Apr 11, 2006

What do I do for a living - Demystifying Qual Research !

What do I do for a living…hmmm…good question!

Some days back I met somebody who asked me – what is it that you do for a living… and I could not help but think hard about that! Of course – the answer was given to him without a blink

I…I am a researcher…a marketing researcher…I help companies ‘understand their consumers better’ so that the products they make are more meaningful to consumers and add more value to their life…blah…blah…blah…

Even before I could complete my sentence, my thoughts fell into a tizzy and I found myself asking me the question….

Is that really what I do?

The next two days – I introspected about and observed the way my day was spent and here is an account of what happened

Day 1 – 8.45 a.m. – get picked up by my boss for an early morning meeting

9.30 a.m. – meeting begins – topic of discussion – women whose husbands suffer from cholesterol – how would our product meet their ‘needs’ – after an hour and a half of deliberation – the outcome of the meeting – marriage is a façade behind which thrive the ‘unequal’ relationships between a man and a woman – lets play up this difference to sell our product – lets meet ‘the needs’ of the woman by providing her with the companion she does not have

1.0 p.m. – client realizes (1.5 hours) away from when the group discussion is scheduled with the women… The venue that we had chosen…is too dark…too dingy…too down-market. Why not have the group discussion right here? My thought…good thought…but could you not think of this…5 days back when we asked you whether we could use your 5 star venue for the group discussion? Anyway the thumb rule is – never question the client’s motives…ironical considering that ‘questioning people for their motives happens to be my job!’

1.0 p.m. – 3.00 p.m. – these two hours that I spent I felt like the pendulum of a giant grandfather clock – only one that had lost its mind – since I was swinging in many different directions all at the same time – trying to keep the women who had arrived for the group discussion happy – now that the discussion was delayed by an hour – trying to trace the camera person who was caught at the security gate of this 5 –star hotel – which at that moment felt like was the HQ of the CIA or something – considering it took us more than an hour to get the security clearance – and trying to placate a rather angry boss spewing fire at me ‘I don’t care how you do…get the whole thing started in 5 minutes’

My thought …but boss…I forgot my magic wand at home today

My action – go down to the flipping reception and find out where our camera guy is caught!

Me – can u trace my camera person – who is caught at your security gate

Receptionist – if you tell me which security gate maam – I’d be glad to assist you

Me – (if I knew which one – why would I come here…duh)…I actually don’t know which one it is – could you call both and find out!

Receptionist – they are at gate B – go to the elevator on your left down this hallway and press ‘B’ for basement

Me – go to the elevator – press ‘b’ – the elevator moves – then it stops – and I wait – and I wait – and finally the door opens after much waiting – and lo and behold- (I have visions of the camera man in the clutches of the security guard where I go and rescue him and take him up to the discussion room)- but hold on…this does not look like the basement and I don’t see any camera person – all I see is the same reception smiling back at me – WHAT! I am at the very same place I started 5 minutes ago – SHIT!

Me – didn’t you tell me that was the way to the basement?

Receptionist – If you could tell me where exactly you want to go maam – I would be in a better position to help you with directions

Me – but didn’t you just tell me…did I not tell you basement…never mind!

I run up to find (much to my relief) the camera person has found his way up.

3.30 p.m. The group discussion starts –

3.45 p.m. - I need to run to office to write a presentation that’s tomorrow morning at 11.00 a.m. I have exactly 2 hours to make some headway on the presentation before I need to come here again for another discussion with men – the guys with the cholesterol problem

4.15 p.m. – in office – trying to get started – when my field person enquires in absolutely disgust – after changing the venue at the last minute – I hope ‘your client’ has arranged for dinner for the respondents.

My Response – of course he will! (let me just message him and check…just to be sure)

4.2o p.m. – SMS from client – I cannot afford dinner for ‘your respondents’ at the hotel – pl arrange for alternative

My respondents! My client…my presentation (that I have not even begun – how did I get myself into this mess) …oh MY God!

4.25 p.m. – frantic call to client – he has the gall to not take my call

4.35 p.m. – another call to client – oh please…please…please…take the call

4.45 p.m. – now I am desperate– pick up the phone…you…!

5.00 p.m. - I’ve spent almost 45 minutes in office and still not written a slide on the presentation.

5.30 – I manage to write 3 slides…3 measly slides…next group in an hour…let me call him once again. This time…he picks up…the heavens have finely decided to take pity on my fate…or did I say that too soon…?

Me…Hi…its me xyz…can I talk to you now?

Client…ya go on…!

Me I just wanted to check with you about dinner for ‘our’ respondents

Client…Did you not get my message…I can’t afford dinner!

Me…(I got that duh…that’s the reason I’m calling)…yes I did…but we generally serve dinner to men…especially since this is a high profile group.

Client…Yes but I can’t afford it…why don’t you hand them some food packets

Me…(food packets…you mean food packets…you must be out of your mind)…no we can’t serve food packets

Client – so why don’t you order in some pizza from dominoes. That’ll be fast and cheap

Me…Pizza hmmm (muttering under my breath – these men have high cholesterol – and you want me to feed them PIZZA…why don’t I order some pizza and stuff it up your…)…er …we can’t serve outside food in the hotel here.

Client…(behaving absolutely obnoxious)…so then take them to your office and serve them dinner there and give them a little gift incase they feel they have been short-changed

Me…(you bet they’d feel short-changed…these are not little kids we are talking to…that we could make them happy with goodie bags or return gifts...these are MEN at good positions in good companies who are spending their Monday evening talking to you since you invited them…to help you sell your product better…blah…blah…blah !)…Never mind…I’ll think of an alternative

6.00 p.m. – oh shit…its 6 p.m. and I’m still here – I should have been at the venue now. I hear the bosses words ring in my ears (I don’t want any goof-ups on the second group…as it is the 1st one started late…I’m leaving this place at 8.00 p.m. sharp…my son does not have dinner without me…blah..blah..blah)

6.08 – have flown out of office and jumped into an auto…

(shit…traffic…why…did I mail the presentation to myself to work on it from home…home…I don’t know when was the last time I spent some quality time at home…why doesn’t this traffic move…I hope the respondents are on time…I hope I can finish on time….i should be home by 9.00..think I’ll be able to start working on the presentation at 10.00 and work for a couple of hours…or maybe I can write a few slides now…nah…never mind…shit we haven’t moved an inch…damn…the traffic!)

6.35 p.m – at the venue…phew! The mad-pendulum swing begins …

6.45 p.m. – 2nd group starts…I still need to figure out what to do about ‘dinner for respondents’

7.00 p.m. – at the coffee shop of the hotel – me, my colleague and the field co-coordinator

Me…Can we have a look at your menu

Manager – Maam – why don’t you have a seat?

Me – we actually haven’t come for dinner…we are just trying to arrange dinner for 6 people who’ll be here at 8.30 p.m.

Manager – ok…here is the menu

Me…- lets serve them soup and salad

Colleague – but that’s not a complete meal…how about a dessert?

Me…but that way we’ll not be within the budget…a soup and a salad itself would be 600+ and we need to keep it within 500 per person

Field co-ord – how can you expect MEN to have their dinner on some soup and salad?

Me…and my colleague…okay…lets think of something else...how about birayani…what about your buffet…what about…why is everything so bloody expensive

The field co-ord…in utter exasperation…I’ll pay from my pocket…if the respondents don’t have a good meal…its not ‘your’ client who will earn a bad name…its out agency that will!

All this while the manager – who has been a silent spectator to our predicament – now intervenes

Manager – Maam can I ask you a question…what is your budget…(gosh I hate the sound of that…it reminds me of the broker who helped us find a house on rent)

Me…we need to arrange for dinner at under 500 per person

Manager – okay – how about I serve them a soup…a choice of veg /non-veg biryani and a choice of desserts from the buffet for a flat fee of 500

Me…would that include taxes

Manager – yes maam!

Collegue…wait…lets go and check out the desserts…they seem ok…why don’t you thrown in some salad too

Manager…no maam…I am sure you understand I am already offering a lot for the price

Me…(thoroughly embarrassed)…I think that’s very nice of you sir…we’ll go with that

Collegue…no I don’t mean a portion of salad for each person…just two large bowls would do.

Manager…ok maam…I’ll do what I can

Me…(oh my god…were we just bargaining at a 5 star hotel…for dinner…which we are not even going to eat ourselves…what has life come to!)

8.30 – group discussions ends

8.45 – 9.15 – meeting with client…outcome of the meeting – we were just superb on that one…I think the product will sell....this is just what they need….blah…blah….blah

10.00 p.m – reach home dog tired…head splitting with a migrane!

10.20 – after having had a micro-waved read meal – crash!

5.00 a.m. – alarm rings…me….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

7.00 a.m. – woken up by the thwack of the news paper on the door….almost feels like a slap across my face for not waking up in time.

7.05 – 9.20 – write presentation

11.00 a.m. presentation starts and goes on as smoothly as spreading butter that is melted just right!

12.00 noon – presentations ends…(and nobody knows I spent just 2 sleepy hours in the morning – thinking of what they should do to win over their consumers)

1.0 p.m. - need to be at the venue for the 3rd group…the clock strikes one…time for the pendulum to start swinging again !

After thought - People who grew up at around the same time as me – would definitely have some recall of the tata steel TVC – we change lives…we build bridges…we also make steel!

Cant help but end with this thought…yes and I also do research!

Categories: Humor_

humor and qualitative research, qualitative research, on being a qualitative researcher


Mr. J said...

That's one hell of a day. And hey this blog is pretty interesting. MR. Hmmm interesting field. Keep them coming.

Nandhini Sarangan said...

I wish you a long and fruitful career in qualitative market research. May you employ with utter sincerity and sensitivity the techniques of hypnosis to great effect.

Reshma Anand said...

Thank You Me. You are the very first visitor to this blog btw.

Thank you for your good wishes Nandhini, and i truly wish 'hypnosis' as a tool for therapy / research is looked at with respect and people stop associating it with just what we see on the stage.

Mr. J said...

Yyyyaaaayyy... so what prize have I won?

Anil said...

Interesting... seems like very busy schedule... hmm... makes me wonder, if I still want to consider a switch to marketing...!

Happy Blogging,


Reshma Anand said...

Anil - hope i havent put you off marketing very strongly :)

Me - no prizes here...just more posts :)

Mr. J said...

Awww, noooooooo... C'mon, some prize, a gift voucher or something, or a free vacation.. :p

Nick said...


having just started work as a qual researcher in London, the course of your day is already starting to feel familiar.

Late nights, a lack of decent meals and constant pressure... I wouldn't want to do anything else!

The best bit of the job has to be the everyday insights you get into other people's lives. So congrats on the blog, now the punters can finally get their own glimpse through the one-way mirror.

Keep up the interesting work

Reshma Anand said...

thinktank - here's to more crazy deadlines...more schedules going out of gear...more indecisive clients....i cant agree with you more when you say - you wouldn't want to do anything else.
I think qual researchers are a mad breed - I am out of the madness for a bit now since i freelance - but when i was there i felt like i was working in a circus...and dont ask - what that makes me?

laurence said...

Absolutely hilarious - so true!