The co-leads of AlixPartners in Asia Pacific outline their ambitions
Last month, Shiv Shivaraman and Tom Noda were installed as the co-leaders of leading management consulting firm AlixPartners in Asia Pacific. In discussion with Consultancy.org, the duo walk through some of the key developments in the region and share the ambitions they have for the firm going forward.
As consultants, what do you see as the major operational challenges that your clients are facing, in light of Covid-19? What were your key learnings advising businesses in one of the toughest economic years to date?
Driven by a growing range of technological and other forces, the pace of disruption has accelerated, and its impact has magnified. Considering the overall situation, Covid-19 has impacted supply chains of most companies significantly as their operations are across countries and regions. Now they need to revisit their operation models to recover from broken supply chain networks. Going forward, they also need to assess risks and plan for resilience and agility.
Additionally, Covid-19 shrank the demand for many products and services: aircrafts, travels, restaurants etc. The financial burden from the sudden downturn in market demand has put many companies into financial crisis. As a result, the promise of a new steady state remains distant. The easy availability of debt and stimulus related funds has masked the gravity of the situation in many cases, but ultimately, the financial crisis will need to be addressed.
Some companies started utilising the Covid-19 environment for further growth, pursuing different business models in correspondence with the demand shift such as remote working needs.
Many companies have also leveraged the Covid-19 crisis as the gateway to transformation. The sense of urgency has been higher than ever, and they have taken aggressive measures for operational improvements as well as financial and/or business portfolio restructuring.
As we hopefully move beyond the pandemic this year, how can businesses restore growth momentum in 2021 and beyond? What are the priorities for businesses to remain resilient?
After a year of unprecedented disruption, 2021 begins in a state of both hope and uncertainty. Many companies in Asia have already been in the process of restoring profitability and growth momentum. For example, many Japanese companies in April last year revised downward their performance forecast of fiscal year 2020 due to Covid-19, but recently they re-adjusted the performance upward for the same period.
Companies which have undertaken significant business transformation efforts are better-positioned with improved cost structure to pursue growth more aggressively once the pandemic situation becomes more stable.
Key priorities of businesses still remain the same; acquire the ability to collaborate quickly in volatile environments, to demonstrate a growth mindset and to deal constructively with ambiguity and uncertainty. Specifically, with a plethora of M&A opportunities in many industries, companies may leverage them to drive accelerated growth and improve profitability.
That said, in view of ongoing global uncertainties, companies will need to pay close attention to the macro-economic environment. Government deficit in many countries has significantly grown due to ever increasing amounts of Covid-19 support measures. This may cause more volatility in interest rates, exchange rates, and stock prices. Companies need to expect and plan for the potential impact from sudden changes.
Tell us more about AlixPartners’ Asia business. What makes it unique in the consulting industry?
At AlixPartners, we are a team of senior professionals with 10+ years of experience and deep industry expertise that specialises in helping businesses successfully respond to challenges when everything is on the line – from urgent performance improvement to complex restructuring, from risk mitigation to accelerated transformation. We are also committed to helping businesses execute strategic plans and achieving the firms’ full potential.
Our business model in Asia is globally consistent. We are dedicated to making AlixPartners a destination of choice for the very best people in businesses. The ongoing investments we make in talent management allows us to provide the highest quality service to our clients. Many clients recognise us as the “team to get things done” as our value proposition is to support our clients in high-impact situations, “when it really matters”, focusing not on report writing but execution.
You have been appointed as co-leaders for the region recently. How do you collaborate with your different offices? Has AlixPartners as a firm evolved as a result of the pandemic?
We value team work and communication. The two of us communicate frequently, often many times a day, to be fully aligned on various topics ranging from daily operations to strategic decisions.
The enforced experiment with widespread remote working has reset our teams’ expectations about how and where to work. As co-leaders in Asia, the question for us becomes how to respond to the increasingly vocal demands about aligning with and communicating a broader purpose. We aim at communicating clearly, closely, consistently and frequently across our Asia offices on administrative topics, client services, marketing, etc.
We also cross-staff across all our offices and regions to ensure that we bring the best of the firm’s expertise to our clients globally. Despite the challenges brought forth by remote working, the trend actually gave us great opportunities to enhance communication by leveraging digital tools.
We have been able to respond to client needs/situations even more promptly on a global basis. The firm has also evolved rapidly and significantly in terms of infrastructure, processes, systems and tools, which help us deliver client outcomes in an initially remote and now more hybrid delivery model.
What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for AlixPartners in Asia? What are the key markets and growth sectors for your business?
We currently have four offices in Asia: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo, from which we cover the entire region. While different markets have different needs due to varied economic structures and macro environments, there are some common issues faced by company management across the region.
For instance, Korea and Japan are facing stagnant growth in their domestic markets, they pursue growth mainly in overseas markets through acquisitions. This opens up opportunities for us to assist them by a) conducting due diligence to identify improvement opportunities and synergies, b) developing execution plans to realise growth, and c) providing implementation support to deliver tangible impact.
For domestic markets, they need to continuously undertake cost-cutting exercises, with our professionals with relevant experience supporting them on the ground. Greater China and Southeast Asia continue to remain as high growth markets with both growth strategy as well as performance improvement opportunities in a variety of sectors.
What is the three to five years’ plan for your business?
Our Asia business has been steadily growing in the past several years. Now that our business foundation has been successfully built, we are ready to further expand our presence in APAC and accelerate the growth more aggressively. Asia is a dynamic region full of potentials.
We are poised to make every effort in navigating opportunities presented in the region, and are excited about our prospects and have plans in place to grow the team and the business, significantly above market rates, in the foreseeable future.