In December last year Comatch, a digital platform that helps clients find independent consultants, launched its operations in Netherlands. To accelerate its growth in the market, the platform has expanded its team in Amsterdam with Sergey Punzhin, who joins as business development manager.
Comatch is an online consulting-platform that matches demand from companies and governments with freelance consultants. Launched in 2014 in Germany, the digital platform has since its inception grown to a database of more than 700 (experienced) management consultants, all of which according to the firm can build on an extensive track record in consultancy and in the industry.
In the summer of 2015 the two co-founders, Christoph Hardt and Jan Schächtele, both former consultants of McKinsey & Company, on the back of a seed investment revealed international expansion plans, and five months down the line the first market entry had turned into reality. The Netherlands was the first stop – followed by a second location opening, in Copenhagen, Denmark, serving as the hub for the Nordic region.
Over the past three months the Dutch operations have made strides, says Hardt to Consultancy.uk, adding that the inflow of consultants is on the rise, whilst at the same time, arguably more important, clients have been finding their way to Comatch’s services. To accommodate for the growth, and further adoption, Comatch has brought Sergey Punzhin on board, who has been based in the Netherlands since he was six, when he relocated from Russia. Punzhin holds a Master of Engineering from Imperial College London, an MBA from Webster University Leiden and in 2013 promoted from the University of Groningen.
Punzhin has been tasked with growing the Dutch footprint of the Berlin-headquartered venture, and aims at mirroring the firm’s success in the German speaking countries (DACH). “The Netherlands is for us a market with a large potential – since 2009 the number of independent consultants active in the field of management consulting has nearly doubled to around 80.000 freelancers,” he comments, adding that he aims at hitting the mark of 20 “high-impact” projects in the country by the end of 2016.
The growth will however be selective, he stresses, as the firm seeks to remain faithful to its high-end positioning in the marketplace, a feat which according to Punzhin distinguishes the platform from the wealth of freelancing platforms in the Netherlands geared at the low-end of the spectrum. “Our ambition is to become first choice for high class consulting. Our criteria for consultants are therefore high: a minimum of 3 years of consulting experience or at the least 10 years of practice in a specific industry,” reflects Punzhin. Sectors Comatch serves include among others government, food, retail, transport & logistics, technology, automotive, as well as chemicals and manufacturing.
For clients, digital platforms represent an opportunity to lower the fees they spend on management consultants. Although data is not readily available – consulting rates, fixed or time & material, are shrouded in secrecy – analysts say buyers can save up to 50% on their consulting budgets through the use of lean and mean suppliers, compared to the traditional big shots in the industry. The trade-off comes with a cost, however, in particular when it comes to the likes of reputation, liabilities and scalability, a line of thought that is, not surprisingly, fiercely contested by the new players on the block.
Other players active in the higher segment of the Dutch freelancing market for management consultants include Eden McCallum, also a player launched by former McKinsey consultants, and VirtualCC, a local venture. All three players behind the scenes follow manual matching process, stating they integrally consider both hard and soft skills, as well as conduct in-depth interviews with consultants earmarked for staffing.