Working with Emerging Markets

My work is mainly focused on qualitative research and data gathering for countries called emerging markets.  I thought that I would write about it after gaining a little more experience, but it would be good to write as a first step.  The countries I often request data and research from are (in order) China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Russia and Mexico.  Including some rare countries, I’ve made requests to approximately 30 countries.  Occasionally there are also requests for quantitative research, however the majority of the inquiries are for brand audit jobs and reports on how certain brands are developing in countries.  Communications (advertising, etc.) and marketing, as well as business trends of those brands are included. 

I experimented with using a format, however because the content that people wanted to know differed depending on the client, I am now using data gathering and research that is formatted to correspond to the requested content.  The fees are mentioned on the website, however I’ve decided to negotiate beforehand because, as with Japan, etc., the amount may change depending on the content.  Negotiations beforehand include confirming each country. 

I began the business a year and a half ago and country expenses have risen between 10 and 20 percent.  When I inquired as to why, I received a letter-sized page covered in words explaining that it is because of the increasing price of goods from South American countries including Brazil.   Also, they will receive contact late at night or early in the morning.  In particular, Brazil asks for prices in line with the West, which by Japanese standards is extremely high.  The response was the same from other countries.  I think that their reasoning is correct, however when I spoke about it with each of our partner businesses in these countries, many are doing well, constructing buildings, relocating to expensive office buildings, and increasing personnel.   It’s no wonder they are increasing fees.  This isn’t necessarily happening in all countries and companies, and there are places that deal with us honestly.  Although it’s best if the costs remain steady for repeat requests, unfortunately there are few places that will do such a thing. 

For delivery to any country there is a tendency to protect.  In difficult cases, contact will come beforehand.  In requests from rare countries, the delivery date is adjusted to meet their own convenience and things are done on “that country’s time.”  Even so, it is sometimes delayed an entire day.  However, looking at the quality of the reports, honestly speaking, on average they are about 70 percent finished.  Because the person in charge also has an influence, it is hard to say country by country.  In particular, China and India often differ depending on the city.  The method I am using now is to first gather data using the internet and then base requests on that content.  When I started the business this was something that was lacking and I only proof-checked what I received.  I didn’t assume that the proof-check had taken place and I don’t know if the searching was poor, however incorrect information was written, and there are many times when outdated information was inserted into the report in order to increase the length.  Also, I was unable to make contact to say that it did not meet the requests, and there are cases where the information created was completely different.  At that time, on average 30 percent was completed and even though the deadline was met, the majority of the content had to be corrected.  While it is an amusing story to clients who really grasp the situations in other countries, it can be difficult to understand for people dealing with this for the first time.  Currently, in order to confirm things beforehand, workflow is being improved and the quality of items sent from other countries has improved as well.  And the earlier mentioned problem has increased to 70 percent.  Of course since I cannot submit something that is only 70 percent complete, I have to re-look up everything and confirm with the local area numerous times before submitting a report.  

The fact that Japanese apologize so often is often mocked, yet when receiving reports full of mistakes, I’ve only received apologies from 2 countries out of 30.  However, many countries will redo the work without any apology.  Instead of an apology, there is a “reverse” negotiation, etc. or possibly a direct phone call from the company boss saying that the fee is insufficient (requested work).  And, when trying to request that additional fees be paid, the content is laughable.  That’s all I can think.

What I’ve written up to now may sound critical, however it is not criticism.  There are probably some complaints.   I thought I had a high tolerance for stress, but I’ve developed three stomach ulcers.  Although the company is still young in terms of time, I’ve tried various methods and in the end, I think with a little more time, I’ll be able to write good reports.  Through this business, I’ve built new relationships and been able to grasp the situation in other countries through the eyes of representatives in each country, which has been huge.  Also, I’ve heard that representatives in other countries have learned a lot and utilize methods from here.  Some countries also have their own businesses.  Thanks to these things, the quality of reports on those countries has increased tremendously and it has become much easier to do business.  Also, I hope to write about ideas, etc. regarding brands in different countries and markets in about half a year from now.

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