VIEWS AND INTERVIEWS
Q&A: Talking to Ashok R Sankethi, AIRDA consulting partner
Ashok R Sankethi has a background of 24 years in the MR industry and has served as the country head of Nielsen in Sri Lanka. He set up Kaybase in 2005. Kaybase is a research-based consulting firm in Chennai offering a mix of customized and branded research solutions. The firm was recently ranked as the 9th best research firm in India catering to the domestic market.
We talk to Ashok about the study done by his firm on the Economic Impact of the Vacation Ownership Industry. The study was commissioned by AIRDA to assess relevant indicators in the vacation ownership industry and its close cousins – non-timeshare resorts, leisure hotels, and home-stays.
Over to Ashok Sankethi, on the milestones and challenges faced by his team to bring out a report that is a source of information and a useful frame of reference.
Q: How did you arrive on focus markets for the study?
A: Going by the brief given to us by AIRDA, we had two closely related criteria. One, the markets should be tourist friendly. Two, our focus areas should have tourist attractions that would make the study relevant. Markets with these two qualifiers are the ones seeing investments being made in resorts. To answer the question, relevance was the guiding factor in choosing our focus markets.
Q: Were these representative of other emerging markets?
A: Our work essentially involved extensive research in three markets, followed by the development of specific models. These were then tested for application possibilities in similar states where resorts are present and growing in number. And from the data that we have documented and analyzed, our focus markets would be representative of other emerging markets in the timeshare space.
Q: What were the challenges your team faced in the collection of data?
A: The first hurdle you need to cross in primary research is at the people-interface level. These are consumers on our talk-to list, to get the kind of information we need and obtain a pulse of the market. One-to-one does take time, and difficult to administer, in today’s fast paced world. At another level, we also need information from resorts under a wide range of data categories – which is easier said than done. At the end of the day, that’s part of our job and we work hard at talking to the right people, in the right places. Our success depends on that.
Q: Was it difficult converting this into meaningful information?
A: The estimation of the first order was relatively straightforward as we had already developed a relevant toolkit - a model that would work well. The tougher part was arriving at a down-the-line multiplier for money flow and job creation. This involved extensive desk research to analyze various models, and sessions with thought leaders in economics, to get fair and balanced reactions to our projections.
Q: Who in your opinion will really find this study useful?
A: Key beneficiaries would be stakeholders and investors - especially when they need validation data to support their case when seeking clearances. While it is common knowledge that economic activity helps business and enterprise, our study provides the necessary facts and figures. Showing beyond doubt that resort activity does help the trading community nearby and widen opportunities for local skilled labor.
Q: Is this the tip of the iceberg on the big picture for timeshare?
A: Yes, this is the tip of the iceberg with enormous potential waiting to be discovered. I also think the industry can grow when it starts talking to people at different levels on the socio-economic front. From my estimate, only a small portion of the iceberg has been tapped so far; the real growth will happen when the industry targets middle SEC groups with a customized product offering.
Q: What was it like working with the industry regulator in the timeshare space?
A: Like I’ve said before, AIRDA are constructive clients to work with and their professional approach is an indication of how they can stand for fairness and neutrality. Especially when you take into account that their member resorts are some of the largest players in India’s timeshare space. AIRDA’s share of voice is clearly representative of the industry’s pulse points – and that alone can make the exercise very, very relevant.
AIRDA RESEARCH REPORT AVAILABLE
Assessment of Economic Impact
of the Vacation Ownership Industry
›You can order your copy here