Information Is Power

Alan Tay, Joshua Research Consultants

In 1994, a young couple, well-known researcher & statisticians Mr Frank Boey and Ms Carol Goh embarked on a quest to give market research a good name. Calling themselves Joshua Research Consultants – after the biblical character known for his integrity and righteousness – they set out to offer quality fieldwork service and honest information in a period where falsified data and blatant cheating were rampant. But in a bid to reinvent the company and inject new ideas, the couple decided that drastic action was needed – they enlisted church friend and YMCA general manager Alan Tay to join the company in 2004. “I told Frank he was taking a big risk bringing me in; I knew virtually nothing about market research,” says Mr Tay, whose keen eye for spotting opportunities would eventually prove invaluable. “He said it was exactly what the company needed – someone with a fresh perspective. He believed that I would find my way.” Nearly a decade later, Mr Boey’s words have proved prophetic. Mr Tay, now executive director, has overseen a meteoric rise in the company’s fortunes. Previously known for its affordable rates and mass market methods, Mr Tay revamped the laidback company culture and switched to offering highquality research services – backed by a prompt and professional service team – currently used by bigname clients such as TNS, IPSOS, Nielsen, INTAGE, OCBC Bank, Standard Charted Singapore, Clear Channel and Tower Watsons. The company’s brand new headquarters in Commonwealth also contains state-of-the-art facilities like focus group rooms, viewing quarters and a dedicated call centre. And while other research firms endured a torrid time during the financial crisis, the company weathered the storm, thanks to Mr Tay’s diversification efforts. Its forays into Malaysia and China have yielded impressive results, with plans to consolidate a group of investment firms and a venture into a bakery factory in Indonesia are also in the pipeline.

Up close and personal

Did it take you a long while to decide to take up the offer in 2004?

Naturally. I was taking a big risk changing industries then. I was 40 and felt that I had no commercial value whatsoever. But I feel that my success now can encourage many more middle-aged Singaporeans to go ahead and do the same with the hope that they can be successful as well.

What was the challenge initially?

Market research was very challenging for me because it was very academic and professional. In my first month, I had to change my glasses because I was befuddled by all the text and numbers! Every time an economic crisis hits, we are also bound to be affected badly as companies usually cut their budgets in market research. The one thing I’ve learnt is that we must live with crisis all the time; with quality services that we provide to our clients, we can survive.

You adopt a caring approach towards employees. Tell us about that.

I hope that all SMEs can appreciate their staff. We are nothing without our staff. We have plans to establish ourselves as a high quality company in the coming years and to do that, you need the heartware. Not many local market research companies can become truly big; usually you only see international firms making their mark. We’re hoping to change that.

What is your long term vision for JRC?

To form a holding company and start consolidating all our companies into a single structure. In Malaysia, we actually acquired two more companies because of the high demand for market research there. We have also started a baking factory in Indonesia. The key is to have diversification and we are looking at a $10 million turnover within the next five years

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight – Proverbs 3:5-6”