Vivacious, cheerful and intuitive – these three words probably are the best brief description for the executive chairman at one of India’s largest qualitative market research firms. Her words ring sharp with clarity and confidence and often come backed up with a deep study of the topic of discussion. It’s what multinationals seek her out for and perhaps, was also what impressed former British pharma company, Beechams, in her detailed report on the status of Horlicks in India. “I decoded all the symbols of packaging and advertising and it was unlike the superficial response the client was used to. It talked about where the brand was located in the culture, why it resonated with people and what was working for it in a deeper sense. And they loved it!” says Meena Kaushik, of her first market research assignment, with no formal training in the subject.But she didn’t need any of it as her early course of study in semiotics had equipped her to be a natural in the division of qualitative research, the lesser loved unit of the marketing fraternity then. “Those were the days when quantitative research was at its prime, the agency was also hugely quantitative and clients also respected numbers over any qualitative input,” she recalls of the 1980s during her stint at India’s first market research firm, IMRB. But the poor perception of the field didn’t dissuade Kaushik, she saw value in the unit when nobody else did. Like a true opportunist, she not only established India’s first solely qualitative research company but dedicated the next three decades perfecting the discipline, to give it the merit it deserved in the field of marketing.
The other side
Kaushik, who is now the executive chairman of Quantum Consumer Solutions, didn’t exactly yearn for a corporate career though. Born and raised in Delhi, Kaushik earned a degree in economics from Miranda House in 1968. But, soon after her three-year course, she found herself less interested in numbers and statistics and instead drawn towards sociology and cultural studies. And so she completed her Masters in sociology from the Delhi School of Economics. “The switch was the b