SA MD Arshad Abba promoted to Global Vice-President of consulting powerhouse
Global management consulting specialist the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Canback is targeting Africa for future growth as it expands its presence and makes key appointments in the region.
The company recently promoted its South African MD, Arshad Abba, to one of 2 Vice-Presidents of its holding company EIU Canback Inc., responsible for Africa
Canback, which is North America’s fastest growing consulting firm, now has core offices in Johannesburg, Boston, Chicago, London, Dubai, Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore, and satellite offices in Tokyo, Mexico City, São Paulo and Jakarta. Canback has worked on the ground in 82 countries since its founding in 2005, helping clients draw reliable, fact-based conclusions through data-driven analysis.
The elite management consulting and related services firm’s new drive is to deliver cutting edge management science, predictive analytics, and consumer market knowledge to more African companies as it entrenches its position in Sub-Saharan Africa Canback’s aim of being “managerially relevant-analytically robust” is central to what they do.
EIU Canback was acquired by the Economist Intelligence Unit in 2015. As part of the Economist Group, they share the same principles of independence and intellectual rigour.
“We are committing a lot more resources to South Africa with a view to expanding across the region and will be making more senior appointments in coming months. We are excited about potential in the fast-moving consumer goods, retail, financial services, telecommunications and public-sector areas,” says Abba.
With certain multinational consulting companies recently caught up in a storm following leaked emails over state capture in SA, Abba says it is important to create the highest possible levels of accountability when undertaking consulting in any market – but especially in emerging markets where higher reliance is placed on consultants to transfer skills and learnings from developed markets.
“Many companies almost take a hands-off approach when consultants come on board and there is little to no senior executives walking the journey with them. In addition, a clearly articulated understanding of the business problem to be solved: a problem statement may not be developed. This is not ideal and why problems can occur. EIU Canback has done most of its work since 2004 in emerging markets and we continue to harness our expertise as we expand our work across Africa,” says Abba.
Another competitive advantage is that Canback has underpinned their work by their own proprietary data – which is a treasure trove of GDP, population, household income, socioeconomic class sizes and income segmentation. These are supplemented with additional research from the EIU. The Canback Global Income Distribution Database (C-GIDD) covers 213 countries (213), large subdivisions (697) and all cities with more than half a million inhabitants (997) in the world. In addition, Canback has built an additional database with information for all cities in Africa with population above 100,000 inhabitants.
Over 60% of Canback’s business has been in emerging markets, providing a solid platform from which to handle challenges in Africa.
Canback, which says it is imperative internal staff are encouraged to transfer knowledge to a consulting team which must include executives as well as consultants, serves clients through five practices:
- M&A Due Diligence
- Organizational Performance
“Companies can grow and develop despite the risks and challenges inherent in doing business in Africa. Our solutions are data intensive in order to deliver meaningful and actionable recommendations,” says Abba.
An on-the-ground approach is taken in which the company will “walk the streets of Africa” before undertaking a project.
“We put on takkies and get out of the boardrooms and encourage executives to join us – you can learn more in two days doing this than 15 years in an office,” says Abba.
“We don’t go in with an arrogant approach, but work with clients. You won’t see other consultancies working this closely with clients like this.”
It offers analytic services with C-GIDD as a cardinal product.
The company’s split by discipline is:
- Management consulting (75%)
– Strategy development (40%)
– M&A due diligence (35%)
- Predictive modelling (10%)
- Data (10%)
- Research (5%)
“A lot of consultants are thin on data and predictive analysis. We ensure we start every project from scratch as opposed to relying on competitor information, determine comparative trends and custom make solutions that matter. In this way change can be managed, new methods designed and a refocused strategy can breathe life into an organization. It is no use for consultants to give recommendations that can’t be implemented. We want to build careers- not destroy them,” says Abba.
Canback is excited about finding growth opportunities in stagnant markets.
“Income elasticity is noticeable in emerging markets facing the same problems as Africa. Tighter and higher debt burdens make people less influenced by brand equity. Large parts of the economy move to lower price points or into the informal sector as they look for cheaper products. We’ve seen this in Latin America and even the US where you have a migration of products. It is not unusual and you are seeing it in South Africa too, where lower and even middle incomes are influenced in terms of purchasing power,” says Abba.
As this unfolds people begin to buy in smaller quantities on products like air time and cut back entertainment and luxury spending. Urbanisation all the while continues at a rapid rate.
“It is important for businesses to understand the deep trends at play as these processes unfold as people spend on what they can afford. This is where data and analysis really comes to the fore – when here is a huge population that is effectively unformalised, but urbanised” says Abba.
Canback sees pockets of opportunity across Africa, rather than larger growth on a regional basis.
“It is imperative economic potential and political risk are segmented via understandable analysis to understand where the beacons of hope lie,” concludes Abba.
More Info on Canback EIU targets Africa’s exciting growth potential and calls for more accountability in the use of consultants here: https://www.canback.com/