The oldest strategy and management consultancy in the world – Arthur D. Little – is on course for growth in the Middle East. Shortly after a record year for the regional practice, ConsultancyME spoke to Managing Partner Thomas Kuruvilla about the firm’s offerings, growth plans at the GCC and why the firm is a sought-after home for top talent.
How would you define what differentiates Arthur D. Little from competing brands?
Arthur D. Little is the world’s first management consulting firm and is now beginning its 136th consecutive year of expert consulting services. We believe in an open world, and that means open advice: not what a consulting firm can offer, but the best that is available to our clients in the world.
This promise also means recommending our competitors at times, which has led to a trusted relationship with Arthur D. Little and established confidence in our abilities and project scope.
Trust is essential, especially for the Middle East region. Unlike other markets, customers in the region come to us expecting an end-to-end service, to first investigate the problem and then develop solutions, unlike other markets that continue to rely on targeted advice – with in other words, recommending a solution rather than adapting to the problem to be solved.
As trusted advisors, we owe our clients the best streamlined, value-added results, and they appreciate it.
Can you share a case study where you helped solve your customers’ problems?
In a recent report, Arthur D. Little developed a comprehensive program idea against the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the Indian economy and outlined a 10-point strategy to invest in India’s future with immediate benefits through GDP stimulus, prevention of Job loss and poverty relief and the long-term potential to recoup 50% of the investment at reasonably attractive returns.
Continue reading: ADL lays out 10-point strategy to revitalize Indian economy.
Other interesting case studies for customers in Saudi Arabia relate to supporting the Ministry of Health in its transformational journey across different regional clusters, supporting the National Center for Privatization in implementing programs in multiple sectors and helping to set up the Saudi Space Commission Delineation of a target operating model and development of a technology foresight study for national critical sectors for a leading research institute.
Can you name the impactful projects and tasks that are foreseeable for the near future?
Building on the fundamental work we have done in the region in recent years on sectoral regulation and fronts of the national privatization agenda, we anticipate a significant number of impactful projects to come when it comes to the development of sectoral privatization strategies and implementation control.
The private sector is certainly becoming an increasingly constructive partner to governments in their quest to change their sectoral focus, becoming more sector regulators and leaving operational and service functions to the private sector through the right partnership modality.
Additionally, we see our differentiated work in the areas of autonomous mobility, electric vehicle regulations, environmental sustainability and regional net zero country commitments, digital transformation, advanced data analytics, financial services disruption, and organizational as well as operational strategic transformations that we will continue to support our growing customer base.
Tell us about your expansion plans in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
At Arthur D. Little, we are on track to establish a regional center in the capital, led by the first internally promoted Saudi national partner, overseeing other national and regional offices. As one of the most advanced countries in the world embarking on a cross-industry national transformation program, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is clearly a leading market for breakthrough consulting.
We have been serving UK clients since the mid 1960’s in national innovation, privatization and public private partnerships, space sector development, education sector development, ICT sector development and healthcare transformation to name a few.
Given the breadth and interdependencies of the national transformation programme, guidance in the Kingdom is moving beyond industry and functional service offerings towards digital disruption, innovation and convergence.
We are also keen to expand our partnership network with both local Saudi companies and academic institutions.
Meanwhile, Arthur D. Little recently opened an office in Bahrain and is preparing to launch in Qatar. Can you tell us more about these extensions?
In each new market we enter, we work diligently to leverage our broad and deep expertise across industries and functional areas on a regional and global scale, and with the constant goal of being more cross-industry focused, influenced by digital Disruption, innovation and convergence for additional customer value creation.
In both markets we will use our cross-industry expertise and experience to effectively support the respective national sector priorities. This will put us in a differentiated position in supporting governments in these new markets and helping the private sector thrive with the right regulations and incentives.
Both offices are led by a partner with affinity with each country’s sectoral development agendas and other pressing national needs.
Our ambitions for the GCC region are progressing rapidly – in the last two years we have tripled the number of our offices in the region. We have also recently relocated a significant number of our Moscow office team to the region to hone our skills across multiple sectors. Our expansions are expected to grow significantly over the coming years.
Arthur D. Little has expanded its Middle East team to 200 employees. What’s next?
In fact, over the past year we have hired over 75 new staff across all cohorts, increasing our current consulting capacity to around 200 staff.
Looking ahead to 2022, we expect our partner team to grow to 25 by the end of the year, through both internal promotions and external hires. This foresight is firmly anchored in our unequivocal belief that by marrying strategy, technology and innovation to serve clients, the agendas to be supported will always benefit from the most compelling thought leaders and new solutions.
In addition, we are committed to an “open consultation model”. Through our subsidiaries Cutter and Presans, we have access to thousands of subject matter experts, giving our customers the right complementary expertise.
We have big ambitions in the Middle East: in the next 4 to 5 years we want to double our capacity across all cohorts, including the partner level.
What kind of people are you trying to bring into the company?
At Arthur D. Little, we are constantly looking for global talent who are not only willing to learn and develop, but also have an entrepreneurial mindset and a deep customer-centric mantra. Our aim is to attract qualified professionals whose expertise is based on a curiosity to develop themselves and help colleagues through their mentorship, as opposed to purely internal competition drivers found in other organisations.
In addition, we promote non-hierarchical leadership and flat organizational structures to strengthen team spirit, which can promote flexibility, creativity and problem-solving in the long term. A strong driver for us at Arthur D. Little is practicing and leading ethical behavior as it maintains integrity, fosters trust and transparency.
Finally, and based on years of experience, we see that those with aspirations to become the owner or shareholder of the company tend to work longer with Arthur D. Little than those with employed leadership aspirations.
Arthur D. Little is currently increasing his compensation at all levels. Can you tell us more about this customization?
As we continue to expand, we have significantly increased our compensation to match the expected value for the client. The increase in remuneration is 30%.
The adjustment builds on a process of continuous productivity improvement. With the spread of more and more AI-enabled tools that can support consulting work and the introduction of such tools, our collective productivity will continue to increase and with it the customer benefit, so that compensation adjustments will be made at regular intervals going forward.
Supporting this is a big investment in our support capabilities. We’ve worked diligently to improve our capabilities, including research, graphics, data analysis and translation, so consultants can focus primarily on high-impact, value-added activities for the client.
in Saudi Arabia, Arthur D Little recently started the AFAQ qualification program. What is the focus of the program?
Due to our strong commitment to human resources development and to prepare a larger number of graduates for a career in consulting, we launched the AFAQ qualification program. As the Arabic name suggests, this program offers new horizons for aspiring graduates of national universities to further develop their consulting skills in a pragmatic and case-based manner.
Since launch, this program has attracted hundreds of new or soon-to-be graduates, demonstrating the keen interest of local talent in counseling and their appreciation for the insights they will gain during this bespoke program.
After all, you’ve been in the consulting world for 25 years. What’s the most challenging part of the business?
Advanced digital technologies and data analytics have brought a wave of converging expert expectations across sectors, and as such the consulting ecosystem needs to be refocused and restructured to provide more adapted recommendations against the tide of rapid disruptive change. Achieving this and enabling further agility for future developments is the biggest challenge in the consulting business for me today.
We simply live in a world of industry use cases that can be replicated or leveraged in other industries with tremendous time impact. Added to this is the large number of innovative start-ups that have put old conglomerates in danger of dissolving. This development further drives consulting firms to examine ecosystem synergies in order to make them available to clients through concepts such as corp-ups.
Thomas Kuruvilla has been with Arthur D. Little since 1998. He has led the Middle East region since 2006 and is a member of the firm’s global board of directors.