The Management Consultancy Profession
A neglected choice for business
graduates in Pakistan
By Wasif Ijlal
Jan 15 - 21, 2001
Management Consultancy worldwide is now considered to be a rewarding
profession and more and more business graduates from elite universities end up in the big
four firms with five figure starting salaries. The trend of acquiring the Certified
Management Consultant (CMC) qualification, which is the only standard qualification for
management consultants worldwide, is on the increase.
The market for management consultancy globally is growing in rapid
proportions. It's a truly global profession where all large consulting firms operate
internationally and have offices or sister offices in dozens of countries. In 1998, the
world market for management consultancy was estimated at $50 billion. It has become a
competitive market where supply has matched and even outgrown demand. Clients are becoming
more and more selective and service quality and innovation have become important criteria
in judging consultants.
It has also become a market with a relatively high and rapidly evolving
centralization and polarization. At least 25 international firms employ more than 1000
people, while only four law firms in the whole world employ more than 1000 lawyers.
In consulting, the share of routine and repetitive work is smaller than
law, accounting and auditing. Demand has not only grown, but has also changed in nature.
Globalization, information and communication technologies, regional economic grouping, the
fall of the communist regime, privatization and many other developments has not only
increased demand for consulting but have also changed the content and quality of demand.
Management consultancy in Pakistan: While more and more business
graduates are entering the consultancy profession worldwide, in Pakistan, management
consultancy as a profession is very much of an underdog. Most of the business graduates
would prefer to settle in multinationals or foreign banks, where the work might turn out
to be a lot less dynamic but growth is steady and a clear career path is present.
In order to better understand the lack of enthusiasm of MBA's in
adopting the profession, it is vital that we understand the structure of the management
consultancy business in Pakistan
The consultancy industry in Pakistan has the following type of
- The accountancy bused firms.
- Small to medium size chartered accountants.
- Actuarial Firms.
- Small consultancies and sole practitioners.
Accountancy based firms: The accountancy-based firms are what
are commonly known as the "Big-Four Firms" that include Arthur Andersen, Ernst
and Young, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte and Touche. All of these firms have their
presence in Pakistan either through affiliations, representations or member firms. These
firms dominate the local market with an overwhelming share of the business.
These accountancy-bused firms provide services across the whole
spectrum of consultancy that includes audit, tax and business consultancy.
Small to medium sized chartered accountants: These can be
classified as the middle ranking practices that are scattered throughout the industry.
They are relatively very small in size compared to the big four both in terms of
professional staff and the client base. The spectrum of the services provided by these
firms is the same as the big four.
Actuarial firms: There are a few actuarial firms that are
operating in the consultancy industry. Their traditional area of expertise was providing
consultancy services on employee benefits and remuneration, but lately they have also
diversified to the human resource consultancy side.
Sole Practitioners: There have been a growing number of sole
practitioners in the industry. Some of them have come from a large consultancy and some
from managerial post in business or industry.
Why MBA's generally do not prefer the consultancy profession in
No education/training of the profession: In Europe and USA,
management consultancy is taught as an elective in most MBA curriculums to harvest basic
understanding about the profession and the generic tools and techniques used in consulting
assignments. There is now a standardized qualification worldwide for management
consultants known as the Certified Management Consultants (CMC) which is awarded by the
Institute of Management Consultancy in each country and governed by the Association of
Institute of Management Consultancy.
In Pakistan, there is no specific training or courses to help business
graduates in gaining an understanding of the generic consultancy tools or opportunities
that exist in the profession. Management consultancy is either taught as a chapter in
management courses or is the subject of a one-off guest lecture. Unlike Operations
Management, Small Business Management and other topics which are covered thoroughly,
Management Consulting Skills as a full-fledged course is still absent from business school
Management Consultancy is a sole domain of chartered accountants: The
consultuncy business in Pakistan is still considered to be the domain of chartered
accountants and there are valid reasons behind it. The consultancy market in Pakistan is
dominated by reputed chartered accountancy firms who are affiliate/corresponding or member
firms of the global big four firms such as Arthur Anderson, Deloitte and Touche etc.
However, whereas the global top ten also include non-accountancy firms like McKenzie,
Baine Consulting, Logica, etc. in Pakistan, there are no non-accountancy firms that can
give serious competition to the big chartered accountant. The consultancy market is thus
predominantly controlled by Chartered Accountant Firms.
Chartered Accountancy firms are not the first choice of business
graduates because of their relatively low starting salaries, luck of exposure to alumni of
business schools, and not being able to market their professional services due to
regulatory constraints. Most of the MBA's who land up in a Chartered Accountancy firm
either use it as a stepping stone to an industry position or as a place where they can sit
and hunt for better jobs.
One Myth that has also been hammered in the minds of budding MBA's is
the statement "MBA's can not see eye to an eye with CA's in the long run". This
is far from being true. The author himself has experience of working in a professional
services firm and has managed teams of MBA and CA's without any problems. In fact, the
synergy created by a collaboration of business vision and top notch financial and
accountancy skills is invaluable to most professions.
Lack of patience: Business graduates also complain of a lack of
career path in the consultancy profession in Pakistan. In Pakistan as well as globally,
only a chartered accountant can become a partner of the firm.
A consultant in the audit department who starts at the bottom of the
rung usually works his way up towards a CA qualification, which takes about three and a
half years. In some cases where he has the right blend of skills, competence and maturity,
he may end up being the partner of a firm in to six to seven year's time.
Business graduates, on the other hand who have already spent an average
of two to four years studying full time are generally not that patient and complain of
career stagnation after a certain level. Ultimately frustration sets in resulting in high
turnover. One can argue that an MBA who stays in a professional service firm for a couple
of years can also work towards a chartered accountancy qualification like their
accountancy counterparts. However, it is rare that business graduates stay in a
professional services firm for a long time as ultimately they move on to greener pastures
Lack of proper structure in consultancy firms: A proper career
path is dependent on an organisational structure, which is clear and specific to the needs
of the clients. Structure is in turn dependent on the type and depth of the market in
which a consultant operates.
The consultancy market in Pakistan is still very small and shallow.
There are no proper consultancy structures and job descriptions are complex and
multidisciplinary. For e.g a consultant working in the human resource department would
suddenly be deputed to a re-engineering assignment for which he has neither the experience
nor the capability to deliver the goods. Unlike consultancies operating in a efficient and
large market where the organisation is either on a functional (e-commerce, lean supply
chain management) or industry (telecom, services, utilities) basis, the consultancy
structure in Pakistan is arranged on an "ad-hoc basis" where consultants are
constantly shuffled from one assignment from another which not only affects their own
productivity but also damages the quality of the deliverables.
This deters MBA's from entering in the consultancy profession. Most of
the graduates prefer multinationals, banks and brokerage houses where the growth might be
relatively slow, but there is a proper career path and clear structure.
What can be done?
1. In order to increase the awareness of the
management consultancy profession in business schools, an elective of "management
consultuncy skills" should be introduced in renowned business schools like IBA, LUMS,
ZABIST, AMI etc. There is no shortage of competent consultants in Pakistan who have the
experience and skills to deliver the course.
2. An Institute of Management Consultancy should be
established in Pakistan that would grant the CMC qualification to practicing management
consultants in collaboration with the Association of Institute of Management Consultants
(AIMC). Since CMC is a standard worldwide, this would also increase the market value of
consultants that are posted abroad on short secondment.
3. Business graduates who are hired by Chartered
accountancy firms should be given a clear career path to ensure that their skills are
utilized in the right area and employee turnover is low.
4. Increasingly, more and more areas are coming up
that require specific business consulting skills such as lean supply management, business
process re-reengineering and change management. Business graduates should take an initiate
and use their business knowledge (which is specific to this kind of consulting) to their
The author is Chief Executive of Axis Consulting