
BBF: Do you think the advertising industry should adopt the MR practices too?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: Absolutely! Like I said, you make fundamental researches for taking decisions. And everyone who is involved in branding, whether it’s an advertising agency or a media agency, is working together for a common purpose of helping the brand grow. Since, advertising agencies are more into producing the creatives, they need to know how the creatives are being received by the consumers. To further optimize and improve the quality of the creatives in order to make the brand more sustaining, advertisers need to probe the consumer behavior through market research. So it’s absolutely essential for the advertisers.
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: For all the researchers, a new product or a trend is always exciting. You get to learn a number of new things about the consumers. Finding out the exact answers of questions for a new product is a challenge; often we do not get enough pool of consumers. Thus, the research starts with searching for potential consumers and it requires effort more than we give to a usual research.
Personally for me, the biggest motivation is to see the research in action. I get a lot of joy when I see my research findings being taken to the step of very clear recommendations and seeing the recommendations getting implemented. I love working with clients who take research seriously and use it for decision making.
BBF: In your opinion, what is the role of creative communication in advertising?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: The creative is a vehicle for communicating what I want to say about my brand. It is the creative that actually helps in getting the consumer attention. If I say I provide the best burgers in the town, nobody is going to pay attention. In my ad, if I put an attractive photo of the burger I make, it will immediately grab attentions. Well, these are very known factors in today’s marketing practices.
So ultimately, the key role of creative is to create the consumer engagement which is again the prime facet of advertisement. If you have a great creative, you can spend a bit less and still get a greater impact. The quality of the creative itself will have a longer shelf life. So, creating a super engaging creative, you can make your communication more effective.
BBF: Your topic for the Communication Summit 2015 highlights the importance of marketing communication in building strong brands in Bangladesh. Share few words on how Millward Brown in Bangladesh is using Marketing Communication to build strong brands?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: Millward Brown is fairly young in Bangladesh, starting its operation here in 2013. The first thing that we did here is that we created our own purpose defined as making products in Bangladesh as brands. Our focus is to help the local brands as well as the MNCs. There are numbers of local brands which have huge potentials to shine globally. Our intention is to help the clients to get a better understanding about what the consumers are thinking, what are the opportunities they can utilize and so forth. We also help the clients in initiating better communication methods.
Still we are taking baby steps, but I think we are fairly successful in what we are doing. There is a long way ahead and we aim to be established as the ‘Go to’ agency for brands in Bangladesh.
BBF: Commward recognizes the best creative communication campaigns run in the Bangladesh. How imperative do you think initiatives like Commward are, to inspire brands?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: Initiatives that recognize the quality of work are always imperative for any industry. There is no better motivation than the one which recognizes your hard works and celebrate. Initiative like Commward always inspires the agencies to do better and better. It also helps the industry people in getting to know what is being done and also lets them learn from the good works.
BBF: What would be your suggestions for the young marketers of Bangladesh?
Muralidhar Salvateeswaran: Spend a lot of time understanding the consumers. Do not just stick with the books – get outside and do some research for your own. Research is the best thing you can do to know about your consumers’ expectations and perceptions. Enrich yourself with a strong observation power – do know what is happening in the market and have your own analysis for that. Ability to look around and know how the culture is changing, people are behaving and the society is evolving, is the key to be a successful marketer.
Try to make your brand more relevant in the context of the consumers. This is what many of the good global brands do; they have a common theme around the brand but they contextualize the brand to the culture, society, consumers and the marketplace.
Interviewed & Compiled by