GreenBook Blog Interview with Prashant Hari on Survey Analytics Oceania Expansion

Lenny: Hello, everybody. It's Lenny Murphy with GreenBook Blog, bringing you another in our interview series with movers and shakers in the market research industry. Today we are talking with Prashant Hari, who it was just announced he will be leading the expansion of the Survey Analytics business into Australia. Prashant, thanks for taking the time. Nice to have you.

Prashant: Yes, and I thank you for having me, Lenny. Appreciate that.

Lenny: So Prashant, you and I met a few years ago, online, as I tend to meet most people nowadays, talking about gamification, struck up a friendship. You've contributed to GreenBook Blog before. I'm a reader of Social Whiz, of your blog, as well. And at the time that we met, you were focused on new product development and innovation efforts for Colmar Brunton there in Australia, is that right?

Prashant: Yes, correct. My role there was in the innovation space, basically to start up the new product development area, in terms of where new research is hitting. And I was in that role for a couple of years. So I would suspect-- oh, I'm sorry. Go ahead. And that's when we started speaking how our research should really be more gamified and should have a focus as far as getting surveys as interactive as possible, and how you can get them engaging and as fun as possible. And that's the struggle, the common motives as far as the wider industry is concerned. Yeah. Well, so then it certainly makes sense then why you would navigate towards Survey Analytics to lead this effort, since they've certainly marched to the beat of that drummer, as well. So why don't you tell me a bit about Survey Analytics and a bit about what you hope to accomplish in leading the business in Australia. Survey Analytics is a fully integrated enterprise platform. The way I've always worded it, it's modular, and the analogy I use, a transformer. Four separate components.

Lenny: Here we go to the geek analogy again. There's the geek reference.

Prashant: OK. Good. You've got your survey creation, survey deployment. Following on from that, you've got your entire mobile component, which has really got so many different facets to it. Mobile isn't just about doing mobile surveys any more. That's one very important angle, but it's also about the entire demographic angle. It's also about integrating into pre-existing research techniques, which include face-to-face, which include central location. Following on from here is obviously how you visualize all this data. So of course there is the mobile app for tablets which is focused just on interactive visualization of the data. And following on from that is panel communities, which is really a customer-centric, pre-built community of members who are constantly integrating with each other, whether it's by doing surveys, whether it's by doing live focus groups online, whether it's by having static discussions online. And each of these components operate as standalone, but they all also form together to build one big ship, as well.

Lenny: That's more like Voltron, I think. Like Voltron, or Pacific Rim. But that's one of the things I've always liked about Survey Analytics, is that you could-- do is that modular approach. Sometimes you just need a good solid survey system for enterprise uses. Sometimes you want to go mobile, whatever the case may be. And to be able to put those pieces together in an integrated way, I thought, was a very powerful and very smart way to develop their business. Obviously, business is good, and now going forth with international expansion. Why do you think they selected Australia as the first market that they're into, versus Europe or broader Asia Pacific? What about Australia makes it the prime time for Survey Analytics to come there?

Prashant: Australia is a very strong Western economy. It's a very real world market. It's a highly innovative market, as well. And in terms of the dollar, it's quite a strong dollar the Australian economy's got. So overall, in terms of having a country to launch into, Australia is sort of perfect Western democracy to have this kind of solution. I think that that makes it quite an exciting market. If I recall correctly, mobile penetration and usage in Australia is through the roof, as well. Absolutely. So lots of smartphones. Absolutely. Look, it's one of the most connected countries in the world, as far as mobile usage goes, as well. So that's definitely something which plays to our strengths, as far as all what we're doing. Now what about market demand for advanced solutions? I watch the activity of AMSRS in Australia. They certainly seem to be being large proponents of innovation. Last year I was invited to speak. This year, looking at their speaker line-up, it's fantastic, a lot of superstars in the industry that are leading the new thinking around innovation. But that seems to be a new shift, the last year or so, for this kind of forward looking. Is that an accurate way to think about it? What's changed in Australia that's made the business imperative to embrace new techniques and new technologies, particularly in mobile? What's driven that? I would say a large part of that is probably driven by the youth. You've got a certain demographic of the population who is so highly engaged in mobile activity. And then traditionally always been a demographic which has been very hard to engage. So we've now got the smartphone pretty much across the board now. It's not necessarily someone that is only aged, who is younger age group, who is adapting to the system. And that's across the board. So again, it's that level of connectivity, I guess, which is-- Sorry, I lost my train of thought.

Lenny: Yeah, we did. Just for a second. OK, go ahead. The level of connectivity, and then there was a little bit of a blank spot. Yeah. OK. So that may be the gods of the internet telling us to keep the interview short, Pras. [LAUGHTER] So what are your goals? If you look at the first year, new venture into a new market, would do you expect to see happen? And we'll promise that Vivek won't hear any of this and hold you to it. Vivek Bhaskaran, the CEO of Survey Analytics. So we'll put this on record from that perspective. But what do you think is going to happen? And in what way? In what sort of way?

Prashant: Uptake. So not sales numbers, obviously. I don't want you to disclose that, but the-- do you think there's going to be a lot of folks that are going to be embracing this tool set? Do you think it's going to be a little bit of an uphill battle? What do you anticipate? Even with all I've seen and heard in general, new and innovative ways to do research, outside of the traditional realm, is something that more and more clients are focusing on. And that's something which is initially-- it's not something from what I believe to be largely industry driven, as much as it has been client driven. So I'm personally quite optimistic that these kinds of surveying techniques involving mobile, interactive dashboard reporting, panel communities, these are the tools of the future of research, in my opinion. And the more gamified, the more interactive, the more fun we can get research, that's really going to be something that's quite exciting from not only research companies' point of view, or the clients' point of view, but most importantly for me is from a respondent point of view. Time and time again, year on year, we've heard that response rates are dropping, response rates are dropping. And the more we can engage a particular respondent, the better it's going to be. These tools allow for that level of engagement. It allows for interactivity. It allows for fun. So I'm personally very optimistic that in the long term, the uptake for these kind of technologies is going to be quite high.

Lenny: OK. I would agree. Do you think that there's going to be some barriers to entry that may be unique to the Australian market, or pure rampant optimism?

Prashant: I don't know. The core challenge, I think, is going to be, in general, clients who have already got a set way of working. So they may have trackers in place which have been there for the last 10 years, and they've got a set way of collecting the data. So there's always that, if we change our mode of collecting data now, taking into account the rise of these new technologies, like tablets and smartphones, what's going to be the impact on our data. So these kind of challenges, I think, are going to be across the spectrum. These kind of questions are going to be asked ongoing as well. We've been reporting our charting in one way, what implications are we going to have now if we now all of a sudden go to a very real time reporting sort of mantra. And I recently read a research piece which compared the exact same surveys across the web, and the exact same survey being completed on the mobile phone. And the differences between the two ways of doing research wasn't actually that different. The results didn't differ as much, which makes again think, as there's a high level of connectivity, more and more people are more inclined to do surveys on their phones, it's not going to affect the pre-existing data as much as maybe the clients think it will affect it. I think those are the sort of main imperatives and barriers to entry that we face, whereby there is already that status quo way of operating, and now we've got all of these new technologies here, which essentially still feed the same purpose. We're here for business intelligence, we're here for insights, we're here to grow a customer's business. Essentially at the end of the day, we've got the same motive, but just the technologies have changed. And a lot of the research that I've read indicates that even in terms of data collection impact, what data has been collected, whether it's in the traditional ways, or whether it's using these newer technologies, the results don't differ as much, which again makes me quite optimistic. I don't doubt that there's going to be challenges, but it makes me quite optimistic, in terms of what we're working with here. Those are the same challenges, I think, the whole industry is facing. And certainly, we're seeing that shift occur in other markets. So I would share your optimism that I think as all those problems are being solved, from a positioning standpoint, and the migration is clearly headed in that direction.

Lenny: Now just to be clear, Survey Analytics sells to both client and supplier side, correct?

Prashant: Correct. We work with research companies and we work with directing clients. Is there a particular focus that you're going to have, moving into the market? Do you think that your path to entry is going to be aligned more with existing suppliers? We're starting off aligning ourselves directly with existing suppliers. That's our entry point. And then we're moving on from there. Our entry point is working closely with existing research suppliers who are looking to infuse a level of innovation in their surveying techniques. One angle that's really, that we've never traditionally had with traditional research is this explosion in video and image data. And I think we're still seeing, and we've seen it as far as the social networking side of things go. We've got Instagram and Facebook and YouTube. That explosion has happened. But now really getting a very focused set of images and focused set of videos, from a research perspective.  I think we're still to see that kind of tools being really put to use for that kind of creation understanding, as we move forward. That angle's really-- I still feel largely that from a point of view, that angle is largely unexplored still. I think so. There's some analytical scale issues there that I think have been a barrier. But we're moving quickly towards resolving those, as well, with video analytics and crowd source tagging. There's lots of ways to be able to do that.

Lenny: Absolutely. Absolutely. As the tools for creation grow, and no doubt the tools for understanding the creation was always out there as well. So that's again a fantastic thing about the industry to work in. Absolutely. Absolutely. Pras, you've been-- it's always wonderful to chat and this has been a really good interview, and wish you nothing but the best of luck as you go on this adventure of launch Survey Analytics. Where can people see you next? As you're moving into the market, are there any events upcoming that you're going to be there, or how can they reach you? What's the best way for folks to be able to engage with you?

Prashant: We will be hosting an event coming up around the corner in February. There will be more details about that event coming up. That will be February, and that will be in Australia, in Sydney, an innovation event. In the meantime, the best way to get a hold of me would be by email, which is prashant (dot) hari @ Otherwise, you'll find me on LinkedIn, if you type in Prashant Hari, I'm always on LinkedIn. So you'll always find me on LinkedIn as well. And you're on Twitter, look up @PrasHari, you'll find me on Twitter as well. So LinkedIn, Twitter and email, as well as if you need to get a hold of me, my phone numbers are all updated in the system as well, so you can always give me a call and go, hey, let's have a chat. And it's always a good chat, every time.

Lenny: All right, my friend, thank you so much for your time. This has been a great call. And again, wish you nothing but the best and we'll look forward to an update in a few months.

Prashant: Yes. Sounds good, Lenny. Thank you for your time. Thanks for the opportunity. 

Lenny: Thank you, Pras. Talk soon.

Prashant: All right. Bye-bye.

Lenny: Bye.