Philippine Daily Inquirer
Making sense of digital clutter
Data are out there waiting to be analyzed, says RTL
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.”