Training in Sri Lanka – A review by Phyllis Macfarlane

On 21-23 November Phyllis Macfarlane, Treasurer of the ESOMAR Foundation and Global Training Programme Manager at GfK, Dilek Ozler, Sr. Consumer & Market Insight Manager, People Data Center & Unilever Executive Coordinator of the Paragon Partnership and Sajeevani Hewage, Consumer & Market Insight Manager, Unilever Sri Lanka, addressed the Sri Lankan Market Research, Marketing and Sales fraternity with a programme including qualitative and quantitative advanced research training, a special session on the future of market research and a knowledge forum for senior industry leaders.

Part of ESOMAR Foundation’s mission is to provide training in smaller, developing markets that do not have the resources to develop such training for themselves.

So far we have run 2 training workshops in Myanmar, and one in Kenya, and this year we had a request from the Sri Lankan Market Research Association to support them.

Sri Lanka is emerging very dynamically and successfully, it appears, from years of internal conflict within the country, which only ended some 10 years ago. And the recently set up MR Association is full of plans and energy to get their MR industry onto a thoroughly modern footing, and growing!

Change is in the air!

How exciting to be a country at a point where you have just successfully transferred (almost) all your F2F fieldwork to CAPI  – and internet and smartphone penetration are both at 35% and growing.  You have a real opportunity to learn from what has happened elsewhere in the world, and plan for a whole new online and digital future. Perhaps able to leapfrog technology (online data collection going straight to smartphone, for example?) and learning and utilising all the new tech and opportunities that are available.

And from a training point of view – how refreshing to be there at a point where change is in the air. To be able to emphasise the values of traditional MR skills (and help enhance them) and also to demonstrate how these skills translate into the new age digital of MR. In fact, the training couldn’t have been timed better.

What did we do?

Our Hosts were determined to get the most out of us. Beforehand we had discussed various scenarios, and we ended up with a really packed and interesting agenda. We spent one very full day on Quantitative research – focussing on quality and insight and adding value (50 attendees), and a very full half day on Qualitative research – again focussing on qualitative data collection, analysis and insight and how to communicate research to have more impact (38 attendees).

And then a full half day (100 attendees!) on the Future of Research where we covered: quantitative research, qualitative research, passive measurement, Social Media, Big Data, and Behavioural Economics – Phew!

From the feedback I think we did inspire some young researchers to look into these new areas and make them their own.

And then, on the final day, we did a breakfast presentation for clients (c 90 attendees) – who were a very impressive lot, interested mainly in return on research investment (what else?!), and who asked very difficult questions – mainly about the future of communications, social media, Big Data etc. As I mentioned earlier – it’s clear that Sri Lanka is determined to become a very modern business centre – and, based on the people I met there, I think they are very likely to succeed!


It is always inspiring to meet researchers from other countries – particularly developing ones – and hear about their concerns and aspirations, and  perhaps be able to help and advise them on how to tackle the issues, and also on how to learn new things to achieve their ambitions. It’s also inspiring for me to consider their unique market and how they might develop it. But the workshop was also an opportunity to meet the committed and charismatic Sri Lankan research leaders, and my fellow trainers: Unilever colleagues – Dilek Ozler and Sajeevani Hewage.

Dilek and I have been working very well together on Paragon for nearly 2 years now and we had never actually met – it seems strange to have to travel half way round the world to actually meet – but that’s what happened! And Sajeevani, a young but very experienced Sri Lankan researcher, had great stories about the local industry – which is such an important context in any training programme.

We were very happy to work together to deliver this series of Workshops, which we hope had an effect on everyone who attended.

Training NGOs

Our next task as ESOMAR Foundation is to develop this training programme for NGO researchers. Their language and requirements are very different from our usual commercial clients – so we can’t deliver the same content – it needs to be tailored to their needs.  Do let us know if you have any experience or ideas as to how we should do this, we would love to hear from you.

Our thanks go to The Sri Lankan Market Research Association, Himalee Madurasinghe, ESOMAR Representative and CEO Kantar Sri Lanka; Roshani Fernando, COO at Quantum Consumer Solutions for making this new ESOMAR Foundation training session a success!