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Business News/ Companies / People/  India capabilities hugely important for Kantar: Ted Prince Jr

India capabilities hugely important for Kantar: Ted Prince Jr

As we look at how Kantar makes this transformation from a primary consulting to a tech-enabled product company that is driven off of data analytics, the capabilities we have in our Indian offices are going to be hugely important for that transition.

Ted Prince Jr, group chief product officer, Kantar.Premium
Ted Prince Jr, group chief product officer, Kantar.

New Delhi: In 2021, Kantar, analytics and brand consulting company appointed Ted Prince Jr., to the newly created position of chief product officer to drive the next generation of its offerings and real-time platforms, using advanced technologies. In India, for instance, Kantar drives extensive market research for the country’s largest brands by reaching millions of households and offering syndicated products, large-scale quantitative studies to qualitative research.

In an interview with Mint, Prince talks about the Bain Capital-backed firm’s shift to offering products and solutions that are now more driven by technology. A lot of that work is happening through the company’s India technology hubs in Chennai and Bengaluru. Edited excerpts.

How did the pandemic change the way you use technology?

We do a lot of qualitative surveys, so we used to get people in a room (for surveys) and we were not able to do that for obvious reasons post-covid. So one of the things we quickly developed was the ability to do focus groups over digital and through things like teams or other systems. But we also had to move fast to some agile market research capabilities, so we invested in something called Marketplace, which is our agile platform for testing, innovation and even brand equity. We put a lot of money into that. One we can move beyond just being a consulting firm but two we could do a lot of quick digital turnaround market research. We do about six to seven million surveys a year in India; Kantar world-panel has over 100,000 households.

How important is a market like India when it comes to building capability for global markets?

India is the biggest (technology) hub for Kantar. We do some central product development here, especially in the area of AI and machine learning. Secondly, it is a global analytics hubs, we do a lot of work for clients based primarily in the US, Europe and out of Asia. We do a lot of our global product management data processing and analytics also out of here. We have 4,500 people in India; about 2,500 are actually geared towards overseas services. We recently spent the day with our analytics team in Chennai, who are really driving the R&D behind the company and their focus is on AI and chat GPT and other new innovation technologies. Now I’m in Bengaluru, where we have another tech hub, that is delivering for clients but also helping us deliver new products both through analytics capabilities but also technology capabilities. As we look at how Kantar makes this transformation from a primary consulting to a tech-enabled product company that is driven off of data analytics, the capabilities we have in our Indian offices are going to be hugely important for that transition.

Is there a plan to expand this capacity?

Yeah, definitely. In fact, we’re moving into a new office in Bengaluru. We actually found that during the pandemic a lot of our team went to work where they’re from. So we’re now opening many more offices in India so we can offer people a way to work from where they want to be. So it’s going to be a big investment for us and we’ll continue to grow our capability within India.

Kantar has made a couple of acquisitions in the last two-three years. Is the company keen to buy into more digital companies?

We’ve done a number of acquisitions over the last few years, primarily in the United States and in the Europe. Historically, we acquired Analytics Quotient, and a number of other smaller India tech companies. We always look at everything as ‘can we build it or buy it?’, and in some cases partner up. But we’re constantly looking at interesting technology tuck-ins. We were talking to the head of our Chennai, and Bengaluru analytics offices, saying that if you see interesting companies that are doing creative analytics, or content analytics or advertising targeting analytics, these are things that we’re interested in. So we’re pretty opportunistic, and Bain Capital, as you can imagine, is a big believer in transforming a company through acquisition. In addition to overall transforming through tech and products, we’ll continue to be pretty active, including in the India market.

Will Kantar look at M&A opportunities in India?

Yeah, certainly. In large language modeling with everything going on around Chat GPT and Gen AI, we’re looking for smart, young companies that could really help us accelerate our capabilities there. As I mentioned, content analytics is an interesting space because you can do more and more ad shaping and ad testing through AI or through Gen-AI. That’s another area where we’ve historically been very strong. Then given how big India is becoming in the overall media space we may look at some analytics companies that are looking at media effectiveness or MMM (media mix modeling) capabilities within India itself.

Are there any early examples of how you have integrated AI or Chat GPT into the kind of work you do for clients?

So we are doing a number of proof of concepts (POCs). I think that there are a couple areas that we’re looking at—one is just to create greater efficiency around how we deliver our big brand trackers. So we deliver, for the biggest brands, these trackers in 60–70 countries. As you can imagine, the survey process is pretty complex, so doing intelligent interviewing and being able to figure out the next best question and how to come up with surveys very efficiently is a great use case. The other one is text summarization, so we pull out lots of insights, often just verbatim, and so pulling all that information and being able to summarize for our clients is another one. And then the last, which is a really interesting area is if you think about it--we collect all this data and then we produce a report for a client or a dashboard, but they have lots of questions. So, just being able to insert that into a chat question, instead of having to get through all the data.

Is India a key market for such product development?

Yeah, it is “the" key market. We have a number of big initiatives and it’s all being driven through our analytics teams in India.

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Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 09 May 2023, 10:29 AM IST
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