Public Relations for the Broadcasting, Mobile and Telecommunications Industries
Welcome to PR Vibes™, created by Calysto Communications to provide you with key insights into the publications and events in the telecommunications industry. Today, we’re featuring an interview with Iain Gillott, founder and president of iGR, a market strategy consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile communications industry. At iGR, they research and analyze the impact new wireless and mobile technologies will have on the industry, on vendors’ competitive positioning, and on their clients’ strategic business plans.
To help you better understand iGR’s focus this year and in the future, we asked Iain to share some of his insight on the firm and on the future of wireless communications in general. Enjoy!
PR Vibes Interview Q&A
Tell us a little bit about yourself – where you came from, your experience in telecom and other industries.
Despite my youthful looks (ha!), I have been in the wireless industry for 17 years and an analyst for 15 years. I actually started in telecom with British Rail prior to college (BR had the second largest phone network in the UK – all of the signals have phones) and then joined EDS after graduation. Then I was the first wireless analyst at IDC at the start of 1994 – I left to start this company in December 2000.
When I became an analyst, digital cellular networks were just starting to be deployed. No one had a clue that SMS would be so big, and the idea of taking a picture with a phone was strictly James Bond. Oh, and 15 years ago, I had no grey hair or kids (I think the two are related).
What was your motivation for starting iGR? How long have you had the firm?
iGR was originally called iGillottResearch and was founded in December 2000. We shortened the name a few years ago as we were sick of trying to spell the email address – it is amazing how many people misspell ‘research’!
I founded the company myself but quickly added employees. What most people do not realize is that we have four full-time employees, as well as a couple of regular contractors. Also, we have employed one or two interns every summer. So at any given time, there are usually six or seven people working on various research projects.
What is the mission of your firm?
We have three basic tenants by which we operate:
1. Do good work – iGR has had some of the same clients since the start, while others have returned for various projects over the years. If you keep clients happy with good research, they will come back.
2. Study interesting things – we are lucky that the wireless industry is so dynamic. We always have new areas to research, and that makes it an exciting industry to work in. For example, we just completed a major study of Mobile Developers and are about to launch new studies of Mobile TV and Connected Netbooks.
3. Have fun – sometimes you just have to sit back and smile! If you do not enjoy what you do, you will not succeed.
What are your main responsibilities? What do you spend most of your time doing?
As well as research, I handle sales, marketing, finances, IT and a few other things. We are a small company, and I hate unnecessary overhead. Some days, I feel like a juggler trying to keep six or seven balls in the air. But that is when it gets fun!
For research, we have split responsibilities among a few key people. For example, Matthew Vartabedian (who has been with us for six years) runs the smartphone and enterprise research, and Adrienne Morris handles consumer plus the primary research surveys. This allows people to build some expertise while also getting enough variation so things do not become stale.
What is your vision going forward? Where do you want to take the firm?
When I left IDC, I managed nine P&Ls and seemed to spend the majority of my time mediating employee disputes or correcting accounting issues. One of the reasons for starting this company was to get back to the research. We have looked at models that would require us expanding our research outside of wireless or doubling the size of the firm – that is not appealing.
To be honest, I hope we are roughly the same size in ten years and we are still doing interesting research and studies for a good group of clients—and that we are known for good research. That will be an accomplishment.
Who are your key customers? Are you trying to target certain groups more than others?
We have two main groups of clients: industry and financial. The industry clients are handset OEMs, operators, vendors, etc. Go to the CTIA show and you will meet many of our clients!
We also have a relationship with a brokerage on Wall Street – we prepare research for them and they distribute.
We are not trying to target one particular group over another, but we do strive to maintain a good mix of clients. In a typical year, we will work with 25 – 35 different companies.
What are some of the key technologies you cover?
Wireless & mobile! Over the years we have researched just about every major trend, technology and acronym out there. If there is one thing the wireless industry is good at, it is creating new confusing acronyms – which sometimes just replace existing confusing acronyms! We see our role as explaining what this all means.
What “value-added services” do you offer? Is there anything about your service “bundle” that you’d like to elaborate on?
Our business is split between custom consulting and subscription/multiclient research – we have maintained a fairly even split between the two over the years. But we can also build custom bundles of research for clients as needed. For example, a client may need an existing research report plus the need to add a few questions to an existing primary research survey. We can do this.
How does iGR try to distinguish itself from other research firms?
Flexibility and speed. We have completed several projects before our competitors have even submitted the RFP response! We are a small company, and we can react very quickly. For example, we have had clients come to us with a need to get a primary research survey in the field within a few days. We can do this and do it regularly.
And, we try not to get hung up on contract terms – we can be flexible to meet the clients’ budgets and invoicing needs.
What do you see as the most impacting technology/trend for the next 12 months?
Aside from the economy? I think that the U.S. mobile market is undergoing a fundamental shift as the penetration increases AND the economy sours AND smartphones rise in popularity. Some companies are not going to survive this shift, while others will emerge and thrive. As the Chinese curse goes, may you live in interesting times.
How do you plan to meet that trend?
Keep focusing on the fundamentals of the wireless industry. While the stock market will jump up and down and companies will reduce headcount, the fact remains that billions of people are still using wireless solutions and millions more will start. That will not change – and the ecosystem still needs to understand the end user needs, wants, challenges and frustrations. And that is what we do – provide market intelligence and insight.
What do you like most about your position?
Aside from the view out of my office and the ability to keep a flexible schedule, I like the variation of the research we do and the things we have to address. One day I can be setting up a survey in China, the day after flying to London for focus groups and a meeting with the accountant the day after that.
What is your biggest challenge?
Managing all of the projects and efforts we have underway, while running the business as well. Some days just fly by, and I do not seem to have accomplished anything. Other days are spent wrestling with airlines and airports. One thing that would make life easier would be a private jet – I hear GM is selling one of theirs?
What is the one interesting thing you think most people don’t know about iGR?
Most people do not know the extent of the services we can offer. For example, we license our own survey tool so we can build surveys in-house. This makes us more efficient and also allows us to develop surveys and make changes very quickly. The tool is extremely flexible and allows us to analyze the results very quickly.
We are also able to field surveys in multiple languages around the world – just this year, we have surveys in Mexico, UK, China, India, Indonesia and multiple projects in specific cities and nationally in the United States.
If you weren’t in telecom, what would you be doing?
This is a good question. I always wanted to be an engineer, and that is what I studied in college – while market research seems a little different, the reality is that there is a lot of technology in wireless, and I still get into the technology. So in reality, I do not think I have moved far from engineering.
Aside from a racing driver, I think being a doctor would be fun and interesting. I would want to be a surgeon – really just a different form of engineering! But actually, I like what I do now.
What was the latest book you read?
I just finished The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton and am now halfway through Red Moon Rising by Matthew Brzezinski – great book about the U.S. and Soviet stories surrounding Sputnik.
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