Continuum 2017‎ > ‎

Consulting Continuum

The Consulting Continuum 2016 was organized on 05th August 2017 and witnessed a series of lectures and talks centred on the theme:

  “Engaging in Economic, Political & Technological Uncertainty:
Role of Consulting Firms”


Following speakers participated for delivering lectures at Consulting Continuum

  • Badrinath Durvasula, Senior Vice President at Adani Group
  • Natwar Mall, CEO, (Fractal Analytics)
  • Sanjeev Rastogi, Managing Director, Syngenta Business Services
  • Kaushik Saha, Director, Deloitte
  • Devroop Dhar, Patner, KPMG
  • V Sriram, COO, ICRA
  • Amisha Ravindra Munvar, Chief of Staff, Mindtree Consulting
  • Swaminathan S, CEO, Hansa Cequity


Major events in the past one year have created uncertainty, in India, and globally. Brexit, Trump administration, rise of far-right parties in Europe and continued weakness in banking sector have added significant volatility in already fragile global economy. In India, although overall outlook remains strong, events such as GST, demonetization and rise of non- performing assets (NPA) in banking sector have built up uncertain environment.

In technology, digital transformation seems to be a major cause of disruption. Technologies such as Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, Block chain and big data are potential disruptive factor. As a result, knowledge based industry is set to be exposed the most.

Amid this global uncertainty, there seems to be a bright spot for the consulting firms. Recent, findings released by EY, in the EY Growth Barometer, a first-of-its-kind survey of 2,340 middle market executives across 30 countries, reveal that despite geopolitical tensions, increasing populism, the rise of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) and skilled talent shortages, 89% of executives see today's uncertainty as grounds for growth opportunities. For achieving growth opportunities, the best antidote to increased volatility is a robust strategic planning process which aligns organizational leadership and stakeholders around a common view of alternative futures, creating the will to nimbly adapt to the future that emerges. This in turn will boost the demand of consulting services.

Key trends and Implications:

Outlook positive but growth not guaranteed - The coming year could either be a boon – with skyrocketing growth fuelled by the upheaval of critical industries – or a bust if policy and legislative changes are stalled. Regardless, the traditional drivers of risks and opportunities will likely continue to support demand for consulting services

Many markets slated for change - Despite uncertainty about any final outcomes, several critical industries are slated for regulatory and policy changes under the new administration. Most industries expect a more favourable environment, but several challenges are likely to arise. Industries most at risk of change – healthcare, financial services, energy, manufacturing, retail, technology, and defense

    Flow of industry’s lifeblood slowing as talent pool dries up - The market is in a tight battle for talent with a shrinking (but diversifying) talent pool and the rise of independent consultants. Smaller firms are gaining traction in retaining talent but continue to face competition from the bigger stalwart firms. Firms are adjusting their recruitment processes and turning to more direct hiring

    Proliferation of digital-driving new business models - Having finely tuned their tools, management consulting firms are moving away from an overreliance on experienced consultants to incorporate more technology-based solutions and business models. They are leveraging technologies that automate consulting capabilities and embracing digital for both front- and back-end operations

    Big-name players dominate, but small players carving out strongholds - The bigwigs – including the Big Four and large firms like McKinsey – continue to command a significant market share, but small firms are shaking things up by carving out strongholds in niche markets with specialized services

Below were the sub-themes for the seminars:

1. Consulting is now more than advice - Has implementation of recommendations become quintessential?

Consulting has long been only about learning the client’s problems and providing recommendations to solve that problem. This even has been considered a boon for the industry because you make money even when your ideas have not been implemented and have not solved the client’s problem yet. There, though, has been a tectonic shift in the recent years in the way consulting firms operate and implementing the recommendations has become an integral part of their offering. Companies not operating this way are losing out on their clients and their businesses.

The days of age-old consulting, where the work was centred around a bunch of people mulling over an analysis for a client on a PowerPoint, is dying fast. Increasingly, strategy consulting is moving towards fast-paced database analysis, supported by machine learning. Clients want to get instant insights from the humongous amounts of data that they gather from their day to day operations. Also, consulting firms have a lot of intellectual property locked inside a consultants’ head, which, if codified and converted into algorithms, can be used by computers instead. This will allow computers to work upon repeatable consulting tasks by following prescribed methodologies, while human consultants are freed to work on those projects where inputs, outputs and outcomes are more uncertain or which require greater creativity, subjectivity, social judgement and perceptiveness or human judgement. This would also reduce the cost of consulting and allow small companies and start-ups to afford their offerings. The question which arises though, is that, what are other such offerings or changes that consulting firms need to make to remain competitive in this ever-changing world full of disruptions?


2. Cost reduction vs Revenue growth strategies in turbulent global markets

Unsteady economic conditions are creating a froth in business objectives, making planning and execution exceptionally difficult, companies feel as though they’re fluttering in the dark

Senior executives in all the industries admit one thing that the global market is more turbulent than ever before. The impact of a downturn now is greater and its pace to become more global is higher in the modern markets. The global economy is not just contracting or expanding, its distressingly uncertain which is going through structural shifts which will radically sphere the fortunes of many industries if not all. Therefore, those businesses which creatively and aggressively seize the strategic opportunities will prosper. Those who limit themselves to single dimensional moves to either cut cost or increase their top line may wither.

The recent downturns have made us witness that companies have been involved in abrupt transition from revenue growth and sales driven entities to firms having lean and mean systems and cutting costs to increase their bottom line. The oscillation in these two directions can be enormously challenging. Hence to survive in these turbulent times, it’s time for the companies to consider a balanced functional approach which encompasses both the objectives. Competitive businesses value their market share growth and expense management as mutually unexclusive.

Companies are often so focused on their sales that their procurement departments act as mere administrative body which functions to respond to the needs of the sales departments. Great companies have realised the huge benefits they can derive from the strategic sourcing body and other critical areas like HR, marketing, IT etc. when work in a collaborative fashion can create a competitive advantage. The old saying stays true now even that “anything that is bought well is already half sold”.

With the increasing business complexities in the last decade, even though it’s easy to identify cost saving drivers and expense reduction strategies, it’s difficult to implement them. Multiple operating groups are effected by the cost reduction mandates in an organisation. Slashing the cost in one area may escalate the cost in another. Therefore, the right solution depends on the organisations willingness for risk and the timeframe for reward.

The solutions must position companies for revenue growth and promote operational stability and eventually more responsive to market pressures. Hence, how should the role of consulting companies develop into, to enable “save to grow” and provide the continuum of cost transformation strategies?

3. How are consulting firms transforming the client’s business environment in collaborative supply chain ecosystem?

For the realization of Industry 4.0, there is need to digitize most enterprise processes. And the key element in these process is supply chain. It need to evolve from traditional supply chains which is largely discrete, siloed steps to a coherent, transparent, agile, and efficient supply chain ecosystem. Supply chains traditionally are linear in nature, with a discrete progression of design, plan, source, make, and deliver. Today, however, many supply chains are transforming from a staid sequence to a dynamic, interconnected system that can more readily incorporate ecosystem partners and evolve to a more optimal state over time. This shift from linear, sequential supply chain operations to an interconnected, open system of supply operations could lay the foundation for how companies compete in the future. Digitization mainly achieves this shift. It brings down those walls, and the chain becomes a completely integrated ecosystem that is fully transparent to all the players involved — from the suppliers of raw materials, components, and parts, to the transporters of those supplies and finished goods, and finally to the customers demanding fulfilment

This network is commonly known as digital supply network (DSN) and will depend on a number of key technologies: integrated planning and execution systems, logistics visibility, autonomous logistics, smart procurement and warehousing, spare parts management, and advanced analytics. The result will enable companies to react to disruptions in the supply chain, and even anticipate them, by fully modelling the network, creating “what-if” scenarios, and adjusting the supply chain in real time as conditions change.

Once built, the DSN will offer a new degree of resiliency and responsiveness enabling companies that get there first to beat the competition in the effort to provide customers with the most efficient and transparent service delivery

4. Freelance and network-based models are redrawing industry lines while pushing traditional consulting firms to explore new business models

The forces which have been disrupting so many businesses beginning from steel to publishing have started to metamorphose the world of consulting. The patterning of this disruption is very recognizable. Firstly, the new competitors with their new business models arrive and the incumbents either prefer to ignore the new players or choose to shift to higher margin activities. The product whose quality was once hardly good enough reaches the acceptable levels of the market standards and undermine the position of the veterans.

The disruption of the established consultants is first done by the smaller clients then later larger clients start using them as alternatives to the big brands. Eden McCallum pioneered the “virtual” or the network based consulting firm model in the United Kingdom. It meant giving the jobs to freelance consultants and charging on a per-project basis. This makes the overheads lean and compared to the big firms’ fee is just a fraction of theirs.

This flexible, low-cost model is also known as the “modularisation” of the consulting world as the client needs have evolved. The traditional industry has shifted from integrated solution shops which are designed to conduct all aspects of client engagement to the modular providers which are meant to supply one specific link in the value chain, in which they pay only for the features they value with greater speed, responsiveness, and control. These new modular models achieve economies largely because they do not carry fixed cost on unutilised time, recruiting and training. Ever since the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008, the companies have been pressurised to reduce the head count.

In this brave new world, the trajectory of jobs has become divergent from the prior. The global consultancy firm, Price Water House Coopers, US has launched a platform to recruit the independent talent called as the “Talent Exchange”. PwC endeavours to be the number one employer of choice for all the talented men and women irrespective of their geographies or personal circumstance.

It is well possible to successfully challenge the traditional ways of how an industry works. But question arises how to innovate in business models?

How can the big consulting firms take the advantage of the key trends while simultaneously combine the best of existing models in the industry? How can the core assets be leveraged in new ways and create steady revenue streams?

5. Role of consulting firms as government advisory

The economic, political, and social landscape is continuously transforming globally and in India. India has witnessed radical policy reforms and programmes which is acting as an enabler for this transformation. Reforms such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Digital India and Start-up India is impacting the way in which government interacts with business, citizens, and visitors. Hence, the way in which public service is delivered is also evolving.

To facilitate this transformation, key consulting companies are coming up with diverse set of services across various sectors. Key sectors and services portfolio includes:

• Social sector - Government is facilitating significant investment in education, skilling, employment, and social and financial inclusion initiatives that promote social and economic equity. Poverty alleviation, education availability, skilling and employment, gender equality, women and child development, human and social services, and environmental sustainability are the areas of focus of our social sector practice. Consulting firms are involved in several programmes by providing services related to regulatory design, institutional strengthening, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building and change management

    Technology transformation practice - Public service delivery needs the reinforcement of adequate technology intervention to enable transparency, bridge the digital divide, boost productivity, and support informed decision making. Offerings include departmental and state-wide enterprise architecture; design, development, and maintenance of bespoke and ERP/packaged applications; implementation and rollout of digital interventions on mobility, analytics, social, cloud, Geographic Information System GIS, and Internet of Things (IOT); automation of business processes and workflows, systems integration, quality assurance, user, and technical acceptance support, etc.

    Investment promotion and ease of doing business - Bringing in fresh investments is at the heart of India’s strategy for driving higher and sustainable growth. This also means that states are competing extensively for foreign and domestic investment. Firms has been at the helm of providing high-end investment promotion and regulatory advice to facilitate such investments

    Public service transformation (e Government) practice - The Indian state and central governments are looking to leverage Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) as a significant enabler in their endeavours. The government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative is a focussed programme, aimed at making India ICT-enabled and taking its benefits across the country. Firms are providing services to various ministries and state governments to help hone the quality of governance in the country. They have been carrying out ‘government process re-engineering’ as a part of these engagements, backed up by the usage of technology, to help provide better governance using technology

6. Providing efficient M&A advisory services in current global economic uncertainty

In the prevailing geopolitical and economic concern, firms are experiencing the need of countermeasure against technology and digital disruption and seizing new routes of growth. And one of the popular countermeasure is Mergers and Acquisition(M&A). To make the deal successful, Companies are using advanced analytics, combined with data-driven diligence and integration, to target the right deals and integrate them in the right way.

There has been no major change in reason for pursuing M&A: digital disruption, sector blurring and changing consumer and customer behaviour. And in this dynamic environment, companies that hold back for inorganic growth could face challenge to remain competitive.

Disruptive innovation is forcing companies to protect and expand their customers by looking outside their field of play. Expansion is driven by Customer voice which in turn is driving investment strategies. This leads to cross-sector convergence in search for customer-centric innovations, which brings both risk and opportunities.

Despite concerns over increasing nationalism and protectionism, 2017 has seen a significant uptick in cross-border deals.

These deals enable companies to buy into pockets of growth and secure supply chains and increase customer reach in an era of geopolitical and policy uncertainty. Many companies operate in a global environment driven by worldwide supply chains. They see M&A as an increasingly effective instrument to protect their international superstructure. Potential policy changes affecting market access could also drive cross-border deals as companies look to protect and sustain their globalized operations. For larger, more established companies, a major competitive tactic in the coming year will be accelerating growth by acquiring innovative start-ups. Successful integration is also the key to these large enterprises’ success, so that they fully capture and nurture the innovation that drove the deal.

7. Role of consulting firms in merger of Technology and Financial services with the advent of new FinTech companies

For the past decade, evolution of fintech companies has forced incumbents to rethink their core business models and embrace digital innovations. As fintech industry is itself maturing and entering a period of rapid change, companies are trying to understand the innovations that will drive the new era.

This new fintech era is being shaped by changes in market conditions, new regulations, and shifts in consumer demands and behaviours.

The scope of services offered by fintech companies has now been expanding rapidly. When once companies focussed on payment applications, lending and money transfer, Industry’s reach has been extended to more than 30 areas, as shown in image below (Source: McKinsey & Company). The shift brings fintechs away from a focus on frontline activities to a broad engagement throughout the value chain. Collaborative partnerships will become increasingly important as fintechs seek scale and traditional financial institutions seek digital expertise. While fintechs have developed applications that create improved customer experiences, many lack skills in customer acquisition and other fields needed to grow quickly. Incumbent banks, on the other hand, already have hard-won capabilities in these areas, but they will have to work harder to create a true digital enterprise. New collaboration models between banks and Fintech include:

    Partnership agreements – Recent known partnership is of Paypal and Discover Financial Services

    Start-up incubator programmes – Recent know program is YES FINTECH by Yes bank. Others include Fintech Innovation Lab and Startup bootcamp

    Buying and selling services - A low-risk approach to joint development of new solutions. Within this model, the most widespread collaboration approach is white labelling: an institution buys a service or product from a Fintech firm and implements it under its own brand

• Acquisition of Fintech firms Consulting firms are offering end-to-end service portfolio to help financial incumbents to leverage FinTech trends:

    Strategy consulting platform - Covering innovation activity across financial services with emerging technologies

    Innovation Workshops - Workshops for executives focused on priority innovation themes, strategy development, and alignment with the right emerging technology partner

    Blockchain - Blockchain/ smart contract strategic evaluations, risk assessment, organizational readiness, and managed deployments

8. Opportunities in digital consulting with increasing market demands of Cyber Security and Cloud Services

Most organizations are transforming their businesses to incorporate digital businesses. They are facing numerous challenges in their journey including complexity, cost, and risk. Consulting firms are approaching this task in an integrated way along with clients.

The concept of cyber security has become increasingly familiar for governments, industry, and the public alike. It has increasingly become a part of the public conscience and of growing importance to both government and businesses. Cyber security is part of a wider discipline covering information assurance, IT security and risk management and it looks to defend against web-based or electronic attacks targeted at government, organizations, and individuals. These attacks are often very difficult to detect. The role of consultants is to try and prevent information ending up in the wrong hands. They specialize in technical assurance and the architecture of systems and security controls. They consult with large enterprises, financial institutions, and government departments to help them defend themselves against the efforts of hackers, foreign powers and deter commercial espionage by rival organizations.

Cloud services like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SasS), Platform- as-a-Service (PaaS) and Business Process-as-a-Service (BPaaS) have become drivers of business transformation. An organization can consume or offer cloud services helping itself or others achieve new levels of connected experience across customer, supplier, partner, and employee. Consultants help clients adopt the cloud to transform IT, scale and streamline operations and create new cloud-based businesses.

9. How can consulting firms leverage social media trails for improved services?

Consulting firms in recent times have started leveraging social media for two major purposes. First, they consider social media as a platform to put themselves in front of more prospects, develop relationships and as a result, send more potential clients to their website. And second, to get hold of large tracks of big data being generated every second, to provide insightful results to the concerned clients.

Such firms however, have strategically and financially allocated and invested their resources in Social Media. They know that Social Media can’t be a reliable source when it comes to extracting data from usage statistics as they can be misleading sometimes. That is why it is considered as a parallel support to SEO rather than a mainstream aisle.

Social Media has become a playground for majority of the firms to make their presence felt and to make their business grow. From putting up new posts online daily to organizing various competitions, firms aren’t stepping back in this battle of engaging people with their brand. Every visit, click or video watched is important to such units, and it is up to Consulting Firms to make sense from this data and provide the required services to the concerned client.

As consultants, being on the brink of cutting edge innovation is a prerequisite. Spending judiciously on Social Media and similar sources is what keeps consultants of the future up to date and doesn’t let them be considered as laggards in a world of ever changing possibilities.

10.How are consulting firms engaging to the advent of cryptocurrencies and blockchains?

Block chain is emerging as a potentially disruptive force capable of transforming the financial services industry. Today, all major banks and financial institutions are involved in block chain technology one way or another: some are partnering with block chain start-ups and organizing hackathons, others are forming block chain-dedicated teams and opening innovation labs. As interest in block chain grows within the banking and financial industry, professional services and consulting firms are expanding their offering to relevant services in hopes to keep up with the block chain craze. At this point, all major consultancy firms are providing block chain- related advisory services. Some, however have taken their commitment to block chain to the next level. Let’s have a look at how they are doing it.

Deloitte has been one of the most active in the space, unveiling in May its involvement in 20 block chain-related prototypes. The firm said it sought to provide its global financial institution clientele with new, innovative technological capabilities. The prototypes are said to cover a multitude of uses such as digital identity, digital banking, cross-border payments, and loyalty and rewards, as well as in the investment management and insurance sectors.

EY has remained relatively quiet in this sphere. EY mainly provides consultancy services to banks, clearing houses and exchanges that are interested in learning more about block chain technology and distributed ledgers. In May 2017, EY joined the Post-Trade Distributed Ledger (PTDL) Group, a coalition of nearly 50 financial institutions and market infrastructure players dedicated to exploring the use of block chain technology in the post-trade industry. EY, a partner of the Viva Technology summit in Paris, hosted two block chain-focused open innovation challenges during the three-day conference. The first challenge, called ‘Blockchain: automated certification,’ sought to use block chain technology to automate financial statement verification and certification. The second challenge, called ‘Blockchain for tax lawyers,’ aimed at creating a block chain solution to certify information and produce contracts automatically.

Similarly, to its competitors PwC is trying to meet growing demand from clients for block chain and FinTech solutions. PwC’s block chain solution portfolio comprises a suite of 12 services aimed at spanning the cycle of analysis ongoing at major financial firms. As part of its block chain offering, PwC has partnered with block chain system builders and ventures Block stream, Digital Asset Holdings, and Eris Industries. Separately, PwC is working with Z/Yen to research on the potential of block chain technology in wholesale insurance.

Accenture is involved in the start-up ecosystem through its Fintech Innovation Lab, a 12-week acceleration program the firm organizes every year in New York, London, and Hong Kong. In January, Novara was selected for Accenture’s Fintech Innovation Lab in London, becoming the second block chain start up to join the program after Hong Kong-based bitcoin remittance service Bitspark joined the 2015 Asia-Pacific class. Nivaura builds block chain-supported digital platforms for the capital markets.

Consulting firms are advising decision makers in business, politics and public institutions and are more than happy to help them understand the different aspects of this intricate matter.

11. How are consulting firms enabling energy companies to find new ways to thrive in an era of increasingly volatile oil prices and intense regulation?

Energy Sector has been the torchbearer of constant transformation. To survive in such a market, companies need to incorporate flexible and innovative concepts for energy production and supply. Along with this, trade and sales of energy and energy solutions is on the rise nowadays. Consulting firms here come in action and support energy companies to stay well prepared to tackle any changes and survive in an era of increasing volatility.

With help of innovative, customised concepts and method based approaches, consultants around the globe analyse their clients’ processes and procedures and help them make most of the turbulent energy industry environment. Identifying the energy trend throughout the world, keeping in check the demand and production levels, one can have a holistic view of the problem at hand and hence prepare for the upcoming shifts in the industry.

Depleting natural resources and increase in consumption have been ringing an alarming bell for these companies worldwide. With proper guidance and involvement of potent leadership, sane human investments are top priority. To make sure that each molecule adds maximum to its economic value, scientific and economic monitoring of the utilization of available resources is what is the need of the hour.

Embracing market solutions and providing alternate sources to oil and gas in form of water, sunlight, or wind, is what is going to keep these companies alive, and consulting firms are going to have a real role in this realization.

12.Strategies to enable health care services deliver high-value care

High-Value Care refers to providing the best possible care to patients at the lowest Cost. Healthcare sector has employed different techniques like reducing costs by cutting down services or improving accessibility by providing health insurances to all but it has not been successful in improving overall health outcomes. Today health providers, health insurance, and life sciences companies are looking for strategies which can deliver health outcomes that matter to patients. Strategies are being looked out to accurately define and measure health outcomes and cost, thus achieving greater value for patients.

The cost of health care is being reduced by eliminating the unnecessary tests, treatment, and procedures. Slowly, all players in the healthcare industry are realizing that building financial models and data infrastructure based on outcomes will be core to attain sustainable growth in the future. Health care organizations are focusing on more coordinated care models. Engagement of patients is increasing by including them more in the decision-making process.

Substantial investments in technology and infrastructure will be required to deliver value- based care. More importantly, health insurance companies will have to come up with better- designed health products, new payment systems, and new reimbursement strategies. Thus, in future, the coordination between health providers and health insurances companies are going to be more challenging. Additionally, a value-based payment system aligns a payment policy with a benefit design, a provider, and a medical event and mapping these elements can be extremely intricate with larger investments.