Cultural influences around buying jewellery
This research was conducted for a modern jewellery brand in Punjab, a challenging market for the company. I was interested in using a qualitative lens to understand how culture, presentation of self, social roles and expectations, relationships and social emotions like trust impact decisions around buying jewellery.
Two rounds of interviews and diary studies were conducted with 21 participants. Transcripts were coded. The analysis and final report incorporated visual data representations of the coded elements.
I applied the social theories of embodiment, habitus, constraint and agency to the analysis and also attended to the role these constructs play in cultivating a sense of identity.
Outcomes: While attending to the key themes of trust, social ties, prestige and gifting that came up in the analysis, my synthesis provided specific recommendations for the client’s digital marketing strategy around ideas of instilling agency and building communities.
Baseline and endline surveys for Government school children participating in skill building programmes
I designed surveys for Going to School, the innovative education NGO, to assess the impact of their flagship programmes in nurturing design thinking skills for Government school children in Bihar and Mumbai. As school children would be answering these surveys, they had to in simple language test the child’s learning outcomes, assess creativity, and changes in attitudes, aspirations, beliefs and levels of confidence.
I engaged in conversations with children and parents virtually where I paid attention to:
- social cues, rituals, changes in responsibilities, emotions
- access to vital resources like food, health care, information and also other shared resources like technology and space
Outcomes: The questionnaires created in simple language incorporated a mix of multiple choice and free answer questions to allow for as clear answers as possible while assessing a range of STEM learning outcomes and the programme’s impact on aspirations and mindsets. These questionnaires were used in reports for donors, policy recommendations to the Government, and in designing future iterations of the programmes.
Qualitative analysis of vaccine hesitancy in Japan
In addition to expert interviews with public health professionals in Japan, I used qualitative data analysis methods to analyze historical narratives around vaccines in Japan. This included tracing patterns around the formation of attitudes and mindsets. Comparative analysis with successful vaccination campaigns in India and a few other countries provided perspective on the role of institutions, the government, and community mobilization in different cultural contexts.
While my language proficiency allowed me to read academic papers in Japanese, my lived experience in Japan provided me with a deep contextual understanding of the nuances around social dynamics, expectations and risk.
Outcomes: I presented my analysis in a round table discussion with doctors, public health experts and anthropologists organised by the International Longevity Centre. The purpose of the discussion was to inform further research on vaccine hesitancy in Japan.
Unpacking the meaning of sweet (meetha) for the Indian consumer
I was a consultant with Quantum Consumer Solutions for this qualitative study for a large FMCG brand that was conducted virtually across 4 regions of the country. I observed interviews, managed data collection and was part of the team that analysed the data and prepared the final decks. Through this project I got to experience first hand and reflect on the methods used by a large research firm such as Quantum.
Outcomes: Frameworks for brand positioning and identification of new opportunity spaces for the client.
Reflections: This project reinforced my belief in the importance of research design and asking meaningful questions. Having a large team to run the logistics is not sufficient and does not make up for an uninspired research plan. If I had the opportunity to design this research these are some of the things I would have done.
- Explore individual choice versus constraints, resources, rituals, social practices and influences, how did these sweet foods get into the local cuisine and the bigger systems around food supply.
- Use semiotic theory to interpret the evolution, meaning and significance of food and its implications as a lived experience, in advertising, on social media.
- Look for people within the community who can introduce friends and relatives from their network that represent a range of ages, lifestyles, geographies and interests.
- Run interactive diary studies via Whatsapp chat to ensure meaningful data is collected.
Ethnographies on recently rehabilitated people in Bhuj
Hunnarshala, a sustainable housing NGO in Bhuj specialises in rehabilitating people and livelihoods that are victims of natural and humanitarian disasters. Typically architecture practices produce a technical post occupancy analysis for completed projects. Hunnarshala was interested in an ethnographically rich analysis that looked at how people’s lives and aspirations had changed with their new living conditions.
I designed this research study to incorporate ethnographic methods such as in depth interviews, observation, household surveys, and studying movement through space and architecture. The idea was to use these ethnographies for film, research papers and exhibits for Hunnarshala.
I started doing the first round of interviews in March 2020 when the sudden lockdown was announced . Field research had to stop abruptly. Moving online was not feasible at the time. The project has been on hold.
Emotional motivators that trigger consumption of lifestyle brands
I conducted exploratory research in Bengaluru and Indore for a Japanese lifestyle brand to understand how millennial consumers choose brands and products for their home. This involved fundamental questions around the meaning of the home and material objects in it, the movement of material objects, colour and fragrance, spiritual and religious practices, sentimental value of objects, their lifestyle and aspirations and more, all in the context of their culture and domestic environment.
In addition to 10 ethnographic interviews conducted in each location, I accompanied a few research participants on their shopping trips to observe processes. Ad hoc interviews in shopping malls were also conducted.
Outcomes: Frameworks for decoding rituals and behaviour around material objects in the house, how people use things and the relationships they have with these objects, how things acquire meaning and value for people and by extension how status is perceived and portrayed through material objects and decisions around what brands to buy. Pathways for developing an emotional connection between the brand and consumers.