DubaI: One industry which has benefited from the global economic slowdown is the online feedback management business, said a top official at Zarca.
"[The] customer is very demanding today. Everybody is having expectations. Online is the only technology which can reach any customer in any part of the world to get collective feedback. It has no boundaries. Middle East customers are proactive when compared to other regional customers," Javed Farooqui, executive director of Zarca Interactive, a US-based company with regional headquarters in Dubai, told Gulf News in an interview.
When Zaraca started operations in 2002, they were the only company to do online surveys in the region, he said. Organisations in the region did not know what an online feedback management was. The first few years were spent imparting training and making organisations aware they had a better way of managing feedback, he said. "The online feedback management is here to stay and 30 to 40 per cent of the current surveys are done online. It is easy and at a fraction of a cost," Farooqui said.
Quoting an Esomar research report, he said Latin America had come to be the biggest market for online feedback management globally. In terms of absolute growth, the Latin American market grew 13.4 per cent while the Middle East and African market grew 12 per cent in 2008. It is quite evident that the Middle East is a growing market and provides vast growth opportunities, he said.
Zarca has around 80 customers, of which more than 60 per cent are government organisations.
Farooqui said the positives going for online surveys are that it avoids biases and is 100 per cent accurate. "For example, in a face-to-face survey, the third party can influence you. In online survey it is your personal decision and nobody can influence you. For the same reason Zarca is discouraging a panel feedback," he said.
"In times of crisis, business owners need feedback from their consumers, their target audience and even their employees. The feedback of consumers and their consumption patterns are of prime concern for marketing experts. This exercise enables them to measure the impact of their efforts and capital invested. This is enhanced when you do this exercise digitally as it generates instant, real time results," said Farooqui.
"The cost of doing a online feedback survey is 80-90 per cent less than traditional survey and it is 90 per cent less workload than traditional surveys. As the internet penetration grows, I would not be surprised to see the cost becoming very marginal.
"Recession gave time to organisations to sit back and study where they can trim costs and how to improve quality. So, the recession has really fuelled online businesses globally and regionally and Zarca expects [to tap] more than 35 per cent of this growth," he said.
He said we will focusing more on the education sector in the coming days, which is the untapped sector, and hopes this [education] sector will contribute more growth for us.
With a turnover of more than Dh3 million and a market share of around 25 per cent last year, he sees scope for further expansion of Zarca in the Gulf.
The company is in advanced talks with partners in Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, he said.
When asked about social networking's growing hold on consumers, he said there is no clear-cut strategy when it comes to social networking sites like facebook and twitter. Being an online technology that enabled people to interact, it offered no organised segment where they could sit down and analyse the trend, he said. Gleaning the right information from people and devising methods of studying information remained a challenge and such tools in no way posed any threat to online feedback management companies, he said.