When two become one: the story of InSites Consulting South Africa
When Henk Pretorius and Elna Pretorius started their careers in the marketing research industry at the turn of the 21st century, they were a bit disillusioned; while they both had a passion for research, the traditional approach left them uninspired – the process took too long, it cost too much, and all too often the end-result was complicated for a client to decipher. They knew that there had to be a better, faster, easier, more cost-effective way of conducting marketing research, but when they couldn’t find the solution, they created it instead. And so, in October of 2008, Columinate was founded: the first independent full-service digital research agency in South Africa.
Columinate differentiated itself from its industry peers by adopting a modern approach to marketing research: both founders were idealistic about the internet and used the technology and tools at their disposal to improve each link in the research value chain. The industry took notice of their thinking and approach, awarding Henk the “Best Paper” award at the SAMRA – Southern African Marketing Research Association’s annual conference in 2009 (The first of many the agency would earn in the coming years, from Elna winning the “Business Achiever Award” from the Business Women’s Association of South Africa, to Henk being featured in Survey Magazine as one of the 20 researchers in the world to watch).
But it wasn’t until Henk and Elna met Niels Schillewaert, co-founder of InSites Consulting, and Tom De Ruyck, Managing Partner at InSites Consulting, at the ESOMAR Conference in 2011, that they discovered kindred spirits. It was evident that both Columinate and InSites Consulting shared a similar cultural DNA, with the same approach to servicing clients, the same vision of adopting and developing new, digital technologies to move the industry forward, and the same attitude about valuing, growing, and upskilling its personnel.
The relationship between InSites Consulting and Columinate blossomed over the next few years, with the multinational engaging Columinate’s services in 2014 for one of its biggest global research projects, where Columinate was responsible for the African elements of the study. Finally, at Columinate’s 10th birthday in 2018, the two agencies announced that they were joining forces, broadening their global footprint, and offering their clients more access to global experts, expertise, and best-practice solutions.
“When we started Columinate 12 years ago, it was with the vision to be a leader in digital research. When crossing paths with InSites Consulting, we recognised a similarity in vision and approach. Joining forces has levelled up our abilities across the board. Today we are locally ignited and globally fuelled, and can offer our clients impactful and flexible research solutions, while introducing them to the global network and opportunities only available through the InSites Consulting Group” says Henk Pretorius, Managing Partner of InSites Consulting, and Managing Director of InSites Consulting South Africa.
Following its acquisition 18 months ago, Columinate will trade as InSites Consulting South Africa from February 2020 onward. The Johannesburg office remains our central research hub for the region, offering the flexibility of a local agency, while offering our local clients access to resources and capabilities from the global InSites Consulting network.