The words by themselves paint a picture of people in formal attire; sitting across a desk, engaging in conversations supplemented with presentations and printed collateral, to help solve a client’s pain point. However, I am stepping ahead of myself to indulge you in a small story from my childhood. As a child, I was told that trimming one’s nails after 6 p.m. was considered a bad omen. For the longest time, I struggled to find a correlation between the two, until my grandfather sat me down and explained it to me. In the olden days, homes did not have electricity, and by trimming one’s nails in the dark, you ran the risk of hurting your fingers. Today when I think back, my grandfather provided me with the necessary counsel when needed and in my humble opinion, was one of the best consultants I ever met, even before I learnt the meaning of the word ‘consultant’!
What is business consulting and who is a consultant?
Coming back to the present, with the context of business consulting in the current age of SMAC (social, mobile, analytics and cloud) –a business consultant is an individual who leverages past experiences, subject matter expertise and data, to analyze a problem and find a solution. They span across industries, but ultimately, look towards helping organizations simplify their business processes and enable decision-making.
While business consulting typically covers a range of advisory services, in India it largely encompasses technology consulting and its application to improve business performance. Research states that the Indian consulting market had grown to just over $1.5 billion in 2012 and continues to grow exponentially. Interestingly, the provincial and family-owned businesses in India are transforming today, with the new generation of sophisticated and highly educated young professionals / entrepreneurs. As they look to steer their ships into international waters, they appreciate all that consulting offers and are willing to seek help to increase revenues and improve efficiencies.
Increasing adoption for business consulting in India
Over the past few years, several factors have significantly increased business consulting adoption in India. These include:
• The constant urge to improve business performance and gain a competitive advantage.
• Increasing digitization and adoption of technology to optimize processes. This encourages organizations to build a connected ecosystem, for which they are most likely to seek a business consulting firm’s advice to rationalize technology implementation.
• As developed markets become saturated, businesses are turning towards emerging markets to establish themselves; business consultants are equally likely to get opportunities to help clients grow internationally.
• Increasing customer acquisition and retention which continues to be a primary goal for all businesses.
• A sharper focus on providing exceptional customer service. Organizations look for best practices and guidance from consultants to offer differentiated value and stay competitive in the marketplace.
• The need to reduce business costs, improve operating margins and enhance cash flow in a reasonably short period of time.
The growing demand for consulting services in India has proportionately increased the emergence of several business consulting firms across the nation. The Indian consulting firms bandwagon – what sets the best one apart?
According to ASSOCHAM (The Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India), the US, UK, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations acknowledge the competence of Indian consulting firms, with demand growing in Europe as well. In fact, they cited the competitive edge of these firms over their counterparts in the ASEAN countries as the reason for their preferred status. Indian consulting firms have strong capabilities in telecom, power, metallurgy, engineering and chemicals in addition to the predominant technology sector.
While several consulting firms have joined this bandwagon, what differentiates them in this busy marketplace? I think the ‘ability to transform a business’ is one of the key differentiating factors. A leading industry analyst firm recently evaluated several business consulting firms and rated them based on their business transformation capabilities. The best-rated firms have scored highly on customer/ industry knowledge, completeness of their solution and innovation. Personally, I believe the success of a business consulting solution/firm largely depends on the value they can provide to their clients. If your clients love you for what you offer, you are indeed the best!
With evolving business models, technology is starting to become increasingly commoditized and consulting firms are being compensated based on the value they create. Going forward, consulting firms will face fierce competition on engagements that are relatively short-term and less profitable. Corporate Indian clients will look for tangible returns on their consulting spend. For this very reason, most consulting firms now have introduced outcome-based compensation models.
Since time immemorial, India has been the bedrock of innovation –cotton cultivation, the number zero, the decimal number system, and even more recently, Mangalyaan - the low-cost satellite system. As a nation, we have always embraced innovation, and consulting at its core, is a form of disruptive innovation. Professional competence, diverse skill sets, low cost structure, high adaptability and rapid learning capabilities attribute to the strength and success of Indian consulting firms. Propelled by increasing demand for consulting services, India has emerged as a business consulting hub. We have invested deeply in this industry and our focus is on strategy-to-execution. We have an opportunity to seize this moment and gain the experience to get better at what we do. It can only get better from this point onwards!