How to conduct online research in India

Image of the post author Kadence International

Tulika Sheel, Associate Vice President

Varun Sahai, Associate Vice President 

Sandeep Kaul, Insights Lead 

In India, online only accounts for a small share of the market research market. The overwhelming majority of market research projects here take place face-to-face. But the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in brands beginning to consider online options. 

The dominance of face-to-face market research can be explained by a number of factors, and these need to be carefully understood in order to successfully pivot to an online approach. In metro and tier 1 cities, laptop ownership is commonplace and as a result online panels are fairly well established. But metro and tier 1 cities aren’t representative of India as a whole, and in suburban and rural areas it’s a different story. Panel coverage is limited and this, combined with low levels of literary and a cultural predisposition to trust in-person over digital interactions, means that face-to-face is the preferred approach for conducting research in these areas. 


What’s promising though is the high levels of mobile penetration in suburban and rural areas. Thanks to new mobile data plans, most households in these areas have access to at least one mobile phone between them, and this only looks set to improve.

So what does this mean for online research in India? The first thing to be mindful of is that there is no one size fits all approach. Of course the methodology used for any project needs to be carefully considered, but in India it’s of crucial importance that you bear in mind the target group of respondents you want to reach and the devices they have access to.

Of course the methodology used for any project needs to be carefully considered, but in India it’s of crucial importance that you bear in mind the target group of respondents you want to reach and the devices they have access to. 

In metros or tier 1 cities for instance, digital depth interviews conducted on a laptop or desktop via Skype will be a good way to reach more niche audiences that can’t be accessed through online panels, for example, people who own a particular model of car or buy a certain brand. 

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For conducting research beyond these cities, you’ll need to turn to mobile – but it’s important to bear in mind that bandwidth can be an issue. Because of this, you should avoid any methodologies that are too heavily reliant on lengthy video inputs from respondents. Instead, online surveys or online communities, which combine text, image-based and short video tasks are a better option. To encourage participation, an app-based platform that is easy for respondents to download, access and engage with should be used. 

With online research proving a feasible option for many types of project, it will be fascinating to see how the market for this develops in India.

We at Kadence are big advocates of brands creating their own futures, rather than try to predict it. Earlier in the year, before the whole pandemic went global, we brought together trend watching experts from across our global boutique to identify four key trends that we believe will define the next 12 months, inspiring innovation across Asia, the US and Europe, that we outlined in this report.

How to conduct online market research in Asia: The Go-To Guide
Interested in understanding how to approach online research across other Asian countries? Download the guide here

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