Consultancy firms carve into new markets

Indian firms such as Tata and Mafoi expand into global markets with the helping hand of technology

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Consultancy has been a part of the business landscape for as long as anyone cares to remember. From small businesses that need help positioning themselves in the market to large corporations needing to revamp their finances and even government entities that employ them to aid with certain projects and tasks, consultants are found just about everywhere. What is happening today, however, is that several key trends have emerged that are likely to change the way companies and others think about consulting in the years to come.

One major shift in the world of consulting is that there are more individuals working independently from consulting firms. At one time, a business owner was more likely to turn to a firm that offered consulting services in several areas, but did not necessarily have a reputation for excelling in any particular one. Thanks to technology and an increasing demand for specialisation with business services and support, consultants who focus on one particular area of expertise are gaining more and more attention from clients of all sizes and industries. The fact that one does not have to actually reside in the same geographical location as the client makes it all the easier for consultants to specialise and collect clients from around the world.

Another factor that has changed the role of the consultant has to do with the economic woes of the last few years. The recession, followed by the increasing levels of inflation being experienced in a number of countries, has meant that there simply is not the volume of resources available to secure business services that were available in the past. In addition, the ability to keep a consulting firm on retainer is more difficult for businesses that are barely able to continue trading profitably. This has led to some adjustments in how consulting firms, along with independent consultants, charge for their services, with many trying hourly or flat rates for a particular project, sometimes with nothing more than a basic pricing agreement to govern the relationship.

The combination of economic factors and the ability to effectively offer consulting services from afar has been especially advantageous for consultants based in India. Firms such as Tata Consultancy and Mafoi Consultancy are able to accept and competently work with clients from around the world, often using tools such as document exchanges via secure FTP sites, web and audio conferencing solutions, instant messaging and even the older method of email. When enhanced with a small number of site visits, it is possible for the consultant to gather all the data required, develop a plan of action and work with clients to implement those strategies. Owing to the cost of living in India, firms based there are easily able to compete with other and in some cases, more established consulting firms, making it easier for consultants based in the sub-continent to gain and retain clients from around the world.