FEATURE18 March 2011

‘Many people have a slightly out of date view of Asian research culture’

Features People

Claire Parham is relocating from the UK to lead insight consultancy Truth’s new Singapore operation. But before packing her bags, she agreed to spend some time in our Spotlight.

Parham talks growth, cultural differences, inter-agency collaboration ? and why variety in projects makes for a better researcher.

It’s a good time to be relocating to Asia. The industry there has managed to keep growing despite a slowdown in many other parts of the world – why is this?
Research is always a good barometer of wider economic trends and currently Asian markets are thriving while so-called developed markets struggle. The different economic structures across the regions are a key cause. Service-based economies in the west have fared worse, while Asian manufacturing is going from strength to strength. This is due to both increased quality driving export revenues and internal demand among the growing middle classes – which is a key reason our clients are so interested in the region. It should be noted, though, that Asia is not a homogeneous region and, even before recent events, Japan has unique economic issues and the impact of the disaster, both locally and beyond, remains to be seen.

Does an expat researcher face any cultural differences that need to be overcome to be successful?
To some extent, there is a different research culture. Particularly for those from a qual background, Asian clients’ desire for concision and clarity can be a shock. Crunched timelines provide further challenges, but that’s a real opportunity for agencies that can integrate a range of methodologies and provide practical solutions. I think relationships between international and local agencies were worse in the past, when the international fieldwork model was all about quality control and the imposition of the sample, methodology and so on. Now we work together to design the best approach. There’s obviously an overlap in terms of projects and roles, but there are also a lot of projects we don’t compete for. Like any good relationship, successful collaboration comes down to honesty, maturity and the shared goals of the best outcome for our clients.

Do Asian markets differ from other markets in the methodologies they employ?
I think many people have a slightly out-of-date view of Asian research culture. Many clients I’ve worked with are very open to innovative methodologies. Where things do differ is when you have very different targets within one market, so you end up with a methodology that combines online groups with urban professionals with phone interviews or door-to-door interviews in rural areas.

What about focus groups?
The focus group has endured as it has many strengths, from being a forum to generate ideas or understand emerging attitudes, to being a pragmatic solution offering value for money and a sense of theatre for client teams to engage with. However, there are disadvantages, and particularly in some Asian markets it’s valid to question the effectiveness of asking direct questions of individuals in a group setting.

Tell us three things you’ll miss about London life when you make the move to Singapore.
My friends and family for obvious reasons, and working in a big office is always good when you’re stuck for inspiration. More generally, I’ll miss the variety London has to offer ? there’s always something new to do and the endless potential to be surprised and inspired.

Your research work has covered a lot of sectors, ranging from alcohol to luxury goods. What’s been your personal favourite?
I tend to think that if you stay agencyside it’s because you don’t have an overwhelmingly favourite category and really enjoy the variety. I really believe variety makes you a better researcher as you never work under the delusion that you know the outcome. You’re always curious and can bring your knowledge of wider trends to bear.

1 Comment

13 years ago

Hi Claire, welcome to Singapore. Hope hat you will find it interesting as well as exciting as the Asian MR market is quite different than that of Europe.

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