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Dhaka Tribune

The highly demanding field of management consulting

Update : 22 Mar 2014, 06:51 PM

Bangladesh was about to play Afghanistan in the first game of the T20 World Cup and my phone kept buzzing away with whatsapp group messages tainted with excitement and anxiety. Not one of us doubts the talent of our beloved team but we fear they may underperform resulting in a range of emotions in our discussion.

Our “adda” is most likely a representative sample. Tamim has nothing apart from a positive outlook, Rana and Ashfaq like to rationalise shortfalls by delving into off field issues and Prosha muscles up to berate the tigers when they falter. The final consensus reached by the group is that Bangladesh has unfulfilled potential.

Our cricket team can be seen as a microcosm for many industries in Bangladesh which have the potential to have a global impact. The question that remains for both the national team and the country is how to identify and cultivate resources to ensure maximum output. The sporting arena traditionally turns to coaches and academies whereas the corporate world turns to management consultants.

Management consultants have had a role in shaping the brands surrounding us from the phone in our pocket to the plane we fly on. The industry title itself is revealing: these consultants arrive at organisations to work with management to solve business problems.

The diversity of these problems means amongst consultants there are specialisations such as human resources, technology, finance, strategy and operations.

So, what do they do? Well, there are two ways of improving the bottom line – either increasing revenue or reducing costs, and a consultant works toward these targets by dealing with the impediments.

For example a consultant may utilise the data available to identify inefficiencies such as a job function which can be performed by one person rather than two, thereby eliminating the need for an additional labour cost. The breadth and depth of knowledge and intellect of consultants mean they are qualified to see things that others cannot and make decisions objectively in the interest of the organisation.

The knowledge is derived from the tried and tested methodologies, diversity of experience in previous roles and the vast network of resources which the firms can access. This industry has some of the best and brightest minds.

The top tier strategy consulting firms such as Boston Consulting Group (BCG), McKinsey and Bain are highly selective in whom they recruit. The process itself is gruelling with case studies and analyses designed to push an individual to the limits of their ability. This can be seen as a brutal form of intellectual natural selection.

Furthermore, these aren’t just normal candidates; while the entry points may vary based on previous experience and specialisation, many come from the top MBA schools such as Harvard and Stanford. The people that have come out of these consultancies leave a global imprint.

Usually I would list a few examples but I can’t do it justice. Take the opportunity to go to the “notable alumni” section of the three aforementioned firm’s Wikipedia page to see the mind blowing list yourself.

While there are specialised consultancies in Bangladesh, the top consultancies are currently absent in Bangladesh. This hardly means there are no top tier Bangladeshi consultants, as the Bangladeshi diaspora has a web across most nations, and there are many within it that are in the industry.

However, an injection of the top firms can play a key role in the future of Bangladesh as they have in India and China over the last 20 years.

As Bangladesh begins to infuse itself into the global economy, it will require industries to be up to speed with best practice methodologies, operations and talent to compete.

For example, Bangladesh has a large pharmaceutical industry lead by Square and Beximco and multinationals such as Sanofi and Novartis have taken notice and commenced production. Consultants can implement strategies to increase the size and scale of production or to reduce costs while maintaining the quality required for certification to attract production away from competitors.

Conversely, as domestic consumption grows within Bangladesh many companies will look to drop their product into a country of 150 million people. Let’s take the success of Gloria Jeans for example. Firstly, it may make competitors, such as Starbucks, look up and see a potential coffee market and secondly it tells other global companies that Bangladeshis are ready and willing to spend money when they see value. In this scenario consultants can identify the potential benefits of operating in Bangladesh and navigate management through any pitfalls.

Bangladesh will need to embrace consultants if they are to penetrate this market. The major drawback is the cost; these bright people and their world of knowledge do not come cheap. The organisations which may potentially engage top tier consultants will need to see the value in their service. This requires knowledge regarding the function of consultants and, in a country without that culture, it stands out as an obstacle.

Management consulting has proven, across many countries and industries, that it can help organisations fulfil their potential. The ingenuity and the resources available in Bangladesh make it ripe to make an impression on the global economy.

It is time to move on from the qualifying tournament and management consulting may just be the guide to put Bangladesh among the elite.

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