IN 2016, six BS Economics graduates from the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and University of the Philippines banded together to put up the economics and research think tank Limelighter Research Inc. (LRI) to assist entrepreneurs classified as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) get the right information they need to make the right decisions to build a enterprise run by a skilled and competent work force.
Melvie Espejo, one of the founders and also the managing director of LRI, envisioned the economic and research think tank as a training ground for professionals who would like to pursue economic and business research as a career and “promote the profession that I love—applied economic research.”
As a seasoned and skilled applied economic researcher, Espejo knows the value of research as a tool and had came up with the right strategy to create, enter and grow markets. With the right research and right information, businesses, as result, are able to save a lot and can maximize existing resources towards growth their available resources.
“I just found it unfortunate that the same type of service is not that accessible for MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises] or those just venturing into business,”
Espejo told the BusinessMirror in an e-mail interview.
Although LRI is also interested in joining business groups supporting the SMEs and start-ups for liaising purposes, Espejo thinks it’s best for them to deliver the right information that can lead a business owner to decide.
Espejo said LRI is quite aware that a small business owner really cannot afford to make too many mistakes in his or her decisions when it comes to his or her business. She also noted the one-size fits all concept does not apply as each business, whether small, medium or large, is unique by itself.
According to Espejo, entrepreneurs come in different types. There are the typical entrepreneurs who just want to grow their businesses. Then of course there are also the visionary entrepreneurs in the room even thinking of an idea that was never heard of before. For this purpose, the research that LRI does help. “We analyze the context surrounding a specific business question. Incidentally, this experience is true anywhere in the world. A foreign investor for instance looking to enter the Philippine market will have the same thoughts and limited budget for their entry strategy—the first thing they would think of—“is this even a good idea in the first place?” And this is where the research that we do comes in,” Espejo explained.
LRI’s role in ‘delivering the truth’
IN this age of fake news, alternative reality and disinformation, research plays a key role to deliver the truth. “Of course, given how things are now with the Internet and social media, there’s too much information—not all of it accurate or backed by logic or evidence—and that avalanche of information adds rather than reduces anxiety,” Espejo said.
Fortunately, researchers like Espejo possess the discipline, skill, and training in research that has always included handling volumes and volumes of information. Moreover, it is in a researcher’s DNA to know how to filter and only get to the accurate, defensible, verifiable and logical information. “I see that as the role of research companies such as LRI—the work that we do is not just about finding and echoing information, it is filtering and analysis of this information. This is how we use available information to take away uncertainty and confusion among business owners: Important all the time in business, even more so in challenging times such as today,” Espejo pointed out.
Fact checking and filtering
Just like the journalists, the toughest part of a researcher’ job is finding the information. However, Espejo said right now it’s the filtering and fact checking that takes up most of their time. Furthermore, researchers like journalists, fact checking and going back to the source.
There’s no doubt that researchers are also sources of information. In a researchers’ parlance, this is called primary data collection, which means the production of new information through tools of their craft such as surveys, focus-group discussions, regression and forecasting, etc.
“It is this part of our profession that is most similar to the academe and the scientific research community. But I think this nerd talk is better taken elsewhere,” she chuckled.
In a loftier position
After five years, Espejo can now confidently say LRI is definitely in a better place now than where it was in 2016. It now has range of products and services than what it used to offer at the onset. Furthermore, LRI has realized there’s now a wider demand for the type of research that it does.
“We just recently launched our newest publication, AGRI-Q, an industry research magazine on farm-to-table economics, for example, and our initial take up on that is very good,” Espejo said.
Before, she recalled it was just one-on-one briefings and commissioned research work or more popularly known as market studies to support entrepreneurs with a business idea. Today, LRI has a set of regular publications and different kinds of services depending on what type of business and the current status of the business.
Interestingly, research companies thrive more when there is adversity and uncertainty such as the lingering Covid-19 pandemic. Espejo said: “If you think about it, when do you look up something? When do you do research? It’s when you are looking for answers, or trying to figure out what is going on, or when you are trying to decide on something.”
“The difference between a person googling things up and the disciplined, structured, research that we do is that ours is not just about finding the right answer on the Google first page search, it’s finding all the possible answers, validating them, finding connection, putting them into context and explaining why one answer is more right than the others,” Espejo stressed.
Image courtesy of LRI