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15 February 1999

Ashvin Parekh is one professional who takes pride in his family business background. He says his intuitive business sense has helped him in his professional assignments.

"I come from a small business community. I take pride in my business sense, which I bring to my assignments," says Parekh, whose movement from KPMG Peat Marwick to Price WaterhouseCoopers recently created ripples in the management consulting field in India.

Intuition certainly comes in handy in a job like consulting, where Parekh has to deal with different businesses at different times. For a man who is now executive director and head, financial consulting service business in India, of one of the world's leading consulting and accounting groups, it's necessary to cut through mountains of data and piles of verbiage, and get to the crux of a problem.

Says Parekh: "I have always measured my achievements across small and large assignments by the extent to which I have personally contributed to them. I have to be able to deal with assignments hands-on as well as guide my colleagues and clients to arrive at workable solutions."

Parekh, a chartered accountant, cost and works accountant and company secretary, has an enviable career graph. Beginning as a trainee with Hindustan Lever in the early 1970s, he grew to become a plant controller in Borosil Glass Works Ltd, a partner/director of the management consultancy division of AF Ferguson and Co, and partner of KPMG Peat Marwick before taking over as executive director of the amalgamated Price WaterhouseCoopers in India. He heads PWC' financial services practice in India and its management consulting leadership responsibilities in the western region.

When Parekh switched loyalties to PWC, one newspaper had this headline for the news: "KPMG's loss is PWC's gain". His comment: "In the financial service practice, Price Waterhouse Associates had a very good image and reputation of providing excellent implementation and technology related services. Coopers & Lybrand, on the other hand, was more into business strategy and structure areas. Post-merger, our job has been to integrate the strength of these two constituents in order to offer a fuller range of services to our clients. I am a part of this process, and it is my responsibility to bring together the knowledge, skills and experience that's resident in the people we have."

According to Parekh, he has specialised mainly in what he called "business architecture". That has included large-sized "initiatives" involving turnarounds, transformation and financial risk management challenges. Given that, he says, "I would like to be in a firm that is capable of adding to my knowledge and experience. PWC offers this and much more. The firm understands both technology and human resources management."

In the last five years, Parekh has been actively associated as a consultant in the transformation of six large financial companies, including four private sector ones. He has assisted in the formation of four private sector banks and done substantial work for foreign banks and insurance companies in India and outside. A specialist in banking and finance, he has conducted more than 400 consultancy assignments in the last 15 years, including strategy, business restructuring and related work. For more of Parekh's views on this subject, .

He is also an expert consultant for the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank in finance and banking. He has also been a member of the advisory committee of the Reserve Bank of India. Member of several associations of financial services and banks, he has authored more than 30 technical papers in the last three years, and is actively associated with the Institute of Management Consultants of India.

What role do independent Indian consulting firms have? Parekh is skeptical. "I don't see any hope for independent, local consultants," he comments. "Let me justify this. As Indian companies move from their regional roles to national ones, and from national to global roles, they will need world class knowledge. They need to know the practices followed by companies in Europe or the United States. The ability of independent consultants to provide this looks doubtful, according to me."

He believes that consultants in financial services will be distinguished by the kind of practice they have and the extent to which they leverage global knowledge for their Indian practice. Firms that are capable of offering practical and workable solutions in areas such as financial risk management, performance reporting and cost controls will dominate the market. Those with highly specialised knowledge in the financial services will grow faster than the generalists.

An avid reader and sports enthusiast, Parekh enjoys his travel. "Travel and encountering new people and situations is something that I like very much. Maybe that is the reason I am in consulting." A family man with a supportive wife and two sons,   Parekh says his sons are old enough to allow him to work long hours in the office.

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