Uncovering the meaning and insights behind numbers

Datin Kalavalli Sethu, Founder & Managing Director – Compass Insights Sdn Bhd

Datin Kala Sethu, Founder & Managing Director of Compass Insights Sdn Bhd is a name to be reckoned with in the research industry in Malaysia.  She is one of the few Indian Malaysian women who has made her mark in this field. In the 20 years that she spent in the corporate world, she has worked for many leading MNCs such as Colgate Palmolive, Ac Nielsen and Research International where she spearheaded various leading roles.

Business issues and challenges excite Datin Kala in crafting the right methodology and adopting the best analytical tool to find the most accurate solution. Being multilingual, Datin Kala facilitates group discussion, workshop and training sessions at ease with her participants. Her all-round industry experience and technical expertise as a researcher are hard to match. Datin Kala has served over 100 clients from over 40 industries, both multinational and SMEs.

She was elected as the first woman President of the Marketing Research Society of Malaysia (MRSM). Her appearance on talk shows on TV on ASTRO and RTM, the demand for her to speak at various forums, whether on business or self-awareness and spiritual growth and her involvement I helping disadvantaged youth, especially youth have made Kala well-known figure in social services as well.

Datin Kala holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics majoring in Business Administration from University Malaya.  Datin Kala shares insights about her personal and business growth with the team ABT

Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
My father was my first and strongest inspiration since I was a kid. I come from a traditional Indian family, where only education and marriage are prioritised. But my father differed in his thinking. He wanted to see me succeed in my career and be a leader in my own right. His early death in his 30s (when I was only 12) made a great impact on me. Poverty, being the eldest of 4 and dealing with a young disoriented widowed mom, I had no choice but to fight on. Holding my dad’s words in my heart, I worked very hard. That was start of leadership and the struggles were only motivators to me. If my father was the foundation, then my husband has been the pillar of strength.

How did you come up with the idea of Compass Insights?
I followed my passion and founded Compass Insights with a core vision to build clients’ dreams with a positive difference in the way marketing research is conducted, delivered and applied. She has been trusted as one of the best minds in the Market Research Industry in Malaysia and Singapore.

Having worked in the multinational agencies and as well as client side on multitude of industries and issues, I was so eager to deliver research insights with greater ROI to client organisations. Having an own agency gave me more freedom to conduct research more creatively. The passion to make a positive difference to everyone down the service chain up to the clients drove me to start up something on my own.

As a client I at one point, the biggest challenge was making correct decisions. Thus, I formed Compass Insights with the tagline “Empowering Decisions”. Our aim has been to provide insight that leads to correct decisions that saves money and time to client organisation. These resources are so important and should be wasted on due to bad decisions. Actually we sell solutions not research.

If you were to do one thing differently, what would that be?
I always love crafting methodology and best analysis toolkit to find powerful insight to solve business and marketing issues. Now I want to get ahead into a new real machine learning combined with human insights. Work is already underway

What elements of your work do you enjoy the most?
I am usually described as passionate researcher. I suppose it is because there is always something new that we work on.  There were never 2 similar projects or it will never be. The issues are always different, unique to each organisation and brand. Every time a new project comes on, I roll up my sleeves and dive in with passion till the point a solution is found.

How do you believe in making dreams come true?
I have been achieving many of my dreams since a kid. It is driven by “no choice” situation I had. That became a habit over time. Most important to me now is to help deserving others to achieve theirs. Time to serve has come. I want to share with the “juniors”. Women Icons Award is going to make the task easier for me now.

What would you like to achieve in the next coming years? 
Venturing into new business sectors and helping them grow with renewed insight; will like to become multi-country service provider, making Malaysia as the hub mainly served by Malaysian talents. Given the serious talent drain right now, this is just about time. I have already embarked on partnership with Academia to develop the future research talents. With blessings of God, I hope to see success in these.