Manish, you went from engineering, finance, knowledge services to consulting. Please share with us one of the most valuable things that you learned from such an interesting journey.
In 25 years of my professional career, I had the great privilege to work with the likes of LIC Mutual Fund after which I moved to McKinsey where I started my journey towards the knowledge services industry.

It’s been an incredible journey working on some pioneering and pivotal notions at these leading organisations, such when investment habits were being cultivated more profoundly in the average Indian consumer market to overcome the initial reservations due to the prevalence of frauds in the mid-1990s. Another highlight for me was being one of the first few founding members of the McKinsey India Knowledge Centres, which is now an integral component to McKinsey operations globally.
 
Something that I concluded in the knowledge services industry, especially after helping kickstart McKinsey’s first Knowledge Centre in India is that research becomes a base to solve time-sensitive problems because once it’s done and archived logically, it becomes a reference point to bounce off instead of starting from ground zero entirely. Hence, the critical importance of knowledge services and research.

Heading into 2020, what are some of the key technologies that you foresee will improve the sectors that you specialise in?
Language technologies such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) are going to be key in 2020. In India alone, there are 22 languages recognised while many other languages are being spoken but not yet recognised. Without localisation, only 7 – 8% of the Indian population has access to digital services as most of the services are in English.  If we would like to make our digital services available to the rest of the Indian population, we need to understand and speak their languages, which is when the localisation strategy and technologies come into play.

Back in October 2019, the Indian government under Narendra Modi announced plans to directly fund 100 startups to use its artificial intelligence-driven language platform which will offer translation services in many languages of the country. Meanwhile, the Indian ministry of electronics and IT has also started work on the programme, called the Natural Languages Translation mission, and is looking at providing Parliament and Election Commission records that are available in many Indian languages as an initial database for the services. Therefore, the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning and how it’s going to make language translation services smarter is going to be a development to watch in 2020. At the same time, it would only be natural to expect the rise of digital services consumption in India as more segments of the population would be able to actively embed these technological efficiencies into their lifestyles.

Your consulting firm Rescon Partners has a mission statement of “running sprints is not our territory, helping clients win marathons is our forte’. Could you share a few examples to explain the importance of the Balanced Scorecard methodology?
Dr. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton co-created the Balanced Scorecard (BSC), and this started as a performance measurement system in 1992. It has evolved over time into a strategy management system built around five management principles: (1) mobilise senior management team, (2) translate strategy into operational terms, (3) align the organisations to the strategy, (4) motivate to make strategy everyone’s job, and (5)govern to make strategy a continual process.
Let’s take the example of cost reduction and cost optimisation, which are words that would draw the attention of any management team. Many organisations have indeed used the Balanced Scorecard for cost optimisation strategy, and the key aspect that differentiates a traditional approach of cost-cutting (e.g. one-time intervention of inventory reduction or delay elimination) and the Balanced Scorecard approach is sustainability.

Implementing the Balanced Scorecard can change the way an organisation thinks and delivers, and create organisational capabilities in achieving strategy implementation. Change takes time, commitment, effort and resources, and therefore, we say ‘running sprints is not our territory, helping clients win marathons is our forte’.

How do you see innovation in the Knowledge-as-a-Service (KaaS) sector influencing the workflow of research teams in multinational consulting firms?
Multinational consulting firms’ business model requires them to use knowledge for client-specific problem-solving tasks. As all problems and requests are unique, consulting firms need a variety of knowledge that may be either generic or specialised. While both consulting and research teams continue to anticipate client demands and create knowledge in advance, there are three specific types of services that they continually seek KaaS for:

– Process-driven knowledge creation – where once trained, a team at KaaS can carry out the process without much intervention from the consulting firm

– Primary market research

– Specialised domain or situational knowledge

What do you think of the KaaS (Knowledge-as-a-Service) economy?
In my opinion, there are currently two concepts in the knowledge sharing economy: knowledge-as-a-service and knowledge on demand. Knowledge-as-a-service is good for serving a particular area of research knowledge needs within a specific time frame, while some answers are ready and can be accessed any time through knowledge on-demand services.

These days, consulting firms have been trying to codify all the knowledge gained from their engagements to make it accessible through internal knowledge systems such as intranets and internal apps. However, these consulting firms don’t just codify knowledge gained from past engagements, they also use the codified knowledge to forecast project needs and queries. So knowledge on-demand is a very useful resource that does not just distribute existing knowledge but also creates demand for knowledge.

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