Philippine Daily Inquirer

Mak­ing sense of digital clut­ter

Data are out there wait­ing to be an­a­lyzed, says RTL

- @neltayaoIN­Q By An­nelle Tayao-Juego Belgium · Iceland · Sweden · Makati · Parañaque · Belarus · Philippines · Asia-Pacific region · Asia · Bonifacio Global City · Happy Mondays · Tagaytay City

Likes, shares, com­ments, rants, and raves. To most peo­ple, these are just the usual so­cial me­dia clut­ter we deal with ev­ery day.

To lo­cal com­pany Re­search and Tech Lab (RTL), how­ever, these are data on Filipinos’ sen­ti­ments wait­ing to be an­a­lyzed.

“All that clut­ter needs con­text,” says RTL founder Al­lan Ca­pu­long. “That’s why we call our­selves a digital re­search and con­sult­ing com­pany.”

Es­tab­lished seven years ago, RTL an­a­lyzes pub­lic digital data for their clients both in gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor. These data aren’t con­fined to those on so­cial me­dia—blogs, fo­rums, as well as web­site com­ments are in­cluded in the mix.

There is a need for RTL’s ser­vice to­day, says Ca­pu­long, be­cause of one ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment: wide­spread in­ter­net use.

The 36-year-old CEO em­pha­sizes his point by show­ing the In­quirer two pho­tos: the first, of a fam­ily 15 years ago, all hud­dled in front of the TV with the fa­ther in con­trol of the remote; and the sec­ond, a present-day fam­ily, with ev­ery­one seated apart, eyes glued to their own­de­vices.

“In two to three years, in­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion will equal TV’s,” says Ca­pu­long, cit­ing his com­pany’s own re­search. “When ev- ery­one’s on­line, the vol­ume of data will only grow. Imag­ine you’re a big cor­po­ra­tion, and there’s so much data about you [on­line]—how are you go­ing to process it?”

Ca­pu­long says on­line data can’t be an­a­lyzed in the same way tra­di­tional re­search com­pa­nies use sur­veys or fo­cus group dis­cus­sions.

“I mean, how would you do an FGD on­line? What does ‘vi­ral’ mean? How would you know if some­thing is vi­ral?” Ca­pu­long says.

RTL, there­fore, blazed a trail of its ownby com­ing up with re­search method­olo­gies de­signed specif­i­cally for digital data.

Ca­pu­long says these “cre­ative adap­ta­tions” of tra­di­tional meth­ods were cer­ti­fied by no less than mar­ket re­search ex­pert Ned Roberto.

“It’s still an open science. It’s a com­bi­na­tion of soft­ware and hu­man in­ter­ven­tion,” says Ca­pu­long. “But those who have been with the com­pany since the start, my­self in­cluded, have back­grounds on tra­di­tional re­search.”

RTL caters to clients both here and abroad in a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries. Ca­pu­long says land­ing a lo­cal telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany (a nondis­clo­sure agree­ment pro­hibits Ca­pu­long from iden­ti­fy­ing which one) was the com­pany’s big­gest busi­ness break.

“Any­thing we find on­line that con­cerns that telco com­pany—like com­plaints—we process. So if you have some­thing to post, make sure it’s pub­lic, be­cause they are lis­ten­ing,” says Ca­pu­long. RTL also has clients in real es­tate, air­line, food, lo­gis­tics, trans­porta­tion, bank­ing and fi­nance, me­dia, FMCG, health and tech in­dus­tries. The com­pany has been re­spon­si­ble for a few po­lit­i­cal campaigns in past elec­tions as well.

Sift­ing through all these digital data are, nat­u­rally, digital na­tives. RTL’s staff of 70 are all un­der 40, with the ma­jor­ity in their early 20s. It’s not a re­quire­ment per se when they hire, says Ca­pu­long, but he does ac­knowl­edge that it is this age group that un­der­stands best what RTL does.

And be­cause the work is so—there’s no other word for it—mil­len­nial, RTL’s of­fice and work­place cul­ture also veers away from the tra­di­tional cor­po­rate setup. For one, you won’t find them mixed in with the yup­pies of Makati or Boni­fa­cio Global City; RTL is head­quar­tered in the mid­dle of a non­de­script ware­house in Parañaque, right be­side a gar­ments fac­tory run by Ca­pu­long’s fam­ily.

“When peo­ple come here, they say it’s ‘Far’-añaque,” says Ca­pu­long, chuck­ling. “Lately how­ever, clients seem to en­joy vis­it­ing the of­fice be­cause it’s quiet and there’s noth­ing to do out­side, which helps them fo­cus on the work.”

Aware of the rel­a­tive in­con­ve­nience of RTL’s lo­ca­tion, Ca­pu­long de­signed the of­fice’s space in a way that would “make peo­ple want to come and stay here,” he says. In the mid­dle of one room, for ex­am­ple, there is a bil­liards ta­ble and a drum set; in an­other, a swing and a foot­ball game. Meet­ing rooms have soft, comfy couches, and the walls dou­ble as white­boards. There’s also a mini li­brary stocked with a va­ri­ety of books, be­cause Ca­pu­long en­cour­ages ev­ery­one on the team to read.

Be­cause work tends to fin­ish late, one of RTL’s rooms is a sleep­ing area fur­nished with tents. There’s a shower and lock­ers for em­ploy­ees, too. Food isn’t a prob­lem ei­ther—an in­house chef pro­vides them with two full meals (lunch and din­ner) ev­ery day. Time is al­lot­ted for R&R, with events like Happy Mon­days and BBQ Fri­days.

“We’re re­ally in­vested in peo­ple and cul­ture de­vel­op­ment,” says Ca­pu­long. “We don’t have an or­ga­ni­za­tional chart; re­spon­si­bil­ity and pay are the mark­ers of pro­mo­tions, which aren’t an­nounced, to lessen the of­fice pol­i­tics.

With a team that’s grow­ing, Ca­pu­long says the group plans to in­vest in a new space soon—one that’s far­ther down south, in Ta­gay­tay. We ask, still not Makati, BGC?

“No, be­cause I want to give op­por­tu­ni­ties to those who are tal­ented but don’t nec­es­sar­ily come from the big schools in the metro,” says Ca­pu­long.

Again, as with ev­ery­thing it does, the com­pany is try­ing some­thing new.

“There are so many mar­kets [to ex­plore] here in the Philip­pines, and in Asia-Pa­cific. Tra­di­tional re­search meth­ods are still the most sci­en­tific, yes, but the vol­ume of feed­back we see now is on so­cial me­dia,” says Ca­pu­long. “It’s a new world that needs its own science.”

 ?? —CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO ?? Re­search and Tech Lab founder Al­lan Ca­pu­long
—CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO Re­search and Tech Lab founder Al­lan Ca­pu­long

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