Management Consulting: First Impressions

So it’s been a little more than a month (my internship, not counted) since I started with my first project – perfect time to build first impressions!

On the one hand, it’s a jungle out here. With so much happening every minute you can’t help but feel that you’re running just to stay in the same place. Of course with the pressure of expectations, extreme ambition and the resulting aggression you almost expect someone to kick you down a well and shout “this is Spartaa” every other minute.

So life in a consulting firm is tough (big surprise) – the travel itself is enough to sap all energy out of you (for my first stint, I catch a flight, then a cab, followed by an overnight train, and then another cab – just to reach my client place). Not to mention the impossible deadlines, out of the world expectations (from clients, the team and most importantly, yourself) and the constant pressure to deliver. And not just deliver, do better than most of the rest – because only a select few manage to reach the next level – at every level. Late nights over countless cups of coffee are a given – and for someone who takes stress easily, health will be a major concern very soon.

So this is probably the first thing anyone will realize here – consulting is not worth all the late nights, stress, lost opportunities (work, sleep, social life – choose 2/3 at max) if you don’t enjoy the process. Here’s another thing I realized – the way to enjoy the process is not to look at a snapshot of what I am doing every second (that’ll look like mundane work 80% of the time) – but look at it within a reasonable timeframe (where the full impact of what you did is visible). Because most of the satisfaction at work comes when I can see what we have achieved for the client and for myself.

This past month has been a crazy one – with me struggling to get accustomed to this new way of living, thinking and functioning (of course this new way keeps changing every two weeks and definitely with every project!) – but within just a month, I see a difference in how I work – I can be a lot more focused; I have started internalizing the discipline of prioritizing the most important (and not the easiest) tasks first; excel spreadsheets don’t slow me down (that much) anymore (even though my laptop does, quite often); I am more cognizant of the client’s perspective now; and (I think) I am getting better at setting more realistic short-terms goals. And all this, while I felt like I was just going through the motions, without even deliberating on the learning aspect.

The steep learning curve, which consulting firms promise to provide, is pretty real!

A partner joked about it once, saying “it is true that you will learn in 2 years, what most of your batchmates from business school will in 5 years – but that will be mostly, because you’ll end up doing 5 years worth of work in 2 years!”

I may have made it sound, so far, like the learnings have all been tactical* – that is fortunately not true!

Whoever said business school is the last time you will find real intellectual challenge, would have been pleasantly surprised at what (s)he experienced at a consulting firm – I am learning about concepts and aspects of business, which I missed out heavily on while at school. I never understood, for example, the real essence of corporate governance – till I sat in one some meetings with CXOs of a company (people who are still at business school, do take a couple of courses on corporate governance). I’ve also started thinking a lot more in terms of systems and processes – I can actually see them in front of me – and I understand how bad processes can make even high-performing organizations crumble in no time. I can see why some spectacular start-up founders ultimately lead their companies to a spectacular demise when it’s time to scale. And now I see IT in a completely different light – with utmost respect even.

I can clearly see why consulting firms are titled “Finishing Schools” by many – in a very short time this experience is going to change the way I think –and hopefully all for the better. At IIMA, I learnt discipline, core business concepts and a way of looking at things from multiple dimensions; now this experience is going to make me a lot more (for want of a better word)“professional” in my approach.

At the very least, I expect the next couple of years to make me a stronger problem solver, a more rigorous thinker, an effective communicator and a better manager overall.

 *I would also like to mention, in passing, some other useful life skills that I have acquired – like tying a tie windsor while on a conference call in a cab; the ability to pack a suitcase in 7 minutes flat or optimizing my travel time to be ‘Just in Time’ for every flight

** The views expressed above are personal views of author and should not be associated with any firm.

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Sahil Patwa is consult club alumni from PGP’14 batch. He holds a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Bombay

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Role of consulting in M&A

It is a statistically proven and a widely known fact, that only 3 in 10 big mergers and acquisitions create meaningful value for shareholders, while 5 out of 10 actually destroy value. In spite of the oddly skewed statistics, mergers and acquisitions continue to be a popular way for organizations to grow – horizontally, vertically, across the border- and to diversify – synergistically or unrelated.

When a firm decides on starting the process of merger and acquisition with another firm, it hires a gamut of outside professionals – investment bankers, consultants, valuation experts, accountants, attorneys. These professionals help with various steps of the M&A process right from scouting for firms to acquire or merge with, to aiding in the post-merger integration of firms. This article concentrates on the role of consultants in the process.

The first stage at which consultants are involved, is the M&A strategy phase. Consulting firms do a lot of projects with companies to formulate their growth strategy. Hence, the M&A strategy work is an extension of the same. Consultants are hired to form a detailed M&A program that consists of conceptualising the goals, areas to grow in, kind of partnership vehicle to be preferred (M&A, Joint venture, Alliance etc.) etc. The next stage is the screening of acquisition targets. This includes generating a list of potential targets based on criteria decided by the M&A strategy, creating profile and investment thesis for targets, and then developing an approach plan for the targets. The third stage at which consultants enter is strategic due diligence. Strategic due diligence involves detailed study of the target to confirm the investment thesis, establishment of possible synergies, forecasting of market trends etc. The fourth stage, which is also the most crucial stage because of its high contribution to failure or success of the merger, is the merger integration. In this stage, value from the merger needs to be extracted, but with as less friction as possible. Apart from the operational decisions that need to be taken, a lot of cultural issues need to be sorted out in a speedy manner – organization structure, a shared decision-making system etc. A consulting firm may aid the company through all four stages or may make an entrance at any intermediate stage of the process.

M&A activity had taken a hit in the initial phase of recession, but now private equity players are back in the game and the credit and equity markets are again financing M&A deals. This will boost the M&A activity in the near future, which spells good news for the consulting industry.

Source: http://www.bain.com/bainweb/Consulting_Expertise/capabilities_detail.asp?capID=9

CWG 2010 and Urban Development

An umpteen number of articles, headlines and columns have been written about the organizational inefficiencies and corruption controversies that boldly mark the past and present of Commonwealth Games-India 2010. The opinion that the enormous expenditure related to the organization of Commonwealth Games is anti-poor and unwarranted is totally valid. However, there is no denying the fact that the Commonwealth Games are the world’s third largest multi sporting event and few doubt the global impact and opportunity for development that they offer. Now that India is closing in fast towards the completion of this tremendous challenge it undertook a few years ago, it is imperative that we look at the economic benefits that the games offer.

The CWG is going to be the first major sporting event to be held in the capital city since The Asian Games in 1982. A lot has changed; India is aiming to become an economic superpower and the games are seen as a perfect opportunity to break out on the world stage. The major challenge is to ensure that the potential of CWG as a catalyst for change is harnessed. Be it Barcelona hosting the 1992 Olympic Games or CWG 2002 in Manchester, history has numerous instances where whole cities have been revived due to the change brought about by the games after long periods of low growth and degradation. On a similar note Delhi wishes to stimulate economic growth and improve city infrastructure through CWG 2010.

The development work relating to CWG 2010 Delhi can be broadly classified as:

New stadiums and renovation of existing stadiums

The construction and up gradation of sports facilities is central to CWG 2010. A games village planned at an estimated expenditure of INR 955 crores is aimed at boosting public sports infrastructure. The govt. plans to handover this village to the Delhi University for usage as hostels in future. This in turn would be great news to education infrastructure in the city. Another INR 1250 crores is to be spent on the extensive renovation of existing sport facilities which would be instrumental in putting these otherwise under-utilized facilities to use.

Hospitality Sector

Hospitality is another area that will benefit greatly from the influx of about 8000 athletes and thousands of other foreign tourists. The exponential increase in demand for hospitality services will spell money for the players in this sector. The demand for hotel rooms is estimated to be 30,000 during the games. DDA has planned to auction about 20 sites for new world class hotels. This would raise hundreds of crores for the DDA and would boost Delhi’s capacity to handle inflow of people just a like a world class city should do.

Transport Sector

It is Delhi govt.’s foremost aim to develop an effective mass transport system and solve the massive congestion problems that the city has been facing over the past years. The emphasis has only increased with the games being organized in the city. We have already seen the development of the grand Terminal 3 of the Delhi airport, which got a great impetus in teh speed of development from the CWG. It is now the 3rd biggest airport terminal in the world, with a capacity to handle more than 34 million people a year domestically and internationally. A lot of other enormous plans are in the pipeline; flyovers, bypasses, broader roads, a larger metro system, a high capacity bus system etc. In fact, the transport sector has already been assigned 23.68% of the Tenth plan outlay which amounts to about INR 23,600 crores. Road and transport infrastructure define a city and all this activity in background of the CWG will keep the capital city alive and competitive on the global scale.

Business Promotion

Business promotion for the Indian industry is a key agenda for the CWG Organising Committee. It has even partnered with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), to help it achieve this aim. In fact, talks are in progress with Australia, Scotland, South Africa and UK regarding the building of business collaborations in the Pharmaceutical and IT sector. Other sectors like medical tourism, food processing, energy and education also hold lot of promise. It’s estimated that about six to eight memoranda of understanding will be signed with these countries.

All this also spells good news for consulting firms as they get an opportunity to rope in several projects in event management. Some examples are the consulting firms of Mike Bushell (Sports Marketing and Management) and Craig McLatchey (Event Knowledge Services) that are involved in the event. A lot of Indian consultancies will also benefit as several opportunities are in the offing; for example, Air India sometime back was looking for a brand consultant to manage its image makeover during the CWG.

All in all, the Commonwealth Games, in spite of all the corruption and drama, have already contributed a lot to the development of the Indian industry and infrastructure. Now it just remains to be seen, whether they hold some positive news on the Indian sports front as well.