Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 103 – Nihal Advani, CEO of Georama

Today we are joined by Nihal Advani, CEO of Georama. Here are just a few of the topics we covered.

  1. Tell us a little bit about Georama, your product and what problem it addresses.
  2. Who is the ideal customer of Georama? Is it a brand or a market research agency?
  3. At its core, market research answers business questions. How is Georama improving that answer over the competition? Who do you see as your competitors?
  4. You have an impressive background. You’ve been at Google, at Microsoft. What are some of the biggest takeaways from your professional development that empowered you to launch your own business?
  5. Coming from the tech industry, what is your perspective on market research and the value it brings to your business?
  6. I understand that you had to a do a big pivot at Georama. Tell us about that transition. How did you determine when to make the change?
  7. What advice would you give entrepreneurs on when to make a pivot?
  8. How does MRx inform your product roadmap?
  9. What’s the biggest roadblock to new customers?

[00:00:00] All right, welcome back to the Happy Market Research podcast. Today we are joined by Nihal Advani. Did I get that last name correct, sir?

[00:00:11] Yes, you did.

[00:00:12] He is the CEO of a funly named company, Georama. Welcome sir and thank you very much for being our guest.

[00:00:20] Thanks for having me.

[00:00:23] I’ve just got a couple of questions for you. First of all, it’s an honor to be able to interview someone who’s in the beginning parts of their startup so to speak, entering into the market research space. I know it’s like a terrifying – [LAUGHTER] right? Yes, exactly a terrifying point and so I’m excited about this conversation. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your company, your products and what problems you’re addressing.

[00:00:47] Sure. So the company’s name is Georama and what we do is we’re all about qualitative insights in real time. What we’re doing differently is that we’re helping researchers, whether that be brands or agencies remotely gather qualitative insights while people are in the moment. But doing that all live in that part of sense. Anywhere in the world can be using either smartphones, smart glass or even a 360 camera to share their perspective when they’re completely mobile in their natural environment. Whether that’s indoors doing an in-home activity or outdoors doing shopping and it allows the researchers to not just watch them live but actually interact in real time to probe them, essentially providing the only true digital parallel to be there in person. So that’s what we do in a nutshell. It’s all about deeper insights at global scale, faster and cheaper.

[00:01:30] Got it. So normally when you think about a buyer in market research there is qualitative buyers and there is quantitative buyers. So people that are doing the surveys and then there’s a group that’s wanting to do perhaps even both. What is your ideal customers?

[00:01:45] So for us of course it’s all qualitative. They may mix and match us with quantitative studies but we’re focused on the qualitative side of things and we actually work equally with brands and agencies. So there is many market research agencies we work with. We also work with design firms, we work with ad agencies as well at times. But we also work directly with brands. Whether that be CBG brands, retail brands, [INAUDIBLE] or even some pharma. The end result is anyone who is looking to get qualitative insights. Sometimes what happens with the brand is they want to do quick projects just themselves and our technology makes it more scalable so they can do that in-house if they want to, but many a times they are partnering with brands, whether our client is the agency and bringing the brand on board or our client is the brand and then bringing their agency of choice on board. It works either way.

[00:02:24] So can you give me or and the audience a specific use case? I’m actually really interested in one of the demos I saw where you had the glasses, the camera imbedded inside of the glasses. Maybe walk through what that project looks like from inception to final delivery.

[00:02:41] Sure. Think of let’s say a shopper study and I’ll give you the flow both for a smartphone as well as a smart glass, where someone can use our platform to create a project, set up what we call sessions. Which is essentially a live or recorded media interaction with participants and that session can be done through either smart phones, smart glasses or 360 cameras. Smartphones is of course the easiest logistically because they can simply download our app and go live. Smart glasses requires an additional step where we take care of it in that we ship the smart glasses and we get them back, but it allows you to be even more natural and hands free. Especially for certain types of activities. So in a shopper scenario you may have some pre-set tasks and questions. Things like please enter the store, please go to XYZ aisle, lease start shopping and talk aloud. What did you notice first and any few fundamental questions, just giving the participant some structure as to what to do and the flow of things. But the value of watching it live with our platform is that you can probe them and so on average what we’re finding is clients will set up 10 to 12 pre-set tasks and questions but then when watching live ask 60 to 90 additional questions, based on what the people are doing, saying, seeing, even they have maybe missing and therefore just getting really deep with these participants and when it’s with the smart glass it’s all done through audio. So they’re not looking at their phone, everything is done through voice where you can send voice message or any text messages as you send are converted to speech and heard by them and they can of course respond verbally versus with a smart phone they’re seeing these things on their screen. They even have the ability to tap on their screen if you want to throw in a small amount of quant. stuff in there as well. But yes, that’s how it works.

[00:04:12] Perfect. So getting all that data and video format, super exciting. The ability to be able to interact in real time also – this synchronous sort of qualitative is unique. But the other thing I thought was interesting about your platform is the reporting tool. So how you consolidate that data. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

[00:04:34] Yes, actually I should have mentioned earlier so thanks for bringing it up. One of the equally important things we do apart from helping with data capture is actually the AI. So as part of our vision of making quant. more scalable, one part of it is making it easy to capture natural data from anywhere, anytime. But the other part of it is to help analyze that data faster and present it faster. So everything we do automatically of course is recorded. Everything is automatically transcribed through a machine transcription and we have really custom modeled a whole bunch of stuff. So we have a very high accuracy in terms of translation and transcription. But beyond just that we are analyzing the text, analyzing what was said and seen and showing key words and themes and topics that were generated based on what was said, providing sentiment. Not just overall sentiment and emotions, just not overall but at the entity or at the moment level and also providing visual object and seeing recognition where you can actually just skip to the moment where in that same shopping scenario you could skip to when somebody was outdoors, indoors, at the shelf, considering the product and same thing with all your keywords. If you want to go to the moment maybe if they talk about price or they talk about problem of choice or whatever it may be, you could actually skip to those moments. It’s all culled for you automatically, very, very quickly so that you can skip to the moments that matter and once you do that you can actually drag and drop these moments into a visual presentation type tool that essentially lets you just drag and drop and create a video montage for each team. A bucket that you made for it. You just hit a button to generate a report and hit another button if you wanted to download it onto PowerPoint. So the end result is you’re getting from recruit to capture, to analyze, to present, much much faster with our platform.

[00:06:12] Yes, that’s perfect. I love the getting to moments that matter in qualitative. I’ve done qualitative for 2 decades. It’s just catastrophic in terms of the impact on time. If I do an hour worth of IDIs it’s probably two that I’m pouring back into it. Just trying to take out the pieces that are interesting. So yes, that’s a –

[00:06:33] Yes and a lot of the people we’re talking that sometimes they say it’s one to four. One hour of video is four and we’re now making one hour video less than one hour for it, because of our tool. Much less in fact.

[00:06:45] I’m just that much better than all those other – I’m just kidding.

[00:06:51] That is true, you are.

[00:06:52] Before starting Georama, you were at both Google and Microsoft. Which are big deals. So what are some of the big take aways you had while working at those companies that enabled you or empowered you to start Georama?

[00:07:06] Yes, you know I started off at both those companies and learned a ton as to how to deal with customers, how to manage customers, manage relationships. I was also in product roles by the end of it. Strategy roles, analysts. So I was in a bunch of roles all those years and kind of allowed me to deal with different types, manage people, understand how to deal with developers, cross country teams and so I took all of that when I was launching my company. That said no matter what you learn at a big company when you go to a small company, as I’m sure you’re aware of now, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s just, you don’t have the budgets, you don’t have any planned equity. You’re just starting from ground zero and so a lot of stuff you learn in a big company actually just goes. It doesn’t really help in that environment because you’re building things from the ground up. So although you take some of those things and many of them help a lot, there’s a whole bunch of other things and a whole bunch of other challenges that you’ve never ever faced remotely even faced at a large company that you start to deal with in the small company and that’s really the hard part.

[00:08:06] Yes. You know, market research is interesting because obviously you’re servicing that industry. Did you apply market research in starting, as you started your business? Maybe you could walk us through really that journey.

[00:08:18] You know, I did but probably not enough for the first time around and we did make a big pivot in between and when did make that pivot, we made sure to do a whole bunch of research to make sure we pivoted the right way. But when we started we were doing a whole bunch of things wrong. Live video and the platform was used across things like inspections, education, from campus tours to virtual field trips to a whole bunch of different scenarios within mobile, live environments and although we had some success, things were not necessarily having the hockey stick goal that we were hoping for. So last year we sort of hit the reset button because we always had great technology, we probably perhaps just hadn’t found the right market yet and that’s when we did a whole bunch of research to figure out that, just turned out that research or customer insights was where our technology was most fit. Because previously we were helping people explore places remotely and now it’s all about helping people understand people remotely and so that’s sort of that pivot that we made.

[00:09:14] What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?

[00:09:18] First, do your research so that you can try. Your business of course is always going to change, so do as much research as you can. Don’t waste too much time though because many a time it’s all about iterating and having that late start up mentality. But beyond that, pick something you love because this thing is not going to be easy. It’s going to be more stringent than you could have ever imagined, but as long as you have that passion, you have that persistence and then you have the ability to pivot, I think you’ll be in good shape. I call it the three piece of a startup and so that’s really what I think it takes.

[00:09:51] So being new to the marketing research – or relatively new I should say to the marketing research space, what were some of your early roadblocks to getting into customers and how did you address them, how did you know them down or how are you knocking them down now?

[00:10:05] Yes, I think one of the key things for any start up in any new space is just how you raise awareness and we’ve actually – we still have a long way to go but we’ve done a pretty good job in that we’ve used a couple different techniques. One is of course showing up at industrial conferences and we’re now going to start a whole thought leadership aspect of things. I think that’s one of the opportunities for us, but we actually use AI because we think of AI all the time to find a way to actually do sales of skill. Because we do have a small team we utilize especially on the business side. We have a much larger technical team than our business team and so we’re like, how can we reach more of these clients in a very personalized way even though we don’t have as many people who can be sending an email or making a phone call and so we’ve used AI based tools to actually reach out to a whole bunch of people and get our names out there and I’d say honestly over 90% of our clients or our pipeline come from very strategic email marketing through AI. So that’s been one of the things we’ve done really, really well that has helped us kind of get known but there is still a long way to go and getting your name out there, being in a space, having some nice clients that you can show in case studies you can show of course goes a long way.

[00:11:14] Do you have a head of marketing?

[00:11:17] We currently don’t. We actually just, going through a transition on that. So I’ve been closely involved on the marketing side. I do have a marketing background myself, but yes. We did recently, actually earlier this week hire somebody in the marketing department but we will having a head on top person as well.

[00:11:34] What do you see is the role of social media as it specifically applied to selling into marketing research?

[00:11:41] It’s interesting, they’re still speaking aloud in our past iteration of the company we did use social media quite a bit and did fairly well at it. Now we’ve started – yes, we’re kind of resetting our strategy but one thing I think is a good avenue is kind of using thought leadership [INAUDIBLE sounds like: or quick nuggets]. In fact, one interesting plan we have is leveraging our own technology to do quick qual research for hot topics interesting insights and actually using social and of course skewing more business social but any kind of social to kind of put out those insights there to not just give people some interesting things to think about so subtly promote how we did this so quickly through Georama. So that’s one of our strategies we’re about to put into place soon. I think social can be interesting, it just has to be done right considering it’s B2B and not just pure B2C.

[00:12:25] Yes, I think that’s a really interesting point that you’re making. When you move into social, the thing that I am finding is resonating is how the sausage is made as opposed to the actual sausage itself. So the behind the scenes application of your technology and how you gather that information is part of the narrative beyond just the Britney Spears did this silly thing or whatever the trending topic is. So certainly you can hack through and get some followers that way and eyeballs. That’s fantastic. I completely agree, but the other side of it that I think is interesting is as you narrate your story in social media while you guys are actually doing your projects, then internal then it starts giving the consumer an opportunity or a script to then follow and apply to their own workflows. Anyway that’s cool. I’m glad to hear you guys are thinking about that. That’s all I’ve got. Do you guys have any technology you want to highlight or anything coming up?

[00:13:23] Sure, yes one of the things is so far we’ve been focused on in the moment projects and that’s been great, but what we’ve realized is there’s so much more to qual. and so actually over the next month we’re about to very rapidly ramp up our capabilities and offer sort of across the gamut all kinds of qual groups and so a company, whether it’s a brand or an agency can now come to Georama starting next month for any type of qual. project. Whether that be an IDI, focus group type project or in the moment or a diary type study. So that’s a thing we have, the most exciting update that’s coming from Georama.

[00:13:55] Yes, perfect and I’ll go ahead and link all that in the show notes. So be sure to, if you’re listening to check out Georama and the appropriate links in the show notes. Sir, that is it for the Happy Market Research. I really appreciate your time today.

[00:14:10] Same here. Thank you so much.

[00:14:11] Have a great day.