Three trends that will redesign India's consulting industry

13 November 2018

A number of major trends are set to change the face of India’s management consulting industry, according to Lalit Khanna, the Managing Director of New Delhi based SL Consultants. In an article in the Hindustan Times, the executive consultant outlines three trends that are touted to have a disruptive impact.

The consulting landscape of India is currently worth around $12 billion, with around $1.5 billion of the industry’s revenues flowing into the pockets of management consulting firms. However, after recording strong growth for consecutive years, 6% per annum, India’s consulting industry now finds itself at the onset of major disruption, as highlighted by Lalit Khanna in his review of the country’s sector trends. His warning comes at a time when the global industry finds itself in similar water. 

Growth is strong, on the back of internationalisation and the rise of new segments (e.g. digital, cybersecurity, design thinking), yet at the same time competition in the marketplace is heating to new heights while client demands are changing faster than ever. According to Lalit Khanna, who founded SL Consultants – a consultancy that provides management consultancy and digital transformation services to businesses and public institutions – in 2009, this is best exemplified by three key areas.

Three trends that will redesign India's consulting industry


The first, and perhaps most obvious of these, is digital change. Digital transformation consulting now makes up a $44 billion chunk of the global consulting industry, with further growth expected as the advancement of new automated technologies and AI show no signs of slowing down. As the continual development of technology changes what can be done, so the needs of businesses keep on changing to accommodate it. Be it healthcare or telecommunications, technology is greatly impacting how organisations work.

According to Lalit Khanna, “Where startups are adopting digital technologies for bringing innovative services to its clientele, the well-established businesses are switching to AI, robotics, and machine-Learning technology for transforming their business culture and bring agility into their organisations. For serving the counselling organisations, the consultancy firms first have to adopt the disruptive change themselves and train their workforce enabling them to provide quick, profitable, and smart solutions to the clients. AI and automation significantly boost the productivity of the consultants and the customer experience.”

An example of the challenges faced by consultancies in this regard is the usage of AI-like technologies. While these can enhance the firm’s business processes as well as bring innovation to the services promising them higher growth, budgeting for and implementing such systems is no mean feat, while they also exacerbate a digital skills gap already present across the business spectrum, suggesting training issues will also be a great challenge for consultancies here.

Gig economy

Secondly, the gig economy is well publicised as having reshaped the way many businesses now work, as on-demand talent is cheaper in the long-term due to its lack of commitments to benefits such as sick-pay or a pensions scheme. At the same time, firms do not need to continue paying the wages of an expert outside of the period they actually need them if they hire them on a temporary business. For consulting firms, it is one of the best ways to tap on the right talent specialised in a particular area bringing to their clients the much-needed skill set and experience, but it also comes with a host of issues of its own, including the quality of work, availability of talent, and the efficiency of non-permanent staff.

“The revenue generation for consulting firms depends on the strategies and services developed by the consultants in close interaction and collaboration with the clients. They might even require field-tests for which many on-demand or freelance employees are not ready,” Lalit Khanna said of challenges consultants tapping gig economy talent might face. “Also, the consulting firms have started going digital with intuitive platforms and software for which they have to pay a hefty subscription amount. Misuse or exploitation of such paid tools and software and the manipulation with data meant to be kept confidential is a threat for the consulting firms. Unlike traditional employees, the consulting firms have to face a tough time while grooming the flexible workforce and encouraging them to take a proactive approach to project completion.”

Performance based working

Finally, clients are demanding more and more value for their money, with many entities both public and private coming under scrutiny for their consulting spending. As a result, many consultancies are now being forced to work for performance based payments. This means that rather than the amount of hours for which a consultant labours being considered at the time of billing, what counts is to what extent the work put in has yielded success in terms of the objectives and targets of the client.

While this is not necessarily a problem for the world’s largest firms, it disproportionately impacts on smaller-scale consultancies. It especially places them in a difficult position if a difficult client does not agree to change the tentative amount proposed earlier, after the consultant achieves success. The effective implementation of the performance-based billing totally depends on the sophistication of both the consulting firm and the clients entering into the contract, and can land either in trouble if they fail to appreciate this.

Lalit Khanna concluded, “Moreover, one of the biggest nightmares the consulting firms have is by the time a consultant prepares a research report or any strategic plan for the client after collecting data, analysing it, and pilot testing, those trends and issues become outdated and are replaced with the new emerging disruptive forces. Such vulnerabilities affect the revenues of small-scale consulting firms which do not have an easy access to Big Data, Data Analytics, Cloud, and other cognitive technologies. However, the consulting giants who are the early adopters of dynamic nextgen technology dominate the market leveraging the relevant insights, automation devices, and scalable data gathering. They are better able to advise clients on the seamless implementation of disruptive technology as they themselves harness the potential.”

For more information on key developments in the consultancy industry, see the article ‘Trends and challenges in the management consulting industry’ on


Indian strategic consultancy Intueri notches first year of operations

05 April 2019

Strategy consultancy firm Intueri has successfully completed its first full year of operations, with one eye now firmly on the international stage.

Establishing its operations in India last year, Intueri is a multi-disciplinary strategy consultancy founded by consulting veteran Ambarish Dasgupta, who over the course of twenty-four years served as the head of consulting for both PwC and KPMG in India. The firm provides broad-based services in strategy, policy advisory and corporate finance, but sets itself apart according to Dasgupta through its deep research, problem solving and client engagement approach.

Along with a desire to develop a leading home-grown consultancy in a local landscape of dominant foreign multinationals, such a deep-research mind-set was the primary motivation for establishing Intueri in the first placeDasgupta was driven to tackle particularly complex problems for clients together with a team of exceptional talent – providing a clear and unbiased point of view founded on very strong analysis.

“Unfortunately, there is a vacuum in the innovative, independent & bold , comprehensive and research-based advisory space, those consultancies which can help business leaders deal with geo strategic uncertainties,” Dasgupta states of his intentions for Intueri. “We want to create a unique combination of practical business experience and the latest advancements in knowledge, intuition and intelligence; passion for client and young dynamism.”

Ambarish Dasgupta, founder of IntueriWith a core in-house team of consultants who hail from leading business schools in India and abroad, backed by a need-based network of expert advisors, professors and specialist alliance partners, Intueri applies comprehensive research to complex strategy questions in areas such strategic planning performance optimisation, specialised technology feasibility like Industry 4.0, and international expansions through a rigorous PESTEL model, which provides a wider lens by bringing together political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal analysis.

“Any business decision today is influenced by a myriad of uncertain, unknown external forces, and business leaders and traders get nervous because of geopolitical and macro-economic shocks,” says Dasgupta. “On the other hand, companies fail to leverage the benefits of trade policies or various trade agreements and miss opportunities. Thus, business leaders should consider the interplay amongst these factors to identify opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses.” 

Building a solid reputation

And with a fruitful first year under its belt, the firm is now plotting its own international push. “The market that we are looking at is definitely the world,” Dasgupta says of Intueri’s growth plans, before adding in a typically pragmatic manner; “but since we only are eleven months old, we first have to build up credibility locally.” Yet, with a number of appreciative Indian clients and successfully completed projects already to its name, Intueri is quickly gaining a solid reputation.

Among its projects to date – with the firm stating its intention to focus on and maintain a limited, exclusive roster of long-cycle clients – Intueri has served an established Indian pharmaceutical company grappling with slow revenue growth; aided a local tea company in assessing six countries across Asia for its overseas domicile; performed an Industry 4.0 feasibility study for a leading industrial goods manufacturer; and partnered with an Indian conglomerate with its expansion abroad. 

Intueri has further advised clients in the government, tech-education (artificial intelligence and machine learning), higher education, healthcare, construction & real-estate, retail, and media sectors.

A master of engineering graduate from Jadavpur University, Dasgupta has amassed over two decades of Big Four experience before setting out on his own. Joining PwC in 1993 after starting his career at the then state-owned IT service company CMC, Dasgupta would ultimately spend two decades with PwC – rising to become Head of Consulting, before crossing to KPMG in 2013 to take on the equivalent role.

He left KPMG in 2017 after four years at the firm, going on to become a Member of the State Public Policy and planning board of the Government of West Bengal and Principal Advisor to West Bengal Electronics and IT Department and setting up Intueri. Now, Intueri – which conceptually translates to looking within – is looking outwards toward the international stage.