Updated: Dec 17, 2019
The article was first published in The Assam Tribune on 25th November, 2019 . It's target audience are students and professionals from North East India.
With economies developing and businesses evolving, Management Consultants are increasingly finding themselves being deployed in exciting, diverse and financially lucrative engagements. Today, government and private organisations prefer to employ consultants - to examine their organisation through the prism of an unbiased, 360° lens and help them migrate to the next stage of the organisational life-cycle.
Who is a Management Consultant?
A #Management #Consultant is a professional who helps an organisation (client) improve its performance – increase revenue, optimise costs, launch a new product or service, revamp organisational structure, or address supply chain bottlenecks – thereby, creating value for all its stakeholders. The consultant performs these tasks through a thorough analysis of the client’s financial and operational numbers, conducting primary and secondary research to map the client’s ecosystem and competition and subsequently, presenting the observations by way of a detailed report or a presentation.
Where does a Management Consultant work?
Most of the leading consultancy companies in the world are also actively involved with government and private clients in India. McKinsey & Company, Bain, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Accenture Strategy, AT Kearney, Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG, among others, advise clients from industries as diverse as financial services to healthcare.
A number of smaller Indian ‘boutique’ firms like Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG), Avalon Consulting, Technopak Advisors and Red Seer Consulting have also carved a niche for themselves by remaining focussed to a few industries (eg. automobiles, pharmaceuticals or FMCG) or practices (eg. go-to-market strategy, process improvement or digital intervention).
The rise of the gig economy has also enabled and fuelled the demand for independent, freelance consultants. Marketplaces like Freelancer, Upwork, FlexingIt, Outsized and Vedak act as platforms to connect organisations to consultants and subject matter experts. Typically, the assignments are contractual with tenures depending on the project (but generally lasting less than 1 year). The consultant may be paid by the hour, or be on a monthly retainer-ship.
Hallmarks of a successful Management Consultant
To evolve and grow in the consulting profession, it is important that an individual is detail oriented, has a reasonably good sense of numbers and observation, can multi-task, is creative and can visualise ‘the big picture’ for the client. An example of visualising ‘the big picture’ could be: how will the launch of a new product change the client’s revenue, increase its market share, necessitate a change in the sales and marketing strategy and simultaneously, align with the client’s organisation values and ethos.
In terms of persona, it helps if a consultant is a curious person, with an ability to grasp new trends, technologies and concepts fairly quickly. A consultant should also be able to work well with diverse teams - very often, teams comprise of individuals from different geographies and with a multitude of character traits. It is also important that a consultant displays a sense of independence and time-management and has an ability to lead and rise up to the occasion should the situation so demand. The consultant should be presentable and have good communication skills and body language – this enables her to put across the recommendations to the client without the risk of a communication gap.
How does one become a Management Consultant?
In today’s age of fierce competition, individuals with strong academic credentials, an #MBA degree and / or with deep domain knowledge (eg. financial valuation of an e-commerce company, environmental sustainability practices in oceans, tunnel boring technology for metro rails) stand out from the crowd.
Leading global and Indian consulting companies hire from tier-1 colleges like the #IIMs, #IITs or leading Liberal Arts institutions for both entry-level and mid to senior level positions. Typically, the process of hiring involves 3 to 4 progressive rounds of interactions, with the final round often being one where organisational fit and remuneration are discussed between the candidate and the hiring company.
The candidate is assessed on the basis of #guesstimates (eg. how many tennis balls can fit in an aeroplane, what is the average daily ridership of Delhi Metro or how many baby diapers are sold in Guwahati annually) which test her ability to arrive at a number (need not always be correct, but should be a decent approximation). Some #interview rounds may also involve #casestudies which test the candidate’s ability to think laterally and visualise ‘the big picture’ (mentioned previously). A typical case-study could be: the CEO of a global fast food chain wants to open outlets across North East India. How does she go about it?
Why should one choose Management Consulting as a career option?
In terms of job satisfaction and remuneration, management consulting can be an extremely rewarding career. Individuals who love to solve problems and thrive on diversity find the plethora of assignments incredibly exciting. Consultants also get opportunities to meet new and interesting people during the course of (often multiple) travel assignments across the globe. Companies also offer multiple perks like daily allowance, gym and wellness memberships and travel and stay facilities to retain talent.
Along with the financial services industry, the management consulting sector provides very competitive, and almost unparalleled, #salaries to deserving individuals. Entry-level salaries in India for an MBA graduate typically range from Rs 11 lakh per annum for a ‘boutique’ consulting firm to Rs 25 lakh per annum for larger, global firms. Once hired, the professional growth trajectory is fairly steep – the diversity of assignments help the consultant learn and adapt to new processes and industries quickly. This is, consequently, reflected in an average annual salary hike of 7 to 12%, over and above the intangible benefits of acquiring new skills and becoming more versatile.
Who should one not become a Management Consultant?
A career in consulting may involve adhering to strict timelines and sometimes, unrealistic demands from clients. Needless to say, assignments may have to be delivered in a high-pressure environment, without compromising on the quality of output. Individuals may also be required to travel often for field-work, primary interviews or to the location of the client. It, therefore, goes without saying that individuals who are averse to travel, who may prefer a relatively easier paced work environment or who value an equitable work-life balance should not opt for a career in consulting.
Management Consulting and North East India
The increasing urbanisation of cities in #NorthEast #India, complemented by favourable government policies and business environment, has resulted in a steady demand for management consultants in the region. Leading firms like #Accenture #Strategy, #EY and #PwC can be seen deploying employees in cities like #Guwahati and #Shillong, in projects advising different state governments. Smaller businesses across the North East are also looking at independent consultants to provide them with an understanding of the market landscape and competition to hand-hold them in their organisational growth. Anecdotally, there seems to be a positive bias towards the value addition provided by consultants – an optimistic sign that the economy and general ecosystem of the region will follow the growth trajectory of more developed Indian states like Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu.