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Where Should You Open Your Next Research Office? – September 20, 2011 – by Robert Bain

What’s the best place to open your next market research office? GfK’s Mike Cooke chaired a Pecha Kucha session this afternoon in which five researchers flew the flag for their favourite location.

John Kearon of BrainJuicer donned a pair of shorts to try to persuade the audience that Brazil is the place to go. Sao Paulo, he said, is “like New York on speed… The only bad thing is, they tax you and tax you and tax you.”

Gayathri Swahar of Nielsen took a more evidence-based approach to her call for agencies to set up in India, saying the country has stable economic management, reliable infrastructure and huge untapped media audiences. There are only two types of people, she said: those who opened an office in India which flourished, “and those who wish they had”.

Han Zantingh of BrainJuicer conceded that India was big, but said “China is bigger.” And it “invented civilisation”. China may be a smaller economy than the US for now, but “it won’t be for long,” said Zantingh. And the growing middle class means you can find “Ferraris and Bentleys parked next to horsedrawn carts in unpaved streets”.

Elena Koneva of Synovate Comcon struggled to find a nice thing to say about Russia. Taxation is not transparent, corruption is a “national disease”, infrastructure is “in a deplorable state”, and it’s one of the worst countries in the world for personal security. “It’s not for everyone,” she concluded.

Ray Poynter of Vision Critical made a rather more convincing case for opening a virtual office. That way, you get to work wherever you like – gardens, rooftops, cafes, boats, trains. And keping in touch with people electronically via social media fuels real-world interaction too, he said, dismissing anyone who hadn’t befriended him on Twitter or LinkedIn as “stick in the muds who probably won’t have a job in a few months”.

But not everyone was convinced. Russia may have its faults, said Koneva, but running a virtual office “is like sex by telephone”.

The debate will rage on.