After two decades of watching the role of new products in marketing in diverse fields, Francis Kanoi is of the firm belief that the core of marketing expertise lies in new product development.

Francis Kanoi has been fortunate in having had an insider status with regard to a large number of new product launches including toilet soaps, detergents, chocolates, beverages, washing machines, colour television sets, two-wheelers, etc.

Very often, this involvement began at the concept stage, going through to every stage, through the launch and post-launch tracking of the brand. In doing this, the company has often been well-placed to compare research findings with actual performance, taking into account all the other elements involved in determining the performance of the brand. This has added tremendously to its ability to predict likely performance from pre-launch research.

It is in these new product launch situations that Francis Kanoi has come up with some very innovative work.

For example, a two-wheeler company which saw product development, requiring 3-5 years of lead time, as critical to its long-term status, wanted a mathematical model which could predict the potential for a vehicle as a dozen critical specifications are varied.

The solution was an interactive software incorporating all that was known, together with a specific study to bridge that which was unknown. The software not only identified the potential but also estimated the contribution from the different existing segments and the sensitivity of the potential to variation in each specification.

The solution to this problem required many assumptions to be made. The client knew this, as did Francis Kanoi, and these assumptions were going to be made by the decision-maker anyway. However, by making these assumptions explicit in model building, we were drawing the attention of the decision-maker to consciously consider these assumptions while he looked at the research findings.

Francis Kanoi identified in the late eighties the "liked-because-it-is-different" syndrome in the product testing of consumer products, foods and beverages and its implications in the interpretation of findings. The outcome was a product testing programme in place of isolated product tests.

In the case of durables and two-wheelers, Francis Kanoi has demonstrated the futility of testing new products among potential buyers in general. In 1985, a fully automatic washing machine at Rs.10,000 was considered ridiculous as a replacement for a maid costing Rs.50 per month. Yet, five years later, nearly 100,000 such washing machines were being sold.

Francis Kanoi has also worked on such methodological issues as "guest factor" which renders the findings on purchase intentions hard to interpret in Central Location Tests.