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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Tapan Singhal, Founder at DataPower Consulting

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Tapan Singhal: I had worked with a Tyre company importing coal from abroad and needing a huge number of trucks to transport the coal from the port to the plant. The rates were fixed in advance for the whole year, and if the costs of transport (primarily diesel) went up, trucks would not be available, while they would be readily available if the costs of transport went down. Also, it used to take 3 – 6 months to arrive at the next year’s contracts. So, I thought of using the power of secure internet to bring about change in the transport industry.

However, this required significant investment on my part, as my skin in the game. But my money was under family control and was not forthcoming. So I thought of businesses that could use my human capital, and not require money capital. Consulting in my strength areas seemed to be the best bet. So, I opted for Management Consulting.

Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by DataPower Consulting

Tapan Singhal: I offer a range of Management Consulting Services. As I have been working as a CEO or COO in most of my jobs, and as a Management or Strategy Consultant in others, my range of offerings is very wide. I can offer value in almost any part of management of brick and mortar industry, eCommerce, IT, start-ups, Charities,Government, Public Administration, and the organizations that bridge the gap between Government and the Public. Some of these do not exist in India, but we are beginning to look abroad as well.

Great Companies: What makes DataPower Consulting different from hundreds of other Management Consulting firms?

Tapan Singhal: I’ll answer this question in two parts.

Firstly, there are the big branded consulting firms. Their directors, having significant experience, usually in their 50s, go and sell a job to clients. The delivery is done by just out of college freshers. This doesn’t result in very high quality services or recommendations for the clients. Most of the time, and therefore money, goes into making attractive PowerPoint presentations. These Consulting Firms also charge a lot of money for the brand and the embedded expertise. In my case, the people delivering the consulting services are the same people who sold them; very experienced and thoroughly capable.

Secondly, there are many unbranded Management Consulting outfits, who have either a high cost structure, or who are freelancing individuals. When I come across them, and I assess them to be competent, I tie up with them on an informal revenue or profit sharing basis. This way I get excellent people on-board, highly committed, very competent, and yet keep my fixed costs low. When a client asks for a skill that I may not have, I simply reach out to this network of consultants and team up to deliver. We deliver much better services at a fraction of the price charged by competition.

Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Tapan Singhal: The main challenges lie in sales. The MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) sector in India mostly comprises family owned businesses which are not much aware of how management consulting can help them. They have also got stories to tell about incompetent consultants who advised them something that didn’t work in their setup. Most are not even aware of professional management, leave alone management services. At the same time, government organizations in India have a buying process that doesn’t really encourage services that cannot be very accurately defined.

We tackle this by making our sales calls as highly educational as we can. While it is difficult to share case studies with potential clients because of confidentiality concerns and the fact that till date we have served a number of clients who can be counted on the finger tips, and can therefore be identified even if we present blind case studies, we do let potential clients understand the benefits that they may accrue from management consulting services, which will lead to some changes in the way of working. We give concrete examples. Then, it is left to the client. We proceed if and only if he/she shows some initial level of interest. Yet, this point remains a challenge in India. We have decided to focus on Private Sector MSMEs.

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for DataPower Consulting?

Tapan Singhal: I think the consulting model we have evolved is an excellent one. Since the large enterprises would only go to the big consultants, we focus on the MSME sector with all its challenges. Yet, we know that the market outside India in this space is huge, and with our cost structure and good references, we can definitely look abroad.

I don’t know how long it will take, or the cost it will entail, though I know that the cost will be significant, but once pandemic conditions allow, we will be looking at consulting abroad. The trust placed by MSME clients in qualified and reliable Consultants abroad is much higher than is culturally done in Indian MSMEs. We will leverage this cultural difference, along with our high competence and low fixed cost structure.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Tapan Singhal: I have two very simple pieces of advice.

One, keep full control on your money. Do not allow anyone else to advise you where to keep it, or how to invest it. Before starting out, ensure that you have enough money to take the business up to a level that helps you get noticed, so that getting resources, including money, people, etc. becomes easier.

The other advice is that if any of your competitors makes it to the coveted funding before you, you will be under tremendous pressure to get funding. For, if you don’t get funding quickly, you will be at a disadvantage, competing with a cash rich competitor. In simple terms, this is a race against time. You have to outdo competition, not just on the quality of products and services you offer, but also on how quickly you evolve.

The funding conundrum doesn’t apply to consulting services, since consulting services are self-funded and nobody can really fund human capital or expertise. Yet, in all the businesses we have seen (other than Consulting of course), the speed of reaching funding plays a huge part in business competitiveness.

Concluding Remarks:

Management Consulting to MSMEs is in a nascent stage in India. Developing a market in conditions of Indian business culture is a tough ask. Hence profitability is low. But if combined with consulting abroad, we believe this can be done. And we are going to attempt to do it.



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