Consulting as a service came about as far back as the late 19th century when the world’s first modern consultancy firms were founded because the industry had started to move away from simple trading and traditional products to things that called for specialized knowledge in setting up, maintenance and growth.
From the turn of the 20th century, consulting and in particular, those with a focus on engineering and finance found increasing acceptance in the world of business and enterprise. Today, a century down the line, the consulting industry is one of the most mature in the professional services industry that generates revenues anywhere close to USD 250 billion YOY.
There though is a caveat in the present. The pandemic-induced state of the industry has seen the worst percolate down to its essential parts including consulting. Had the pandemic not put the dampener, things could have very, very different. That said, this part of the industry is sure to look sunny worldwide once the fear of the pandemic recedes though the same may take time.
Mirroring the global consulting industry is the one in India that too has seen substantial growth (and slumps), not only in terms of size but also in terms of the service offerings. In recent years, the demand for specialist consulting services is being sought in a big way in India. This presents a never-before opportunity for a large number of consultants to help businesses with their expert knowledge base and resources. This is despite the pandemic-induced slowdown.
Of special interest today are start-ups and MSMEs that despite the pandemic are looking for ways to scale up their operations and approach an increasing number of customers both within and outside the country. All this had fuelled an industry-estimated growth of CAGR 30% that till 2020 was to be in the range of INR 27000 crores as per an ASSOCHAM report.
Whether or not the same came about could be called to question due to the obvious slowdown. On a global level, the current slowdown may have brought losses of up to 20% in market value than in absolute terms may mean losses of USD 30 billion.
Losses, be in industry or in consultancy though are not uniform and the same mirrors in India as well. For instance, tourism and allied industry are very likely to dispense with management consultant in large numbers due to the prevailing downturn whereas the medical fraternity in all its forms, divisions, and departments could see a marked and substantial increase in their drive to recruit consultants.
The other sunrise industry for consultants could be the Fintech and Edutech where things going online wholesale, there’s an obvious dearth of both subject-matter experts and experts in the field of communication, connectivity, and customer experience.
In the normal order, management consultancy includes within its ambit the following:
- Management consulting with its ambit of improving organizational structures, planning strategies, and marketing.
- Operational & technology consulting that looks into improving operational efficiency and keeping up with technology.
- Financial consulting that deals with utilizing capital effectively throughout the entire value chain, cash management, and organic expansion of an entity.
Consultancy firms on their part offer solutions and services to a broad spectrum of industries in the following ways:
- Discovering newer opportunities to grow including the discovery of newer products and services.
- Diagnosing issues and challenges faced by organizations as a whole or in its parts.
- Improving the performance of the organization as a whole or of all or any of its parts.
In the Indian scenario, facts, figures, and salient points include:
- The presence of over 6000 consultancy firms in metropolitan areas.
- Over 200 supporting R & D labs.
- Low entry barriers bringing about a mix of big and small players.
- Huge manpower with the right education and experiences that can cater to varied industries and fields including IT, management, civil engineering, telecommunication, petrochemicals, power, and metallurgy.
- The right education and experience of the players make them quite sought after in markets abroad including those in the US, UK, China, Japan, and the Gulf region.
- Strong interpersonal skills and ability to think out-of-the-box and accept differing perceptions.
- Ability and willingness to follow best practices in every aspect of working including data management and security.
In the present, mirroring the challenges faced by firms worldwide, consulting firms and consultants in India may struggle with changes in everything from fields to scopes to methodologies and even the way clients are approached, and reports prepared. Some of the more pronounced challenges the industry could now face include:
- Use of local instead of global: International travel is a big no-no, local consultants with the right credentials could be the first choice over international or multinational ones. This could mean an effective loss of foreign business.
- Increasing use of technology to solve ‘in-person’ problems: Continuing from the above, where the right kind of consultant isn’t available, the next option would always be to use technology to hold online meetings. Zoom, Google Meets and the likes shall continue to be favored platforms for meetings with the likes of Zoho and Google Office helping consultant worldwide do business
just as wide.
- A complete change of strategic interests at the client’s end: ‘How to grow’ was the question once. Today it has whittled down to ‘How to sustain’ or even ‘How to survive’. Making organizations lean and self-sustaining, remote accesses, remote working, office-less working, on cloud working, remote 3-D printing, etc would be the new areas of consulting that could see substantial changes in such fields as human resource, finance, and asset deployment.
- Increasing emphasis on digitization and mechanization: Before the pandemic, consultants were involved in organizational development in its entirety in the backdrop of a holistic thought process. Today, it’s about helping organizations survive and thrive with the use of technology in every possible area in any industry in the context of methodologies including IoT, Edge
computing, Industry 4.0, and the likes where data is central and humans on the periphery!
Consulting was always an interesting industry. Circumstances have made it even more so!