The firms were one of the biggest beneficiaries of the digitisation mega-trend following the Covid-19 disruption as companies, both traditional and new age, doled out mandates feverishly to upgrade their customer engagement, supply-chain management and internal operations.
“Technology consulting has emerged as a pivotal force that enables businesses to maintain relevance and stay competitive. Our holistic approach combining domain knowledge and technology accelerates a transformation across all aspects of our clients’ business, ranging from customer-centric operations to the fundamental systems and processes. It’s all about making them future-ready,” said Rohan Sachdev, leader of EY’s India Consulting division.
Market leader EY, has around 100 partners and more than 13,000 people in its tech consulting business and the practice is on track to generate more than Rs 3,500 crore in revenue in FY23 (accounting year ends June).
The firms were also rightly positioned to leverage the digitisation trend as companies already struggling with the increasing complexity of their businesses didn’t want more piecemeal technology projects but chose to work with a few trusted service providers who could help them design and implement end-to-end digital solutions.
And that was a sweet spot for multi-disciplinary Big Four firms.
For example, an ERP implementation needs expertise in various areas—technology, tax, cyber security, organisational structuring, etc—and these firms were a one-stop shop providing all services.
“The client ultimately wants a business outcome, not just technology implementation. We provide a multidisciplinary solution—industry expertise, domain knowledge and technology. That’s why we make a difference,” said Sathish Gopalaiah, president, consulting, Deloitte South Asia.
He added that over the past three years, Deloitte has doubled its tech consulting team, and it plans to maintain a similar rate of expansion in the coming years.
The well-entrenched Big Four firms had also over time built a comprehensive suite of tech services.
“Technology has moved from being an enabler to a growth driver for businesses,” said Akhilesh Tuteja, TMT industry leader, KPMG India. “The biggest focus areas for us are data (analytics and AI), digital solutions (cloud, intelligent automation, industry-specific customer digital solutions, process transformation), and trust technologies like cybersecurity and privacy.”
So how did these accounting firms carve out a niche for themselves in the fiercely competitive tech consulting industry?
In recent years, the Big Four consulting firms have made heavy investments in areas like strategy, operations and technology. And along with their prowess in regulatory compliance, risk management and data analytics, the total package made for an attractive value proposition for clients, especially if offered at highly competitive rates. “Our USP is that we have all our services under one roof,” said Sachdev.
And the firms scaled up their tech services fast, doubling or tripling their workforce in the last three years.
Together, the firms now employ over 36,000 full-time consultants in core technology areas—technology implementation, cybersecurity, cloud services, data analytics, emerging technologies, and digital transformation—while also drawing people from their global delivery centres to India whenever the need arises.
In a bid to grow their tech advisory business, each of the firms has also created large ecosystems with a bunch of major tech players to enhance their digital capabilities.
For examples, EY has partnerships with SAP, SAS, Adobe, IBM, Infosys, etc.; Deloitte has relationships with Apple, AWS, Dell Technologies and VMware; KPMG has partnerships with Alibaba, Google Cloud and Oracle; PwC has partnerships with Salesforce, Microsoft and SAP, among others.
“Our wide range of alliances have helped us design and deliver end-to-end digital solutions and impactful business outcomes to our clients,” said Tuteja.
Experts say with large tech consulting teams in India, the Big Four firms are getting into direct competition with tech consulting majors like IBM and Accenture and also Indian IT players like Infosys and Wipro.
But EY’s Sachdev said they are only targeting high-value “change the business” services and are not interested in taking up low-value, low-impact technology work. “Our technology consulting practice largely focuses on providing large-scale transformation and complex, expertise-based technology services to clients, which directly impact their bottom line and topline,” he said.