IRS will see a technology leap: Prashant Singh, MD-Media, Nielsen India

30 Aug,2012


By Johnson Napier


Nine months since RSCI began the process for shortlisting the most bankable partner, it was jubilation time for the team at The Nielsen Company in India, having won the coveted contract of research work for the Indian Readership Survey. The victory is sweeter following as it does the controversies of the past few weeks.

While the industry is still taking in the news of the appointment, for Nielsen India it is a chance to prove its authority in the print measurement space. And what better metric than IRS. The company plans to centre its focus on newer mediums – with increased dependence on technology – that will help ease data collection and analysis and more importantly bring about consistency in the readership numbers.


MxMIndia interacted with Prashant Singh, Managing Director – Media, Nielsen India to gather his views on being appointed the new partner by RSCI for IRS. Though it is still early days, Mr Singh dwells on what the future will look like for readership studies in India and how they are geared for the big challenge that’s being watched closely by all concerned. He even had some words of comfort regarding the controversy that it is currently embroiled in thanks to its joint ownership of TAM Media but he assures that it won’t have any impact on how they continue to do business going forward. Excerpts:


Q: This isn’t the first time the Nielsen Company has done a readership survey in India, though it is after a gap. How have things changed since then (other than the size of the population and hence sample size)?

Things have changed within the market research industry itself. With the advent of technology there is so much that is available to us to tap into. Today, the scenario is such that any market research can be elevated to a level where one can get a much better read of the market without going through the peeves that are associated with it. For example, Nielsen is actively deploying Computer Aided Personal Interviews (CAPI) instead of the regular pen-and-paper format that was practised for market research. What that does is that while there is an interviewer who goes and interviews the person instead of using pen and paper, the person uses a computer/tablet/palm-device to capture responses. As I said, the entire market research industry has gone through a significant change in the past 5-6 years. With MRUC, we hope to bring significant technological upgrade even on the IRS.


Q: What is it that you think won you the bid (we know it didn’t go to the lowest quote, because yours was higher)?

I have no idea. This is something that you should ask MRUC. We are just happy that we bagged this prestigious project.


Q: Do tell us what you are going to be doing from now to when your part of the study will start? When does work start for you?

The MRUC and Nielsen teams will sit down and discuss what the plan will look like going forward. The first step for us is to sign the contract and start with those proceedings. Probably MRUC is the right body to talk about future plans, which we will do sometime in the near future.


Q: For the benefit of the industry, what are a few of the salient differences between the IRS we see now and the IRS that we will see when you’ll be there?

Multiple innovations in technology features are being brought in. Some of them would be visible to the users while some will be visible to MRUC. But at this point it is not fair for me to talk about the specifics of the proposals. There will be more clarity on what are the things that are coming to the fore in the near future.


Q: Do you see any challenges cropping up with Nielsen planning to lay increased emphasis on technology?

Where market research is concerned, with technology we’ve been fairly confident that there are benefits and not challenges. In fact there are challenges in doing market research in India whether it is about how you show inputs to respondents or about how you make sure that the right interviews are happening at the right time and place…and technology actually enables us to do a better job at it. In the last 3-4 years, we have taken multiple steps to embrace technology wherever we can right from data collection to data reporting, etc. So we see technology as an enabler and not a challenge.


Q: One of the problems that any such vendor contract arrangement is about what do you do when the contract is not renewed? For instance, even after 8 years of working on, Hansa (and Ipsos) lost the contract to Nielsen?

We do a good job and keep our clients happy; there is no reason that the contract will not be renewed. It is about how you deliver to the promises made. If one doesn’t deliver then obviously the contract could go away from you.


Q: Will you hire some of the talent from Hansa if rendered redundant due to the loss of contract, later in the year?

I cannot comment on this.


Q: Media measurement is a tricky business these days and most often a thankless job. Your take on this?

Not just media measurement but market research anyway is challenging. In India there are multiple challenges including sociological, geographical… and every market research agency has to understand these challenges and figure out ways to deal with them. Sometimes you can deal with them nicely and sometimes not so nicely. If we are open with our clients and talk to them about the challenges that there are then I think we should be fine.


Q: One of the frequent peeves we’ve heard from the magazine sector is that IRSes don’t measure niche readership very effectively. How will you correct that?

Again I cannot comment on that but it is part of the proposal and the RFP and you will hear more about that from us and MRUC together.


Q: There have been some charges that while Nielsen is a specialist in television measurement, it isn’t with print readership?

Globally, Nielsen is a specialist in television (measurement)…that’s what I can say. I cannot comment on what  others speculate. Yes, we do specialize in television measurement which does not mean that we do not do other things. People will speculate what we can and what we cannot but I cannot say much on that.


To give you a higher perspective, Nielsen as a company globally looks at business in two key parts: we measure what people buy and we measure what people watch. Both the businesses are very significant in terms of revenue. So it’s not that Nielsen is just a ‘watch’ business we have a huge portfolio within the ‘buy’ side of the business too. It would suffice to say that we do a lot more than television.


Q: One last question, and we know the matter is sub-judice: but we heard murmurs that Nielsen shouldn’t bag the contract because its name is stained in the TAM controversy. Also, a hitch with the retail audit earlier this month. Your comments.

We are happy that the MRUC and RSCI have given due importance to the proposal that we submitted and have awarded the contract to us. We are working towards making sure that we do a great job in delivering IRS. As for the controversy, we have a policy of not commenting on issues that are under litigation and will stick with that. But I can say that it is business as usual for us amidst all that is happening around.


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2 responses to “IRS will see a technology leap: Prashant Singh, MD-Media, Nielsen India”

  1. Need More Info on how the fielding for IRS nielsen will go on.

  2. unknown says:

    How can you say, you have a right data for IRS in your hand, without a proper proof.

    Nowadays CAPI interviews are done by asking only telepone numbers and name with the respondent, remaining will be filled in home.

    how will be the data quality, without any recordings of what happening in field.