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Management consultants can be Mr Fix-it!

One reason why MBAs are so keen to take up management consulting is the exposure it offers. Management consultants provide inputs that help businesses grow, diversify and globalise Vimal Chander Joshi reports

education Updated: Mar 18, 2010 09:29 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Anurag Malik finished his MBA in 1998 from XLRI Jamshedpur and joined a consulting firm after working for a few years in the corporate world. “When I was doing my MBA, a consultant’s career was always an aspiration. But I wanted to get a good grounding in the corporate world, and spent a few years working in it. Those years have given me a good perspective of the mindset and concerns of people on the other side. I believe it has helped me connect better with clients, speak their language, understand their concerns better and recommend solutions that can be implemented,” says Malik, partner – people and organisation, performance improvement, Ernst & Young.

Today, many MBAs and graduates from other fields, including engineering, prefer management consulting jobs. Mohit Kant, an engineering graduate from a private college in Gurgaon, works in one of India’s top consulting firms, but – for gaining experience – joined a smaller company first. “An MBA degree from a premier college is supposedly a definite passport to a consulting job. However, engineers, if competent enough, can also make the cut,” says Kant, who also runs an online knowledge and networking portal, consultingnetwork.co.in.

“The recent years have seen a shift in mindset and consultancies are keen on picking up graduates from good colleges. At Ernst & Young, we lay a lot of emphasis on grooming graduates to take on additional responsibilities. Some graduates who perform well can (even) outdo people with higher qualifications,” says Malik.

“Consulting is probably the only job where you can implement the entire learning you accumulate in a B-school. Every project demands a different approach. No wonder then that all top rankers in management colleges give the thumbs up to jobs in consulting,” says Gyanesh Sinha, a final-year student at Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University, who interned with Arthur D Little, a consulting firm, last summer. He recently got placed at Accenture Business Consulting.

One of the major reasons why MBAs are so keen to take up management consulting is the exposure it offers. “Learning and professional growth aspects are quite extraordinary. Arguably, one year of management consulting is expected to be equal to multiple years in a traditional business environment,” adds Malik.

The wide scope of a consultant’s work profile makes the job enriching as well as intellectually stimulating. The major thrust is on ensuring maximum returns on investments for one’s clients. Many a time, the fee a consulting firm charges depends entirely on the profitability it commits to the client. For example, when a consulting firm commits that the client’s sales will grow by 20 per cent after their suggestions are implemented, the firm would charge an “X” amount.

This would increase if the sales jump is of 30 per cent.

This makes consulting as demanding as a sales job. “You have to deliver results, without which consulting has no meaning. Sometimes, we also have to execute the plan to prove that the said plan will actually work,” says Sumit Sagar, an associate at a big consulting firm in Delhi.

Consulting jobs also help people when they choose to become entrepreneurs. “In a few years’ time, one can learn everything there is to know about running a business and can even start one’s own enterprise. Coming back to a corporate job is also not difficult,” says Prof Ajay Singh, who teaches HR management at IIM Lucknow’s Noida campus. “In a consulting firm, you end up learning a lot about how businesses are run. After that, entrepreneurship is a very logical shift for any successful consultant, especially when one discovers that one’s strategies are bearing fruit in companies across different sectors,” says Kant.

What's it about?
Management consultants help organisations improve their performance, primarily through the analysis of existing business problems and development of plans.

Organisations hire management consultants to seek external, objective advice and access to the consultants’ specialised expertise. Consultancies also provide organisational change management assistance, development of coaching skills, technology implementations, strategy development, or operations improvement services.

Clock Work
9 am: Meeting with team to decide plan of action for the day/ week/ project
10 am: Conduct thorough research on the industry vertical
2 pm: Study company reports and analyse them
3 pm: Share the results with mentor to assess the plan of action
4 pm: Resume study, analysis, try and figure out solutions to solve ‘X’ company’s problem
6 pm: Leave for home
7 pm: Read books and journals to know more about the changes in the industry vertical

The Payoff
Initially one can earn as much as Rs 5 to Rs 8 lakh per annum and take home Rs 10 lakh to 15 lakh per annum in a few years time. The salary increases rapidly with experience. “If you are a high performer in this business and have the zeal to succeed, the sky is the limit. A high performer, within 10 years, can clearly aspire to take on a leadership position,” says Anurag Malik, Partner - people & organisation, performance improvement, Ernst & Young

Skills
.
You need to have an analytical mind as you will be required to study and analyse industry trends and identify company-specific problems
. Stay calm and give hundred per cent to your work as it can be quite strenuous
. Have various fields of interest as you will be made to work on projects belonging to completely different domains. One project could test your knowledge in
marketing, while the other might test your skills in operations
. You’ll require excellent communication skills as you have to be clear in conveying your ideas and thoughts to clients, listen to them and provide guidance
. Industry experts need to have excellent learning skills as they have to update your knowledge on a regular basis

How do i get there?
A management degree from a premier institute is a sure shot way of bagging a consulting job. You can otherwise take up engineering and join as an analyst. After an MBA, you generally get placed at a senior position, like an associate or a consultant

Institutes & urls
.
Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) at Ahemdabad, Bangalore Calcutta, Lucknow and Indore
(www.iimahd.ernet.in) and others
. Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi
(www.fms.edu)
. Management Development Institute, Gurgaon
(www.mdi.ac.in)
. IMI, Delhi
(www.imi.edu)
. XLRI, Jamshedpur
(www.xlri.ac.in)
. IMT, Ghaziabad
(www.imt.edu)

Pros & Cons
. Good money makes it one of the most attractive career options for MBAs
. Allows exposure to different domains of business, which makes consulting an enriching job
. Very demanding. It’s highly result-oriented and you have to perform well consistently. You can’t afford to make mistakes

Growth in consulting is quite rapid

An industry expert talks about a career in this line

What other qualification (besides an MBA) can help aspiring management consultants?
Most client problems require holistic business understanding and appreciation. Given this nature of consulting, mostly people with diverse backgrounds are valued. It’s common to find MBAs, CAs, psychology graduates, PhDs etc in consulting firms. More than a particular educational background, what is required is a problem-solving attitude, a passion for working in a certain area, working with different sets of issues and other such skill sets.

There are several management graduates who take up consulting because it looks like an attractive career from the outside, but later they find they are not suited for the profession.

Is life as a management consultant quite hectic?
The life of a consultant can indeed get hectic at times. Working with multiple clients, tackling different sets of issues each day, dealing with different teams and people on a regular basis, busy travel schedules, stringent deadlines etc, can get to you at times. But then, these are the same things that make up the charm of being a consultant.

What are the growth avenues like in this sector? Where can one reach in 10 years?
Growth in consulting is quite rapid. Much of this is because of the steep learning curve in consulting. In 12 to 15 years, bright candidates go on to become partners in consulting firms.

What about the future of consulting in India?
India is amongst fastest growing economies in the world. There is tremendous amount of work to be done at every stage in ‘India Inc’ to create expertise and skill sets for the next levels. Consultants have a huge role to play in the years to come. India will continue to be amongst the fastest growing economies and that bodes well for them.

Rohit Jain, business leader, north and east India, consulting, Hewitt Associates Interviewed by Vimal Joshi