How Competition at its peak in India?

A large research firm that competes with RedSeer said that it is not in this market share game. “Frankly, we don’t understand how RedSeer comes to those conclusions,” says a senior researcher with the firm, who requested not to be named. “Initially we also thought we will do this, but then these companies just don’t give us enough data to work with so we said there is no point in this exercise.”

That doesn’t mean all of RedSeer’s intelligence reports or methodology pass muster. As part of the research for this story, I reached out to several startups. One particular story stood out. Where the co-founder of the startup requested not to be named because issues between them and RedSeer escalated to alarming proportions.

“I have been a consultant in my previous life,” says the co-founder. “I don’t trust their methodology and research reports. It is so immature that you can’t even answer the next-level business questions. Speaking to 30 people is not research, I can speak to 30 customers and get a better insight.”

Facing a terrible experience

He didn’t stop at that. “And I have had a terrible experience with them. One of our employees got several calls from RedSeer asking for confidential data. We had the calls recorded where the employee clearly told the firm that he has signed confidentiality agreements.

Then the RedSeer guy says, don’t worry we will help you manage legal consequences. That’s not done at all. Trying to steal our data saying we will help you legally? So we went after them. This employee got calls from Beeroute Research Private Limited. Anil Kumar is a director, you can check this company out on your own.”

The Ken looked into the antecedents of Beeroute Research Private Limited. It has no relation to RedSeer, except Kumar, who is a director of the company. The company hasn’t filed any financials for the last couple of years, and it isn’t exactly clear what research it does.

Not affected yet

It is another matter altogether that Kumar is unperturbed. He says RedSeer’s methodology is solid. It is not for nothing that the company has a team of 70 researchers, whose only job is to do phone interviews with customers. Each of these interviews is recorded, and any interview that lasts say less than five minutes of conversation is junked. If clients so wish, they can access all call records.

That’s not all. The questions are vetted by RedSeer to get specific answers. On top of that, the firm employs techniques of mystery shopping, field research, which is carried out by agencies, who work exclusively with RedSeer. Just so the firm can have control over the quality of data. “I don’t want to boast,” says Kumar. “We selectively hire from some of the best colleges in India because of the kind of company we are building.”

This is where we could use some consulting help. From R Srinivasan, a professor of strategy at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B) and who has published a paper on the consulting business in the country. In his view, it is remarkable what RedSeer has been able to accomplish in the time it has been around. “It is essentially a data research company,” he says. “And it is very rare to be able to provide research for both companies and investors looking at investing in those companies.”

Some companies not convinced yet

Srinivasan says that it is understandable why some companies find it troublesome. “This is a common problem in management consulting in markets which are very thin, where, let’s say, there are just five players,” he says. “The players will have an accurate sense of the overall market, where they can subtract their data from the total data and say this doesn’t seem right.

But as markets become bigger, these problems go away.” Srinivasan says that RedSeer has a bright future because it is now part of a wonderful, vicious cycle. Because RedSeer has access to data of companies, it can accurately predict where these companies are going to invest.

Simply put, RedSeer is playing on both sides of the table, almost influencing the cards both players will put down next.

Much of it is serendipity, and Kumar is the first one to acknowledge it. But then, he says, he isn’t going to rely on chance anymore.

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