Saturday, August 23, 2008

Online research firm chooses China gateway

Online research firm chooses China gateway (01/08/2008)

Peter Steyn

Peter Steyn, co-founder of Aha! Research, says Hong Kong makes the ideal place for new business
In corporate speak, a sudden flash of clarity is referred to as an "aha! moment." Three business partners who shared such enlightenment decided to name their company after it, and in November 2007, Aha! Research was born.

Peter Steyn, Managing Director of the boutique online market research consultancy, brings to the business 20 years of industry experience in Canada, Hong Kong and his native South Africa. Having identified a niche for specialised research services, he knew Hong Kong was the place to launch. "We intend to grow Aha! Research into a regional and global company, and there is no better place to start up a new business than Hong Kong," he said.

Mr Steyn, who spent 16 years with ACNielsen, explained how a start-up can compete with an established global brand. "There are pros and cons of working with a global leader with offices in almost every country in the world. However, as I gained more experience with clients in different industries, I identified that often, client needs were not properly met by the large research firms: needs such as flexibility of research designs and executions, fast turn-around times and catering to clients in niche markets. These motivated me to set up a boutique-size research firm that has the flexibility to respond to our fast-changing markets and client needs.

Targeting new media

"I also identified a need in the Asian market for a boutique-size firm specialising in creative online research techniques to not only measure new media, but also to effectively employ new media to conduct high quality market research."

The name Aha! Research was conceived by one of the company's co-founders, Douglas Khoo. "Like all internet startups, having a name that would differentiate us from the traditional research firms was crucial," Mr Khoo said. "But just having a name that was different is not enough. It had to convey the core of what our research solutions would lead to, and this was the ‘moment of enlightenment - the aha! moment.' We also thought that most research agencies were viewed as stuffy, monolithic, and slow to adopt new methodologies and technology. We wanted to project ourselves as more creative, progressive and exciting, given the new medium - the Internet- that we would be employing to conduct research."

Aha! Research's service retains the fundamental principles of sound market research, but uses modern technology to expedite the gathering of consumer feedback and providing creative analysis. The technology platform is home-grown and can easily accommodate most languages around the world. One area of specialisation is the niche consumer panels that will be developed over time.

"Our business objective is to develop Aha! Research into the online research agency that is known for its creative, flexible and sound research solutions," Mr Steyn said. "With our strong background and experience in three areas - market research, advertising research and information technology - we aim to develop, improve and apply creative online methodologies to gain consumer insight for our clients. Aha! Research will be known as a leader in advanced online research solutions. Our growth plans include the expansion of our current, proprietary consumer panels in Hong Kong, to the rest of Asia, most importantly, China."

State-of-the-art services

The firm's services, from its proprietary online advertising effectiveness measurement methodology and loyalty modelling, to standard brand tracking or market segmentation studies, can easily be applied to a variety of industries. Some of its clients, to date, include global HR firm Aquent, Toys'R'Us, and PR firm Text 100.

Mr Steyn said Hong Kong makes the ideal base for the business for a number of reasons, including the city's low corporate and personal taxes, personal freedoms and free economy, economic and political stability, transparent government and its world-class infrastructure.

"As expansion into China is part of our growth plans, Hong Kong serves very effectively as a gateway to mainland China. There is simply no better place in Asia which would attract me to set up a new business."