IE2023: Delivering on speed, quality and cost is possible, says Vinay Virwani from Dabur

IE2023 is bringing together the global market research community for Merlien Institute’s annual virtual event on July 12&13. With a strong focus on business strategy and the changing landscape of the industry, the conference will present thought leaders from around the world and also feature a “best of” from our in-person conferences. Ahead of IE2023 we spoke with Vinay Virwani, Head of Consumer Insights, South Asia at Dabur who is joining this year’s speaker panel.

IE2023: Vinay, without giving too much away – what is the core message of your talk and what would you like delegates to remember?
Vinay Virwani, Dabur

Vinay: There is a famous principle that says “you get to choose two out of three between Speed, Quality and Cost”. You can never get all three – and while quality remains a non-negotiable, market research struggles to create impact because Speed and Cost remain inversely proportional. However, with new tech emerging – it is now indeed becoming possible to deliver all three together and hence through agility create substantial business impact. However, wherever it is not yet possible, it becomes critical and imperative also for businesses to assess risks and really make the choice between Speed and Cost.

IE2023: What motivates you to join the Insight Extravaganza conference and what are your expectations?

Vinay: Merlien Institute has a strong legacy in taking forward the market research industry by bringing together a research community enabling cross learning and forging new paths ahead. Sometimes as professionals, our perspectives get restricted to a narrow field of expertise – but these events by Merlien, especially the Insights Extravaganza is a great opportunity to enrich our perspectives and go back and influence stakeholders to make the function of insights even stronger. I am especially looking forward to learning from all the exciting work happening in the field and connecting with some of the best minds globally in the industry. I would be particularly interested in all the amazing stuff happening in the analytics domain, especially with 1P data.

IE2023: How do you envision the future of market research and insights, and where do you see the industry heading?

Vinay: Of course, tech will come to play a very important role in the industry going forward. I foresee that we will move from too little data to too much data – so much so that we won’t know how to handle such large authentic data sets – and what patterns to draw from it. This will be possible because of the increasing ecomm and social media penetration. Authentic data will keep getting collected without even mounting any surveys.

Overall, I see System 1 actual behaviour data replacing normative System 2 market research methods.

With such real time accurate and actionable data, I foresee market research continuing to be at the strategy table for most businesses. It would be critical for the market research industry to keep pace with the evolving consumer space to ensure this happens.

Overall, I see System 1 actual behaviour data replacing normative System 2 market research methods.

IE2023: What in your opinion is one very true and one very false stereotype of the industry?

Vinay: True Stereotype – Market Research slows down the project. Notwithstanding the emerging agile tech, market research does remain another “gate” to be passed. It does slow down the project as much as a stability study slows down product development. But you wouldn’t launch something without a stability study – so why would you launch something without market research?

False Stereotype – Steve Jobs famously quoted Henry Ford once “If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”. What often gets missed is that Steve was indeed obsessed about getting into the minds of the consumers and he had realized after working on several tech initiatives that ignoring consumers comes with its own peril. In-fact in one of Apple’s memos titled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy”, the first and foremost principle is “we will fully understand the customer’s needs better than any other company”. His comment was not a sweeping statement on market research in general but the traditional way in which it is done.

IE2023: What is the best advice that you have received on your journey in this industry?

Vinay: It was in the early years of my career, where one of my senior colleagues in marketing convinced me that Marketing indeed is a science – just like Physics and Chemistry. In the other sciences, you induce, deduce and conclude basis observations in the physical world while in Marketing, you try to understand something much more complex than the physical phenomena, which is the human mind. It is because it is so complex, that it often gets passed on as Art and not as Science with a set of rules. But, at the end of day, unlike art, which seeks to exist for art itself, a brand communication seeks to exist to ultimately – get more consumers, more often – to generate trials. It has a specific objective – and hence needs to be measured – both on the input side as well as the output side. This has stayed with me and helped me to keep bringing market research back into the table with higher stakes.

IE 2023: Apart from work, what should delegates talk to you about at Insight Extravaganza – do you have any particular personal interests, hobbies or extracurricular activities and engagements?

Vinay: I would be particularly interested in Behaviour Sciences and Models based on Nudge Theory. A lot of work in this field is happening in the Social Sector but it would be great to see if something is happening especially in the FMCG industry.

I am also an amateur writer and indulge in non-fiction and poetry. I feel it also helps me in my professional world as well. Story telling, I think, is a craft that all business leaders should hone – especially insight professionals. Its makes the stakeholders easily comprehend and be excited about your work and subsequent recommendations.

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IE2023 will feature Vinay as well as representatives from Philips, Reckitt Benkiser, General Motors, Visa, Ikea, Danone, MostlyAI, Meta, Twitch, Google, Statista, Entropik, Bayer and many more.

Tickets are available at