Consulting Industry In India

By Amin Mevawala, Director, ATM Managed Services, NCR Corporation

In the existing scenario, business is  becoming more complex and corporates have many challenges on their hands to survive stiff and cut-throat competition. It isn’t as easy to move ahead without effectively utilizing professional services especially when companies are trimming their workforce, giving rise to the need  for Consultants who have super specialised skills and abilities  related to market information behaviour and the technicalities of the evolving Indian market.

Over the years, the Indian Consulting industry has started to expand both in terms of size and service offerings. The BFSI segment continues to be big business in India’s consulting world. Global economic slowdown has in some ways become an important driver of demand in India’s consulting market as clients seek help to improve either their Product (majorly Services) or Increase their Profit or increase Customer Satisfaction.

Administrators are in a cost-cutting mode and organizations have given all the freedom to their procurement team to reduce total annual outflow to their partners and this, obviously, includes the professional services cost. This approach of continuous reduction in overall cost has resulted in rate-based solution (e.g. per hour payment) instead of the value focussed approach.

The question that needs to be asked is ‘whether this rate-based approach is inappropriate for consulting engagements?’ Not really, as there are certain projects where we need views and opinions from the Specialist or expert from respective field. In these consulting assignment, rate-based route seems to work the best yet. This approach shouldn’t be applied to all projects. Goals of some assignments are to drive strategic value and to engage and get services from best in the industry.  In such cases payment has to be linked with achievement of Clients defined goals instead of just getting over the finishing line.

Our Industry is still a few steps away from success-based consulting projects, but  for me there  is no doubt that, we have to move towards a result oriented consulting approach instead of just supplying resources. Corporates are willing to share status of their P&L and the challenges faced, with consultants, so that they work as a partner rather than as an outsider. This approach will also lead to higher rewards for consultants, while not ignoring the risks and unmatched satisfaction of being part of company’s growth story.

Consulting firms can grow only by maintaining strong relationships with their client. With increasing competition, these firms can’t engage with mind-set of one-off project. Their goal should be to develop long lasting relationships. This is possible only with a deep understanding of their client and challenges  at hand. Listening skills along with asking the right questions at the beginning of the project is vital, which I feel is a weakness in the existing Indian consultancy scenario. This approach of laying down the foundation of the relationship is key for long-term association. Based on this methodology , Consultants should customise their offerings. Consulting firms cannot work with fixed products. Solutions that successfully worked for one customer need not necessarily yield equitable benefits for other customers as well.

Organizations too should be allocating sufficient amount of time in the project plan for pre-work before finalizing the consultant which is crucial for satisfying end result. Companies should ensure Scope of Work is clearly defined. All efforts should be taken to ensure change in Scope can be avoided, during the project duration. Provisions for resources availability is also the key along with defining accountability for project result.

Needless to say execution is decisive. While companies will take their decision as they are eventual owners, consulting firms should form a true partnership with employees who are part of the project. The greater the level of communication, the higher the chance to succeed for consulting firms.

While it’s no secret that any consulting firms’ biggest asset is their workforce, there are lot of unique opportunities for the qualified Indian labour-force as well. Consultants get to build large networks which span beyond national boundaries and the learnings on these projects is invaluable.

Generation-Z will surely be attracted to Consultancy as a profession instead of mundane long-term commitment to employer. To add, they get to do what they prefer i.e. connecting to varied people, balancing work-life, and being fearless about deadly appraisal process and salary hikes (Or absence of it).

Consultants should keep themselves updated regarding macro trends of the industry and its challenges. This knowledge will useful while interacting with their clients and assist their performance and attain goals too. If Consultants ensure they do great at what they do, rewards will follow.

Our PM, has been the flag-bearer of ‘Make in India’ with his recent trip in US and lot of ventures are moving at a faster pace. Further, India is a hotspot for start-ups (surpassing other countries) and the demand for strategy consulting is going up. There is healthy competition that has started between global and national consulting firms. This will ultimately benefit the clients in getting professional consultancy services. Established MNCs have muscle power, small and mid-sized consultancy firms are bound to face strenuous task to match these standards.

Finally, Consulting is poised for a big transformation. There will be high level of R&D investments and each company will work on a differentiation strategy. Consulting firms understand the value of transparency, customer relationship and ensuring they assist Corporates achieve measurable business goals. Like many other industries, Indian Consultancy too will undergo drastic change, a positive one!

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