McKinsey books double digit growth in India, says Gautam Kumra

21 November 2017 7 min. read

McKinsey & Company has grown with double digits in India over the past year, says Gautam Kumra, the firm’s managing director for India. To stay ahead of stiff competition from the likes of BCG, Bain and the Big Four, McKinsey’s Indian arm is focussing on four big themes, including ramping up its analytics and implementation services. 

In January this year Gautam Kumra took over at the helm of McKinsey’s Indian office, which operates from offices in Bangalore, Chennai, Gurugram and Mumbai. Kumra succeeded Noshir Kaka*, who transitioned to a global role as one of the leaders of the firm’s analytics practice.

Speaking with The Economic Times, 45-year-old Kumra shed light on the plans he has built since he took over the firm’s corner office. Not surprisingly, growing its footprint among key clients is a pivotal part of the strategy. “We will continue serving leading institutions of today and tomorrow and be relevant to them. We identified 35 priority client situations in January. We said okay, this is where we are going to compete or die. We are tracking those closely, how much of our work is coming from these key clients,” he said.

Among its clients in India are the Indian government, NITI Aayog (the planning body for the government), dozens of multinationals based in the country and national carrier Air India, for which it drafted a business plan earlier this year. “20 of the top 25 companies in India are among our clients,” explained Kumra. 

McKinsey & Company books double digit growth in India

While McKinsey is the leader in India’s management consulting market, an industry valued at $1.7 billion, competition from rivals like BCG, Bain, Strategy& and the advisory arms of the Big Four is heating up. Fellow US-headquartered strategy consultants BCG and Bain have three offices each in India, while the Big Four – especially EY and Deloitte – are investing heavily in their more high-end consulting offerings. Deloitte for instance poached a team of more than 300 from KPMG last year to gain ground on Big Four leader EY, which has 125 partners in its Advisory outfit, while in July 2016, the firm acquired parts of BMR to bolster its M&A offerings. 

Three big themes

In a bid to remain ahead of the competition, Kumra and his leadership team** have mapped out several areas that they believe will enable McKinsey to maintain its edge in the Indian consultancy space. “We are focusing on three big themes,” he remarked. The first is focused around renewing four of the core functions, internally known as practices, of McKinsey’s consulting base: strategy, operations, organisation and risk.

Parallel to this, Kumra is, mirroring the international strategy laid out by global CEO Dominic Barton, betting on fast growth in three relatively new practice areas: Restructuring and Transformation Services (RTS), McKinsey Analytics Digital Solutions (MADS) and Digital. In India, 20% of the firm’s work already involves these three new capabilities, with Kumra stating that he expects the figure to ramp up as the market segments grow and investments materialise. 

McKinsey Implementation, an arm that McKinsey launched a couple of years ago globally to support clients with execution and complex programme management, is a third major theme. The arm distinguishes itself from the classical strategy consulting offering through its focus on staffing senior industry experts, who work side by side with clients on change transitions. 

Talent management

Against a backdrop of growing investments, McKinsey is at the same time struggling with retaining its talent. Consultants from ‘the firm’, as the company is referred to by analysts, are in high demand among organisations, corporates, and more so lately, startups. Kumra admitted that the consultancy lost more than 100 consultants in the last two years to industry players, startups and private equity firms.  

Quote Gautam Kumra

To fill the talent gap, McKinsey have stepped up hiring from India’s most prestigious business schools (McKinsey recruits over 100 consultants each year from schools), and, in a major departure from tradition, the firm has grown its industry hiring. Kumra, who has been with the firm for 23 years since joining the consulting major straight from the campus in 1993, says that he prides himself in McKinsey’s employership – the consultancy ranks among India’s top 25 companies to work for, alongside the likes of Flipkart, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet, 

Speaking on McKinsey’s track record in grooming top talent, Kumra stated, “We have 500 global alumni who are running billion dollar plus businesses. The fact that the McKinsey has the largest number of CEOs produced by any institution in the world is a matter of pride for us.”

McKinsey India enjoys a fair share in the firm’s wider alumni base holding executive roles – according to its website, 70 McKinsey India alumni today hold CEO positions. Two of those are Nitin Seth, a former McKinsey India director who now is CEO of San Francisco based Incedo, and Pradeep Parameswaran, a former McKinsey India partner who served as CEO of DEN Networks until January this year, when he joined Uber in Gurgaon. 

* Gautam Kumra is McKinsey & Company's fifth managing director in India after Tinu Puri, Ranjit Pandit, Adil Zainulbhai and Noshir Kaka.

** Other senior partners of McKinsey in India are Rajat Dhawan, Rajat Gupta and Noshir Kaka.