Mr. Ganesan Ramachandran- -Partner, Accenture Strategy is one of the highly process-oriented Supply Chain professionals with extensive experience in supply chain management spanning from procurement to distribution to service management. We had the opportunity to interact with him and learn from his varied experiences. He rightly laid emphasis on the increasing focus on Operations consulting and what it takes to accelerate growth in Consulting domain. He also talked about the various parameters that one should take care of while preparing for a career in consulting.
Q1) As we speak today, with the crash of the China market, and Mr.Raghuram Rajan predicting a 2008 like global crises in the near future, what is your take on the current and near term future of the global economy?
These things come in cycles. Nobody predicted the 2008 crises. It’s difficult to predict with certainty anything right now as well. From the kind of confidence I see in the market, I don’t see it happening in the near term, and the medium term is anybody’s guess.
Q2) How much insulated should we as Indians be feeling about the current global economic turbulence?
We have got some things right. Our “make in India” is a right step in that direction, if it comes off well. Our manufacturing and services sector are doing well enough. Agriculture hopefully will do well thanks to the monsoon. Our labour force is well positioned. So our fundamentals as a nation is going strong. So there are certainly things which we are doing correct as of now; scope for improvement does exist though.
Q3) Specifically with regards to the consulting sector , how much of an impact does the global economy esp. the U.S , Europe and China bear on the industry?
Projects in the consulting sector revolve around strategies, transformation, revenue enhancement, sales, and other such initiatives. When the economy is not doing well, you end up doing cost reduction, mergers and acquisitions etc. kind of projects. Typically there would be a dip in terms of the revenue generating capacity of the company, but there would different sort of assignments and new business strategies to look at when there is slack in the economy. So, in the downside there would still be business for consulting sector but with lesser earning’s potential.
Q4) Consulting domain has increased in priority as the sector most B-school graduates prefer to work for, over finance or operations in the past decade. Do you see any plausible reason behind the trend here?
The main reason of this, in my opinion, is the variety in terms of the exposure consulting offers. The learning curve is quite steep. So, the personal aim to join consulting is high given the well-rounded growth it provides to one’s career.
Q5) What are the common challenges one encounters in the consulting industry in one’s day-to-day work?
Consulting is a high demanding job. You need to be mentally alert all the time. You need to be ready to work hard. Travel, work-life balance, varying challenges of different projects are some aspects which make it even more difficult. Managing multiple roles and people at the same time, during a project also means that you need to be a well-rounded person.
Q6) Following up on the previous question, people who are usually averse to so much travelling, is it advisable for them to take up the consulting domain as their preferred area ?
Beginning of the career if you are averse to travelling, then you are probably not fit for consulting. During later stages, when one starts to have a family etc. we do consider their preferences about travel though.
Q7) When it comes to recruiting new talent from a B-school, what are the traits be it academic or otherwise, do you look for in the candidates?
We do look at academics but that’s not the only thing we look at. Anybody who is in the top 20-25 percentile plus has the ability to manage a lot of things at the same time is a good fit. He/ She should have a confident point of view on things, and should have unstructured problem solving skills, good communication and analytical skills.
Q8) Is there a pre-dominance of operations based projects including SCM etc, in the consulting space over other areas of finance or marketing?
Many of the companies today have started operating in the area of Operations Consulting. Usually operations projects account for around 30-40% of all the projects. For those interested in Operations Consulting, they should focus more on their courses in Operations and few courses in Strategy, Marketing, Finance, HR etc.
Q9) How can one prepare oneself while being in a B-school, to live up to the challenges the consulting space has to offer?
As first year is common for all MBA students, one should be thorough with the courses on Supply chain, Marketing, Finance and get the basics right. For second year, a good mix of courses is considered good for a Consulting profile. Courses like Game Theory, Strategic management, Supply Chain Management, Consumer Behaviour, Project Management, Channel Management, Mergers and Acquisitions, Corporate finance, Operations Research, Quantitative Methods, to name a few, are good to know.
Q10) As you are holding a significant position in one of the top consulting companies in the world, can you share your career trajectory/path that led you to this position today, for the benefit of the aspiring students?
I started my career in automotive industry before going for an MBA. After completing my MBA, I again went back to automotive industry to validate my prior experience. Once I had ample experience and understanding of various domains, I moved into Consulting. I would advise the students to go with the flow and make the most of every opportunity at hand. Anybody who wants to have a career in Consulting, should either start very early or once they become a SME in one industry or function – don’t start in between!
Q11) What readings would you suggest to an MBA student?
I don’t believe in recommending what one should read. This varies according to his/her tastes but I do recommend reading a business daily in addition to a standard newspaper. The weekends should incorporate business magazines (like Economist) and HBR articles. While good understanding of Indian context is mandatory, knowing the global context is increasingly becoming vital. It is highly advised to read about happenings in the Digital space as it is going to shape up the business world in times to come.
Interview Conducted by: Upadhi and Koustav- Media Cell, IIM Kozhikode