When you first see her, you might mistake her cool, calm and collector demeanor for meekness but Karen Mwangi is a fighter with big heart and faith that can move mountains.

Karen is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Intel Research Solutions, a new research company that has been making big waves in the political opinion polling in recent weeks.

Swala Nyeti sat down with her to find out the story behind the latest pollster in town and what it takes to establish and run a company like hers in the very competitive sector.

What does your education and professional background look like?

I have a B.A degree in Public Relations, Higher Diploma in Mass communication and over seven year of experience in Market and Social Research. I have worked at IPSOS as a project coordinator, Infotrak Research and Consulting as a Field Operations Executive and at TIFA Research as a Project Coordinator/Business Development Executive. I am also a registered member of The Marketing and Social Research Association (MSRA).


Tell us a bit more about Intel Research Solution, what it offers the market and what sets it apart from the other players.

Intel Research Solutions (IRS) is an African based full market and social Research company Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Intel Research Solutions also has affiliate offices in Uganda and Tanzania, we have field contacts in more than 12 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa. Intel Research Solutions attributes its growth to innovation, high level of professionalism and dynamism.

When did you establish the company?

Intel was founded in 2019, we do market and social research and is in that line we get our clients. So far, so good. We cannot complain.

What does it take to establish and operate a research company like Intel Research Solution?

First is passion, commitment and determination. Establish your market niche and ascertain what type of research services you will offer. Basically, your market niche is the image you will portray to the world and how you want others to perceive your business.


Many say the Kenyan research and polling market is a tough one to penetrate, what has your experience been like as a new player?

It has not been easy; It needs a lot of patience, consistency, and being able to do winning proposals, creating networks and, of course, you need to establish a relationship with the media for your polls to be published. One of my biggest challenge is to invest in a poll then the mainstream media houses refuse to publish due to their policy to only publish polls from well-known research firms, not realizing that sometimes it's not all about the name but the product. I am a product of the well-known research firms, meaning I learnt from the best and I have all it takes to do credible polls. I have a competent team and we are professionals. Why shouldn't we get coverage like any other firm?

Is it true that whoever pays the piper calls the tune, in terms of the outcome of opinion polls in Kenya?

Not at all. It’s a misconception, especially for those who are not favored by the findings. Some of their doubts are about pollsters’ methods. Do they ask the right questions? Are they manipulating the wording of questions to get the responses they want? And whom did they interview? Some of the doubts are wrapped up in a mistrust of the political parties, marketers, and media giants.

What is your take on the Kenyan research and polling market and its future prospects?

The research industry in Kenya has grown steadily over the years. But innovations could rapidly increase potential revenue in the research industry in the future.


For a new research firm, how do you share the cake with the big boys like Ipsos, Tifa and Infotrak and is the market ripe for more players?

One thing I know is; there is something for everyone in each and every field. The only problem is some people feel entitled more than the rest, especially if you happen to be gaining more popularity than the pioneers, they start feeling threatened thus start fighting you behind the scenes.

Where else are you present apart from Nairobi, Kenya?

Uganda and Tanzania, we have field contacts in more than 12 other countries in Sub Saharan Africa.


What challenges have you encountered as a new player, a young person and a woman in that particular market segment and how have you overcome them?

Building a brand that is well known and can be trusted is one of the biggest challenges. A majority go by brand instead of looking at the skills, values and credibility of a firm because it’s not all about the brand or the name but also the product and service delivery you are offering. Here at IRS, we have faced many challenges with the mainstream media houses like Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group and Standard Group who told me point blank that they cannot publish my opinion polls since they have been obligated to just publish Ipsos, Infotrak and TIFA polls. So, I am left wondering how do they measure the level of credibility of the polls done by those specific pollsters? I have worked with the three said research companies in different capacities where I gained experienced over the years. I am still fighting for the space or rather an opportunity to have my reports published by the above-mentioned media houses. They shouldn’t be biased.

Who do you look up to in the research and polling sector and why?

In Kenya, right now, None. I am working to be the best pollster through the experience that I have gained over the years.


Has your venture to establish your own firm been worth the risk?

Despite the challenges, I feel it has been worth the risk.

What advice would you give anyone, especially a younger person, seeking to open a research and polling firm in Kenya?

I did it, and no human is limited. If starting a research firm is your passion, go for it, but don’t start one if your main goal is just to make money.


What advice would you give other women looking at you and wanting to follow your footsteps? What do they need to look out for and how do they excel?

Identify your goal, a successful career is not about hoping, expecting and wishing, it’s about being and becoming, Challenges will always be there but how you face them makes the difference, you can always rise after a fall.

All work and no play make Karen a dull girl, so what do you do away from work when you need to unwind?

Listening to cool music. I love Old School music. Music is therapeutic, I love long drives in new places just to explore and learn different cultures.