NEWS31 March 2010

Chile back in business despite quake disruption – Philpott

Latin America

CHILE— Research projects faced widespread disruption in Chile in the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred on 27 February, but work is now resuming, reports Synovate CEO Robert Philpott.

Research caught up with Philpott for an interview yesterday, during which he revealed that he had recently paid a visit to Chile to assess the situation on the ground and host a barbecue for staff.

In the hours after the quake, Synovate tweeted that its employees and their families were safe, despite the widespread destruction. One of two offices the company maintains in Santiago suffered structural damage, but Philpott says it has been declared safe for use. The other office was unscathed.

Understandably, in the days and weeks following the quake research projects were put on hold. Fieldwork proved difficult if not impossible in the most affected areas as people concerned themselves with the long process of reconstruction.

The exception, says Philpott, was government and social sector studies, particularly those focused on the impact of the quake, which saw an increase in participation as people looked to explain their predicament and to share their views of what was needed to help with the recovery.

In Santiago, where Philpott says some 50 to 60% of all fieldwork takes place, commercial interviewing work has only just resumed – but there is still a need, he says, to ensure that questionnaires “are short enough to make sure we are not intruding”.

As a result of the earthquake, Philpott says expectations of growth have been dialled back from 6% to 4% – still better than expectations in many other markets that are suffering the aftershocks of recession.

Meanwhile, Chile has its own geological aftershocks to contend with. Philpott reports experiencing two such tremors during the course of his stay.