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.
Every assignment is unique, and stakeholders are always different in the consulting world. Adapting quickly to new environments so I can credibly bring in my past learnings and ensure rigor and required depth is delivered, is the most valuable thing I’ve learnt. And of course, one needs to be a life learner whether it is a domain, people, or management principles.
Across the 25+ years of my professional career, I have had the great privilege of working with the likes of CG, LIC Mutual Fund. From there I moved to McKinsey & Co. where I started my journey within the knowledge services & consulting industry. It’s been an incredible journey working on some pioneering concepts while the industry was reshaping.
Heading into 2020, what are some of the key technologies that will dominate India?
Today, only 7 – 8% of the Indian population can enjoy seamless digital experiences as most of the services are currently delivered online in English. Most people in India don’t converse in English. As a matter of fact, there are 22 languages listed in the Indian constitution and there are many dialects spoken as well. But the challenge presented by language diversity is not unique to India, and this is why large tech firms such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple are investing heavily in language technologies.
The language technologies space is seeing a major intervention of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that will pretty much change the digital experience for an Indic language customer in the coming years. It is not surprising natural language translation is one of the key missions identified by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC). In October 2019, the Indian government under Narendra Modi announced plans to directly fund 100 AI-based language technology startups.
As these technologies become successful, it would only be natural to expect the exponential rise of digital service consumption in India as more segments of the population would be able to embed these technological efficiencies into their lifestyles. Also, you can imagine the direct impact on the consumption of knowledge across India.
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?
Let’s take the example of cost optimisation. An organisation can focus on cost reduction as a one-time quick intervention, perhaps a localised inventory reduction or they can adopt the strategy of becoming the “lowest cost provider” to create long term competitive advantage. If they choose “lowest cost provider” as strategy, we bring in the Balanced Scorecard system to implement strategy and it changes the way an organisation thinks and delivers. Change takes time, commitment, effort and resources for sustained long term benefit.
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 have always been ahead of the curve in experimenting with and adopting technologies related to KaaS. In my view, almost all the following areas of knowledge management at multinational consulting firms will get impacted with the adoption of new technologies such as:
1. Creation: Real-time collaboration tools, 3D, augmented and virtual reality tools
2. Acquisition: Knowledge outsourcing, advanced survey tools, more specialised and sector-focused knowledge providers, AI & analytical tools that can do sentiment and trend analysis
3. Renewal: Automated models that keep on getting refreshed based on web-scripts or IoT data
4. Codification: From static presentations and large thesis kind of documents to interactive charts, infographics, podcasts, videos, analytics models
5. Organising: Search tools going beyond text as well as unstructured search
6. Disseminating: Podcasts, team rooms, chats, videos, web-meeting, 3D collaboration, visualisation tools, translation tools
What do you think of the KaaS (Knowledge-as-a-Service) economy?
Something I learnt from McKinsey’s first knowledge centre in India is: the ability to leverage the right knowledge at the right time becomes a differentiator – not only for consulting practices but also for the corporate sector. Most progressive firms have been investing heavily in creating internal KaaS systems to have insights ready about their customers, competitors, products, R&D, etc. that lead to making faster strategic decisions. Still, no corporation can possibly have all the expertise within their firm so they must actively tap into external expert networks as well.
Secondly, the easy availability of technology and funding over the last few years has brought one major change for KaaS and that is about its consumers. KaaS used to be primarily for the large corporate and research institutions but now it’s being extensively used even in MSME and B2C space such as wikis, learning applications, open-source applications and engines that can search through media, and social platforms.
I am confident that KaaS will only grow further and will become more specialised and user-friendly.