Point of View: Big is not always beautiful

Stan Sthanunathan
The Coca-Cola Company

Businesses focused on size and growth for decades and this drove scale and cost efficiencies. But as economies mature, criteria for assessing business success have become broader. Leaders are asking themselves 'Is being big always beautiful?' Increasingly, this question is being asked of research agencies and research departments within companies.

In the 90s, globalisation of economies and businesses started gathering momentum. This resulted in more companies demanding better understanding of consumers around the world. At that stage, there were very few players who could offer global research services. This started the great M&A race in the business. The underlying assumption was that if an agency has a solid global footprint it is much better positioned for the long run. But this assumption was challenged by the advent of online research. Ease of collection of data globally and the subsequent commoditisation of data collection services in developed economies, challenged some of the assumptions under-pinning the M&A deals. These challenges became even more pronounced as agencies worked hard to defend their 'Size-Based' business model as the world around them moved to a more nimble service model. These challenges accelerated as technology started playing a role beyond just easier data collection. Small entrepreneurs emerged; they brought new technology- enabled solutions to market research. The industry started realising that being big does not guarantee competitive edge.