New Delhi: Adam Gutstein, vice-chairman at audit and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers’s (PwC) US office, has worked across industries such as healthcare, financial services and insurance, telecommunications and consumer products. Before joining PwC in June 2012, he was president, chief executive officer and a member of the board of Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, a global management and technology consulting firm. PwC acquired Diamond in November 2010. Prior to co-founding Diamond, Adam was an officer of Technology Solutions Co. He began his career at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture Plc). Edited excerpts from an interview:
You have been in the business for over 25 years now. How have the dynamics of consulting changed?
Over the last 25 years, what has changed is that when I started out consultants were more about delivering reports, and over time it has changed since ideas and insights are as important as execution. So the ability to help a client deliver value and achieve results really makes a difference and that’s become more important.
You have over a decade of experience of doing business in India. How easy or difficult has it been?
India has barriers to work, there is no doubt about that. But India also has it’s strengths that make it relatively easy. For example, you can work with a company directly without working with the government. There are certain countries where, if you are not cozied up with the government, you cannot break into a company. So that’s a big advantage here.
On the other hand, I would say that India tends to move more slowly to take decisions than other parts of the world. So it’s harder in the sense that it will take more meetings, more discussions, but when an Indian firm decides to move forward, they really do more forward, they are aligned around it and they do it in the right way. So that’s a good prospect. But if you are trying to contrast that I would say that America, for example, still has an advantage that it is willing to move quickly over other parts of the world.
India, I would say, has an advantage related to other parts of the world, even if you read about it in the papers about corruption, there is still less than other parts. The language here is an advantage, i.e., that business people can communicate in English means they can interact easily with other parts of the world.
So you feel that it is relatively easy?
It’s all relative. There are other geographies where corruption is much higher and I know there is a strong push to make things more transparent and eliminate corruption, that will only make the economy more attractive. Look, what do business people really want? They want clarity or some certainty about what the future holds for them, so they want to know regulation is going to stay about the same and secondly, they want know if they invest and build something, they want to know that it will be protected—it could be an idea or an intellectual property and that it cannot be stolen, these are the distinct examples.
So I think the more there is transparency, the more regulation is consistent and less the corruption, the more the capability of the work force is increased and the more the middle class grows, the more India is a better place for business.
What conversations are you having around doing business in Asia with your clients and where does India figure?
India continues to be in the top of the list. China is on the top but India is on the list too. You are, I think, caught up in the fact that growth is going too slow, that it’s 5% and not 8%. We’re in the United States where growth has been 2-2.5% over the past four years. So you (India) have many more people coming in to the work force so you require higher level of growth, but I think that India is still a very attractive place to source talent from, and as the market evolves and with the growth of the middle class it will become more attractive to sell products and services to, to collaborate with. So I think it’s on the right track.
How are you strengthening your presence and business here in India?
Our clients are interested to know more about India and they want to do business in India, and we have investments here in India, where we have assurance tax and advisory. I know that we have problems here in India too. And I would say that those problems have been on the audit and insurance side, the advisory side is something we are very bullish about.
What sectors are these?
In India, if you see sectors that are hot opportunities for clients, it would be telecom. Financial services will continue to be an incredibly important segment here. Insurance and healthcare will be important sectors as well.
There have been multiple cases of tax evasions or erroneous audits that have surfaced here in India among the larger multinational companies. As an auditor, what is your take on such issues?
One of the things our CEO talks about all the time is the ability to push back and that is largely in the area of insurance and tax. The reality is that when we see the client or a company operating outside the right ethical or legal standards, it’s our obligation to bring that forward to the company, especially from the stand point of an auditing process it’s our obligation to shed light on that and we do.
I don’t think the are geographical boundaries that determine such cases. You have a set of good people with capacity doing good, and bad people. So I don’t think it’s an India or a America thing, it’s a people thing.
You raised concerns in the panel discussion today on why getting the right people with the right skills remains one of the top three concerns of any large organization today. What are your thoughts on that?
Look, if you talk about it, there are only two things that matter at the end of the day, the people and the client. What most people get wrong is they think that it’s all about facing the client first. Well, it is in terms of the work that we do, but in order to do the work we do we have to get the right people.
If you get the client and the project first and then try to find the people, (that) never works. So you have to have the right people and develop them, given them a career, motivate them and have them focus because their number one priority is the client. That’s the key.