A sociologist becomes the pioneer of country’s first qualitative research company: Meet Meena Kaushik

Vivacious, cheerful, and intuitive – these three words probably best describe the executive chairman of one of India’s largest qualitative market research firms. Her words ring sharp with clarity and confidence, and are supported by a deep study of the topic of discussion. It’s what multinationals seek her out for. It, perhaps, was also what impressed former British pharma company, Beechams, on seeing her detailed report on the status of Horlicks in India.

She didn’t exactly yearn for a corporate career though. Having a degree in economics and a masters in sociology, she kept herself away from a regular job after her first child. But, a push from her PhD guide lent her a job as a consultant at IMRB. Post the Beechams assignment in 1979, she was working full-time as the director of its qualitative research arm.

In 1981, she quit IMRB to start MARG with her former boss, Titoo Ahluwalia. While the qualitative research firm is what paid the bills for the new venture in the initial years, Kaushik felt that it was still considered as the lesser entity within the organisation. That’s when she decided that if qualitative research as a discipline had to grow, it had to do so without the confines of a bigger marketing agency.

Her idea was questioned but this woman entrepreneur was passionate about her practice and she prepped herself for taking over the reins of her own company. On September 12, 1990, this anthropologist along with a linguist (Meera Vasudevan) and psychologist (Srilekha Agarwal) set up India’s first qualitative research company.

However, she had to face a whole new set of problems. From cynical peers to financial problems, hurdles were many. Though her peers were not encouraging, multinational clients switching their accounts to Quantum kept the team motivated. Quantum has been doing it for the past 27 years. Employing 250 people from diverse fields such as economics, history, sociology and linguistics, it has marquee clients across India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia and China, with an office coming up in London early next year.

But the vision for her enterprise doesn’t stop at that. The future goal involves evolving the firm into a holistic design and insight solutions brand. A vision she shares with several employees and her two children who joined Quantum. While her husband is the only non-Quantum convert, his contribution as a supportive spouse found frequent mentions over the course of the interview. Kaushik calls him a “woman’s man” who never offered any unsolicited advice or imposed any restrictions.

Meanwhile, she wants to introduce more women to the workforce and inspire them to believe that one can manage a home and successfully run a business.

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