Bain & Company anticipates continued growth in India

14 August 2015

The Indian practice of Bain & Company has undergone a shakeup, with Karan Singh, leader of the firm's Asia-Pacific healthcare practice, taking up the role of Managing Director. In an interview, Singh elaborates on the current economic climate in India, which has allowed the Indian practice to grow rapidly.

As the new Managing Director, Karan Singh follows up Sri Rajan, who has taken on the role of Chairman – while the previous Chairman, Ashish Singh, has been repositioned to take on the role of Leader of the firm's Global Healthcare as well as continuing to take a seat on Bain’s global level board.

Singh has already had extensive experience in India, having helped set up the Indian practice of Bain & Company in 2006 in a four person team, including Sri Rajan, Ashish Singh and Vivek Gambhir, who left the firm in 2009. Since its establishment, the Indian team has grown rapidly; becoming the fastest growing practice in the history of the firm. Today the practice employs more than the China operation and is expected to continue to grow with double digit figures.

Bain India continues growth on economic optimism

Booming India
In an interview with the Times of India, Singh elaborates on the current economic climate, which was late last year cited with optimism by the heads of McKinsey & Company and The Boston Consulting Group. In terms of the future, Singh remains optimistic about India. While many economic regions are slowing down, including Europe, China and Brazil, Singh says: “India is still a golden opportunity. We are consumption-driven, there is still pent-up demand. Macro-economic conditions have improved.”

One problem however, according to Singh, is that “earnings are pretty much flat. If the one priority for the government is recreation of livelihood and jobs, you need to kick-start the investment cycle. Companies are in a wait-and-watch mode. On the MNC [Multinational Corporation] front, very interestingly India is back on the radar.” Singh explains that many companies are going for “… growth preparedness, taking a 2020 view — if the economy starts to open up, where would they double down and what would drive differential growth going forward. Some of them are not only thinking organically but boldly, suggesting transformational growth.”

The Bain practice offers its clients ways in which to be more efficient, while “at the same time, a lot of companies are working on getting back to breakout growth strategy assuming the market picks up. Indian companies are making big, bold bets and many of them have not done it before. Cross-border M&As, adjacent businesses and new business models — this is not what they have done in the past.”

Karan Singh - Managing Director Bain & Company India

One way forward, Singh notes, is take on digital technologies into their growth strategies. “We are helping a few clients develop scenarios for a three-year period on how to play the game differently and proactively. Companies ask us how they can embrace the digital opportunity. Digital has become a CEO topic. That's a fundamental shift.”

CEOs in India are also working on other pivotal topics, including “talent [being] a CEO topic. Thinking about disruptive growth models, boldly growing in the future and delivering numbers […]” To be successful in delivering these, Singh remarks that “CEOs will have a balanced agenda — to deliver in the near term but to be clear about the 1-2 big growth initiatives. Successful CEOs are not looking at a 1-2 year horizon.”

Bain & Company India
In May featured an article on Bain's entrepreneurial spirit in India, turning the consultancy's office into a breeding ground for high profile start-ups. And in March WEF unveiled that it had named Bain India partner Prashant Sarin (Head of the Indian Organisation Practice) a Young Global Leader.


Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.