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Challenges of being a Consultant in India

Many of our experiences and interactions suggest that consulting in India is way different from anywhereelseelse in the world. Consulting is a painful job in India especially if you are a small firm with limited resources. Why I say this is because consulting is a demanding job here. Customers tend to look at you as a game changer and they expect you to turnaround the whole situation like magic. Which is extremely impossible and not a day’s work. It needs understanding between both the client and the consulting company, what are the expectations, goals, etc. And then there is another reason, consulting fees are hardly paid in India, everybody wants to take a few tips and orientation from here and off the table there.

I will focus on a few challenges that consultants usually face in India but please don’t make this as a case because situations may differ from one firm to other.

The client and consultant sit together to define the “scope” of the assignment i.e. what would be the deliverable. But uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope actually haunts the consultants and clients regularly. This is because the scope is inadequately defined due to the underlying complexity of the problem, improper pitch made by the consulting firms or because of the client simply focusing on the end results without fully appreciating the problem at hand. In price-sensitive India, keep expectations low on business class travels and luxury hotels that’s associated with a consulting job.

Acquiring adequate data is a major issue here, most of the things go untapped or hence is the reason for flawed data reports. The need for 3-4 types of ID proofs in India is another proof that data is not “proven” yet. So you may have a hard time drawing meaningful insights from them.

Consultants are no scientists, they rely on innovation or improvisation to draw insights and a major source for these insights is wisdom fetched, be it in the form of knowledge various team members or experiences gained through previous engagements in similar industries or by handling similar issues. With major consulting firms having less than two decades of presence in India and the country witnessing major changes in the intervening period, one may still be some distance away from being “too-old” to “know it all” in India. Similarly for the clients, one of the major reasons for their apprehensions or expectations is their limited experience of engaging with the consultants.

India is a vast and diverse country, a sector may be organized and consolidated but it may still be unexplored somewhere else. With time you may get an idea about a particular market in India but to come up with findings that apply to the entire country, you may have to assess them separately and independently. This would be time consuming and require to explore as an individual or tapping into local resources if available. Different languages, cultures, varied population, etc. will give you a tough time.

In order to crack the nut, as a consultant, you may have to conduct interviews at the client end, participate in group discussions, touch-base with competitors and other stakeholders. It’s not easy to convince the external stakeholders to spare a few minutes for  unless you are a woman. One of the major roadblocks is the inability of the prospective interviewees to differentiate industry standards or information from strategic and confidential information. While it could also boil down to consultant’s ability to engage with the interviewee but I would also attribute the lack of openness to the Indian culture of family owned businesses where they mainly rely on close relatives for critical tasks or for sharing useful information.

India is indeed a challenging space for consulting but with the right attitude there are rewards awaiting.

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