Inside Rakuten Insight – Vishesh Sagar Agnihotri,
Regional Head India

This week, we talked to Vishesh Agnihotri, Regional Head India. He told us how our India office started and shared his views about the current market research landscape in India. We also have some valuable tips about delicious food to try while in Delhi.

J: Good day, Vishesh. Thank you for your time to speak with us. Will you tell us more about yourself for our readers?

V: Hi, I’m Vishesh. I have been with Rakuten for almost 10 Years and am a Regional Head for Rakuten Insight. My role includes managing Sales across India, Middle East and Australia/ New Zealand and taking care of Global Operations. This function supports our global offices via various teams like Data Collection, Sales, Operations, Panel and Finance.

J: I can see you are a ’old timer’ and a ‘big timer’ with the India office having the largest number of staff outside Japan!

V: An old timer I am! I remember back when I began working from a single room on the third floor of my house rooftop in 2009, and quickly became a 3-staff team in 6 months’ time. We have been growing ever since.
It is a 24/7 operation here and hence, unsurprisingly that we have about 60 Staff working from Delhi NCR Office, and still growing! This is our 5th Office in the last 10 years because we kept outgrowing the space and seats available. I am hoping that this time though, we will be able to get more space within the same office building.
There is great challenge and massive effort to build multiple shifts based on global coverage needs. Thankfully, my experience of managing shifts and working in such environment convinced the management to move ahead with this type of set-up then.
My wife, who backed and supported me during this tremendous journey, always teased me that Rakuten Insight India is like our 3rd child. Well, I believe it is somewhat true! You see, each employee has been handpicked during the hiring process, trained not just to do daily chores, but to excel for the future. It is a personal ambition that we want to ensure that people are having a career here with us.

J: Let’s talk about the market research landscape in India.

V: India has a wide geography and is also the second most populous country in the world (1.36 billion). The population of the country is so huge that it is of several countries GDP. To add more spice, it is also mixed with all religions, cultures and lifestyles. With the country so diverse, the needs and consumption are always high.

Another key reason, I observed, is based on the uplift of consumer purchase power and the economic viability in the domestic market. With a free market, there is a constant competition in the market and “will to win” leads to more demand for consumer insights. These essentially drives market research activities in the country.

J: That is insightful. Thank you for that and how does Online Research gel into all these?

V: When we began in 2009, under 10% population had access to the internet, it is almost 35% now (almost 500 million!). We know it will still be growing at a very fast pace.
On a personal note, when I began India Panel in 2010 for AIP, my father-in-law thought that I just sit in front of a computer and send some emails and get a salary!
The high internet penetration coupled with the constant competition as mentioned, market research companies are compelled to work on ways to improve research methodologies. From the traditional ways of Pen and Paper, and towards Online Research now.
The shift in methodology comes from the need to obtain express results in a very diverse and complex market. Quick turnaround enables swift vital decision making to keep up with the changes and winning consumers. It is perfectly aligned to one of our principles: Drive Innovation.

J: Huge things going on in India, we can see! Any development you like to see in the near future?

V: Wherever one goes to conferences or client meetings, everyone seems to be interested in AI (artificial intelligence). I must say there are a lot of new companies coming up with AI for market research. It is a big buzz especially now in India.
AI can certainly lead to a lot of research components getting automated and create an opportunity for us to have more value add to our work. We are keeping an eye on it, and so should everyone.

J: Last thing before we sign off, tell our readers one local food any visitor must eat when they are in New Delhi.

V: Well, I have spent a lot of time in New Delhi and am a Delhiite, good food is something that Delhi is very famous for. It is a real challenge to give one food item with so many varieties and each being the best in its own cuisine or traditional style of cooking.
Let me recommend starting from snacks – Samosa is the most easily available item that you get, along with Milk Tea.
Then Butter Chicken (Non-Vegetarians) or Shahi Paneer (Vegetarians) as main course item, can be had at almost every restaurant in the city.
Sweet Dish – this is something that Delhiites are probably sensitive about, so no offence to anyone, I would say Gulab Jamun is the most common with Ice Cream or Ras Malai and Jalebi.
Sorry for not naming 1 dish only because honestly, Delhi has a lot of great food from almost every state and country in the world.

J: Now that got me hungry for some Indian food! Much appreciate of your time with us today.

V: With a quick closing note, if I can, I must say that India is a very promising market and corporations should not shy away from investing here. We aim to keep on growing as a team and realise Rakuten’s dreams with the management support and faith. Thank you for having me, and it’s been a pleasure!

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