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Our scale allows us to provide authentic & pervasive insights to clients: Pradeep Gupta

Axis My India is India’s foremost consumer data Intelligence company that has revolutionised the field of election polling in the country, with an accuracy rate of ~ 95% spread across 47 Assembly elections, including 2 General elections. The company has a presence in over 700 districts and has touched 85 million Indian households. It counts some of India’s largest corporations, state governments as well as Union Government in its clientele and offers a repertoire of research related services, including consumer insights, product validation, market segmentation, on-ground brand activation, personalised media solutions and micro marketing. The company publishes an annual Consumer Trust Index – spread across 45 consumer and product categories, and 1 million respondents.

Axis My India is now part of the Harvard Business School curriculum. The B-school has built a case study based on its election forecasting model. Their ingenious use of technological solutions, robust processes, quality control, and completely in-house infrastructure and resources have played a significant role in their success. The company is busy with the poll forecasting for the upcoming state assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

In a candid conversation with Adgully, Pradeep Gupta, Chairman & Managing Director, Axis My India, shares how over the last two decades the company has been the pioneers in predicting both pre- and post-poll surveys for elections both at the national and state level. He also speaks about the other aspects of research in which they have specialised and excelled to deliver valuable insights to brands.

Since when has your company been associated with predicting election results? What is the kind of methodology and process that you follow to give such accurate predictions?

Axis My India was originally established as a printing and publishing company in 1998. Now as you may know, in India there are two major types of elections – Lok Sabha (National) and Vidhan Sabha (State). While we have had many polling organisations performing pre- and post-poll surveys, the lack of consistency and veracity had historically made it very difficult for polling companies to engender trust with the consumers. In 2013, I was doing an executive leadership program in Owner/ President Management at Harvard Business School. My Professor there, Robert Steven Kaplan, spotted my ability to connect with people and channelised my passion for solving problems right from the grassroots level. It was he who gave me the epiphany of considering a career in consumer insights and polling advisory. In 2013, we ventured into election forecasting for 4 state assembly elections. Since then, we have an unmatched track record, predicting 43 out of 47 key elections with 99.99% accuracy. Our track record demonstrates our expertise in providing insight solutions through field surveys across the length and breadth of our country. Factors such as use of robust processes, quality control and a 100% in house infrastructure & resources have contributed immensely to our success.

It is a matter of pride to be part of the Harvard Business School, where Axis My India case study is part of the curriculum in the classroom. How did you go about listing the case study and what are the key insights and learnings in the case study that excited Harvard Business School to include it?

In mid-2019, Professor Ananth Raman from Harvard Business School reached out to me, wanting to explore the possibility of developing a case around Axis My India. He was fascinated by Indian elections and our organisation’s performance in accurately predicting elections in a country as complex as India. As mentioned by the Professor, the case study on Axis My India illustrated the need for operational excellence in a novel context – predicting election outcomes. He was drawn to the case because it showcased the need for process excellence and operational discipline required in carrying out accurate election forecasting on the scale that we were doing it on. In recent years, he had seen several examples where very experienced pollsters and polling organisations have struggled to predict accurately the outcome of elections in various parts of the world. This case delved into the challenges and then gave detailed insights on how an entrepreneurial organisation like ours built a successful model using technology, training, research and data.

Technology and tools have also helped research a lot in these days. How much of technology goes into conducting the research? What kind of tools are deployed here?

 

Technology is an opportune enabler for any business and is so is the case with Axis My India too. We have an in-house data collection team to ensure accuracy and quality of data. Each surveyor is equipped with an Android Tablet to carry out Computer Aided Personal Interviews (CAPI), equipped with Voice Recording storage features. For quality assurance, we have a tailor made software where our teams can monitor, track and intervene in every step of the surveying process in real time. For instance, our software provides for end-to-end monitoring, including tracking of interviewer movements during the interviews, GPS tracking for location, and preventing skipping of any questions. To do other customised surveys and syndicated studies, we have also created an Axis My India App which helps in quick surveys. Another important tool in our technological repertoire is our proprietary analytics platform for business dashboards and data visualisation.

Getting the right sample size and audience is pivotal in achieving the correct feedback. How do you go about selecting people for your surveys and how do you keep validating the same?

We strive to ensure that the sample of respondents mirror the demographics of each representative constituency as closely as possible. Collecting accurate field data requires close coordination among four departments of AMI – Technology, quality assurance, research and data analysis. But all projects start with the research team – they gather and maintain demographic data about constituencies, post voting results and our own data from previous surveys. The research & data analysis teams then work together to define the data that needs to be collected and develop the questionnaire. During data collection, analysts monitor the demographic mix of responses being collected, that is, the number of respondents for each gender, caste, job category, age and education level. The main goal as mentioned is to get a sample which represents the voting population of the state.

Apart from election predictions are you associated with FMCG brands, where key insights help in making vital decisions. Any examples that you can share?

Since we have presence in over 700 districts out of the 740-odd districts in India, our scale allows us to provide authentic and pervasive insights to all our clients. Axis My India is at an inflection point, as we continue to expand our portfolio of service offerings of consumer insights to corporations, backed by a robust digitally enabled platform as part of our big, audacious Mission Himalaya – Unchi Udaan roadmap – a vision to connect and resolve problems of over 250 million Indian households. We have done various studies for clients like Unilever, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tagros and many more around – market sentiment & opportunity assessment, brand health & perception, channel partner satisfaction, communication effectiveness, product availability audit in retail shops etcetera. We would also soon be launching field work for the biggest syndicated study in India – Consumer Trust Index. The CTI will measure product consumption behavior across 40+ categories and by varied audience segments. It will leverage deep insights on purchase, usage, loyalty & media to help deliver effective marketing decisions. We would be doing face to face interview across 700+ districts and an unmatched sample of 1 million respondents.

How do you handle political pressures when election predictions do not match the expectations of political parties? Do you work with multiple news channels or you work exclusively only for a particular channel?

We devote all our time and energies on ensuring unbiased data collection and reporting. Our surveyor training is focused on two elements of the job – their ability to form a connection with respondents, and the need for them to be unbiased. This transparency and neutrality forms the very core of Axis My India’s ethos and value system. While we do have an exclusive tie-up for exit polls, we can and already work with other media stakeholders as well.

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