Bijon Islam is the co-founder and CEO of LightCatsle Companions (LCP), a Dhaka-based administration consulting agency that has skilled a constant rise over the past a number of years. Began as a small operation, LCP is now also known as McKinsey of Bangladesh, and rightly so.
We coated LCP a good bit in its early days, together with an interview with LCP co-founder and Managing Director Ivdav Ahmed Khan Mojlish in 2018. Between 2018 and 2022, LCP skilled phenomenal progress, going from a small crew to an vital participant in Dhaka’s fast-growing consulting scene. At this time, LCP is a very totally different firm with an expansive ambition to construct a world consulting firm out of Bangladesh.
I lately had a chance to talk with Mr. Bijon. We discuss a variety of subjects together with the evolution of LCP, secrets and techniques behind LCP’s phenomenal progress, LCP’s enterprise right now and ambition going ahead, how LCP operates as an organization, what are the main challenges for the corporate, tradition at LCP, the enterprise of consulting, consulting and analysis market in Bangladesh, we focus on his method to work and productiveness, classes from his journey and rather more. It is a good learn. I hope you take pleasure in studying it as a lot as I loved doing it.
Thanks for agreeing to this interview. We coated LightCastle Companions in its early days a number of occasions. We interviewed your co-founder Ivdav Ahmed Khan Mojlish as soon as. But it surely was a very long time in the past and LCP is a really totally different firm right now. Are you able to briefly discuss LCP and what you do right now?
LightCastle Companions is a administration consulting agency. This isn’t a really new service. Though we now use quite a lot of the newest applied sciences and instruments, the essence of the consulting service stays the identical. Previously, individuals used to gather information manually, we now have automated information assortment utilizing varied instruments and processes. How you use as a consultancy agency has advanced. However it’s the standard consultancy service.
Broadly talking, we’ve got 4 verticals at LightCastle Companions: administration consulting, entrepreneurship ecosystems and investments, market entry advisory, and digital transformation.
We are saying that every little thing that we do needs to be data-driven. For example, an organization is on the lookout for a consulting service to know how you can method a specific market. Many consulting corporations would resolve the issue by working some focus teams, qualitative insights collections, talking with the administration, after which producing a report.
Our methodology is totally different. We in fact focus on it with the administration however we’ll additionally accumulate information from the market, communicate with consultants, run analyses utilizing market information, after which we’ll produce a report. It’s in our tagline that “we create data-driven alternatives for progress and affect.”
Information is the underlying thread that connects every little thing that we do. Information-driven is certainly one of our three values. The opposite two are: we simplify issues and we keep a excessive stage of integrity.
With our work, we wish to drive inclusive financial progress. Till now, we used to work solely in Bangladesh. So our precedence has been to contribute to the inclusive financial progress of the nation. We now work in a number of rising markets in Africa and our objective is to drive financial progress in all these markets.
Now let me break down our providers so that individuals get a greater grasp of what we do. We do a number of issues below administration consulting providers. We do analysis and consulting for the personal sector, improvement sector, and public sector. We offer our shoppers with technical help and implementation methods.
We design engagement methods for improvement companions. For example, we’ve got a number of shoppers who wish to showcase applied sciences and experience from their international locations to Bangladesh, we assist them construct that bridge.
We additionally work with personal sector companions with our administration consulting providers. It’s limited-scale work with some multinationals and some giant native corporations.
Our second vertical is entrepreneurship ecosystem and investments. We’ve a number of issues right here. We offer buy-side funding advisory to a variety of companions. For instance, we’ve got a Swiss Embassy-funded program referred to as Biniyog Briddhi. They put money into affect enterprises. We assist them in making investments, coverage advocacy, and ecosystem engagement.
We additionally work with a number of investor teams in Bangladesh akin to Startup Bangladesh Restricted, which is a fund below ICT Division. We offer them with due diligence assist.
We work with worldwide traders who wish to perceive and enter the Bangladesh market. For instance, when a British funding group needed to put money into Pran, we tried to assist them.
We additionally run a number of accelerator packages. In partnership with Higher Tales and Upskill, we run the Grameenphone Accelerator Program.
We run a number of SME accelerator packages for a variety of improvement companions. I wouldn’t name them mere accelerator packages. As an alternative, these are complete enterprise improvement providers.
For instance, we’re doing a program with Swiss Contact the place we offer SMEs coaching, and manage a enterprise conclave the place we deliver all of the SMEs to Dhaka and join them with potential patrons. We do these sorts of system-level packages to assist the general entrepreneurship ecosystem of Bangladesh.
Our third vertical is market entry advisory, which is for worldwide firms who wish to enter the Bangladesh market. They want varied providers after they wish to entry the Bangladesh market. We assist them with these helps. Just lately, we labored for a big European vitality firm which resulted in a multi-million greenback funding within the nation.
Lastly, by our digital transformation resolution, we assist corporations to make higher sense of their information. It’s extra like a enterprise analytics unit below which we offer a variety of providers from information seize to information evaluation and assist corporations make higher selections in actual time. For example, we work with Syngenta Basis, a Switzerland-based group the place we assist them with information assortment, evaluation, and decision-making. We’ve created a dashboard for them the place they’ll do that entire factor.
These are a few of the issues we’ve got been doing.
How large is the corporate now? Are you able to give us an summary of your crew, shoppers you’re employed with, measurement of the enterprise, and so on?
Proper now we’re a crew of round 60 individuals. Within the management crew, I work because the CEO, we’ve got Ivdad as our Managing Director and Zahed as our Director of finance, technique, and consultancy providers.
Our chairperson of the board is Samad Miraly. He’s an Govt Director of Olympic Group and is generally often known as an early angel investor within the ecosystem. The corporate is majority owned by the founders — Ivdad, Zahed, and I. Anita Ghazi Rahman, who’s an advocate of the Bangladesh Supreme Courtroom, is our impartial board member.
We’ve constructed an especially numerous crew over time with individuals from enterprise, expertise, and artistic domains. We’ve graduates from enterprise, statistics, and economics. We additionally rent laptop science graduates and folks from inventive domains akin to fantastic arts, design, and artistic arts.
We’ve individuals from many alternative universities — DU, Jahangirnagar College, BRAC College, IBA, NSU, and all different reputed locations. We imagine in range. I believe our crew is robust as a result of it is numerous. Not simply by way of gender but additionally schooling. They arrive from throughout Bangladesh.
We’ve near 150 shoppers. We divide our shoppers into a number of small subgroups.
In Improvement and Impression, we’ve got labored with nearly all the main gamers. We have labored with the World Financial institution Group, UKAID, USAID, UNCDF, Swiss Embassy, UNDP, BRAC, Invoice and Melinda Gates Basis, and different outstanding organizations.
We work with personal sector shoppers, and multinational corporations akin to Meta, Telcos, and native conglomerates. Principally we work with worldwide companions. Among the many youthful corporations, we’ve labored with Mind Station, which is an excellent firm.
We are the defacto companions of many worldwide consulting corporations. We’re an unique associate of Larive Worldwide. Larive is a consulting agency with a presence in 30 international locations with over 50 years of classic. They work completely with us in Bangladesh.
We additionally work with monetary establishments akin to HSBC, worldwide funding corporations, PLC, CDC, Truvalu, and so on.
These are a few of the shoppers we’ve got labored with over time in a broad stroke.
How large is the consultancy providers market in Bangladesh?
I might say it’s a between $150-200 million market, yearly.
That is a large market. Bangladesh continues to draw rising consideration from every kind of worldwide gamers and it appears there’s a rising urge for food for consulting and analysis providers within the native market as nicely.
It’s a rising market, in fact. However you even have to contemplate the standard of the market. A big a part of it’s the Authorities. Though the personal sector market is rising, it’s a bit sophisticated for us.
We come at an early stage of the worth chain for many corporations. On the preliminary stage the place they’re determining their technique. To that finish, many personal gamers do not but see worth in these kinds of providers. They worth providers the place the return on funding is extra clear and rapid. They perceive that in the event that they put money into advertising, they’re going to get shoppers. In the event that they run a TV advert, they’ll get clients. That worth proposition is evident to them. However for analysis and consultancy providers, not a lot.
In comparison with that, worldwide corporations are extra keen to put money into analysis and analytics. You possibly can perceive this by easy software-related bills. With the quantity of funding multinational corporations make in software program and database programs, our native corporations often do not go there. For those who go to any worldwide corporations, they use respected e-mail programs akin to Microsoft and Google, and so on. However should you go to native corporations, they largely favor free software program.
Our native corporations usually do not make investments lots in inside administration and information analytics, which is bettering. There are some actually good corporations. New leaders in lots of of those locations are making modifications. However these modifications are nonetheless within the early phases and can take time.
How do the service dynamics work? How does your inside group work and the way do you’re employed with shoppers to ship the service?
On the consumer aspect, we’ve got these giant buckets of shoppers. You’ve gotten the general public sector, which is the federal government. Then you could have the event and affect sector. And you’ve got some native organizations akin to Brac on this section however the majority are worldwide organizations. Then you could have the personal sector, which once more may be divided into worldwide corporations, monetary establishments, consulting corporations, and native corporations.
Consulting providers are often a home of providers. So some individuals will purchase consulting providers, some individuals will purchase analytics providers, some will purchase information and data, and a few will purchase advisory assist. So you could have totally different baskets of providers and shoppers.
In the beginning, whoever the consumer we’re working with, we use an intensive written doc the place we illustrate the scope of the work. Primarily based on the venture doc, we then develop a venture tracker akin to that is the target, we’ll do these items to attain the target, and so forth.
With each goal, we map out actions to attain the target. We additionally use a Gantt chart to allocate time and schedule deliverables.
Every venture has an engagement or venture supervisor, who’s chargeable for the execution, one enterprise advisor, and one or two analysts relying on the dimensions of the initiatives. A venture supervisor or enterprise advisor manages all of the day-to-day actions. Analysts often develop written paperwork and different stuff. Internally, aside from the companions, every venture often has 2-4 individuals. One crew can even work on a number of initiatives relying on workload and every little thing.
That is how venture supply and administration work on each ends.
As I used to be saying, we coated LCP a few occasions within the early days however did not do a lot protection within the interim interval. Throughout this era, you’ve grown considerably as an organization. So we needed to know the key behind the expansion of LCP. We’ve a twofold speculation that LCP has among the finest founding groups and you’ve got constructed a superb tradition. Are you able to give an summary of the trajectory of the corporate from 2019 to at the present time?
We’re a service group. Our progress trajectory would by no means be like a product firm the place you possibly can obtain hyper-growth.
In our early days, we needed to check a speculation of whether or not we might provide world-class consulting providers utilizing younger native skills in Bangladesh. We’ve tried to show that speculation over the previous few years. I believe we’ve got been capable of show that it’s doable. We rent Bangladeshi expertise, people who find themselves of their mid and late twenties they usually deal fairly efficiently with giant native and worldwide shoppers from throughout sectors.
We’re on par with some other market by way of the standard of expertise I might say. We’ve quite a lot of nice skills in Bangladesh. We’ve tried to leverage that to supply world-class consulting providers.
India has performed it fairly nicely. PwC is in India which is a US firm that has a presence all the world over. TCS, which is an Indian firm, has additionally expanded everywhere in the world. So we thought if India can do it, Bangladesh ought to be capable of do it as nicely. I believe, though India is an enormous nation and has an obvious benefit there, Bangladeshi skills are on the identical footing. Our objective is to construct a world-class consulting firm out of Bangladesh.
We’ve additionally targeted on the purchase aspect advisory. If traders wish to make investments, what do they want? We’ve since expanded the service. We’ve launched Make investments Bangladesh focusing on this section of shoppers, the place you’ll find all the knowledge associated to investing in Bangladesh.
We’ve gone deeper into digital transformation. Previously, we used to assist solely with information seize. We now present database design, analytics, forecasting, and so on. I might say a consulting firm is generally about including totally different strains of providers that resolve totally different issues for the consumer.
I would not say our progress has been tremendous quick. Startups develop by 100-200%. However I might say that we’re additionally restricted by the expertise we get. The skills we’ve got get poached by everybody together with multinational consulting corporations. And lots of skills migrate overseas. So it’s a troublesome market.
I might say we’ve been fortunate within the sense that individuals often don’t depart us to hitch different corporations. We lose out largely when individuals transfer overseas which is going on lots nowadays.
Second, we’ve got a really meritocratic tradition. You both earn a six-figure wage in a single and a half years otherwise you stagnate. For those who carry out, you develop quick and should you do not, it’s an trade onerous to outlive. So many individuals depart when their progress plateaus. However we not often lose our skills to different corporations.
What are a few of the issues which have contributed to your wonderful progress? 40% progress is lots within the context of Bangladesh. What’s distinctive about LCP?
The service that we offer will not be very distinctive. However each consulting agency has some distinctive taste.
For example, BCG is thought for its energy in technique. Accenture is thought for its concentrate on tech and digital transformation. Bain is for bringing particular options to the market. And McKinsey known as the daddy of administration consulting.
In any cake, a good portion is the cake itself. You then add taste — vanilla, chocolate, or some other taste. It’s your distinction. All consulting corporations present consulting providers however each one presents a taste, a distinction. Our distinction, which is in our DNA, is that we’re data-driven.
Whenever you deliver an issue to us, we do not offer you only a fundamental understanding of it. We give you an understanding backed by information. We use information to elucidate it so to have a greater grasp of it.
For instance, if I let you know Bangladesh’s economic system is giant versus if I let you know Bangladesh’s GDP is 400 billion which is bigger than Singapore and Vietnam, it provides you a greater image. You see what we’re speaking about.
As an alternative of claiming that Bangladesh has a rising center class, if I say Bangladesh’s middle-class inhabitants will attain 35 million by 2025, which is bigger than the entire inhabitants of Malaysia, it drives the purpose house higher.
So one key distinction about us is that information is on the core of every little thing that we do. We’ve at all times been data-driven and at all times might be. This is applicable to every little thing we do.
For example, once we do an accelerator program, we run a necessity evaluation earlier than getting began. For example, earlier than launching the GP Accelerator Program we ran a survey to know what sort of curriculum would profit startups probably the most. We designed the curriculum based mostly on the survey end result. So it isn’t random that we took a take a look at how different individuals akin to YC do it and contextualize that right here. We do it floor up. We’ve discovered that we want extra assist for seed corporations in Bangladesh in order that they’ll get to Sequence A.
So any work that we do is knowledgeable by information.
This subsequent level is true for all companies however extra so for consulting companies. So long as you could have the very best skills, you may win. On the finish of the day, it’s a expertise sport.
For example, you’re a consumer and I made a take care of you on the associate stage. However I might not do the day-to-day issues. My crew will. You may be working with my venture supervisor or enterprise advisor. So the standard of that venture supervisor will decide whether or not you as a consumer will give us a second venture.
We’ve a really excessive retention fee. Most of our shoppers are repeat. They wish to proceed working with us as a result of they just like the crew they work with, not me. I do not do the work. My crew does many of the work.
My job is to search out and rent the very best individuals, give them a superb surroundings, prepare them, and ensure they’ll function successfully. They’re those working the initiatives.
I might say expertise is one other key differentiating issue. Though we typically cannot match the very best wage available in the market, we attempt to. I might say our pay scale will not be that unhealthy both. And we attempt to assist our crew as greatest as we are able to. For instance, since we’re residing by excessive inflation, we’ve got raised the wage of everybody and adjusted for the inflation. We attempt to give individuals fast progress.
We’ve a tradition that’s open and flat. For instance, we founders have no devoted place to sit down within the workplace. We use widespread washrooms within the workplace. That is true for the entire workplace. Nobody enjoys any privilege from workplace assist to the CEO. We’ve an equitable, clear, and open tradition.
Once we give suggestions, the person who’s giving the suggestions begins with himself. The supervisor first tells three issues he did nicely, three issues he did not do nicely, and the way he would enhance his limitations, after which he provides suggestions. It’s not like I am going and let you know that you just did this and that fallacious and so forth. We wish to keep a tradition the place individuals would wish to work.
Our entry mechanism is extremely aggressive. We undergo nearly 600 CVs to rent one useful resource. We first take a written examination case. Then our crew interviews the shortlisted candidates — their potential future colleagues. We, companions, interview those that go the crew interview.
We do not rent only for expertise. Intelligence is without doubt one of the key issues we take a look at however we additionally look into integrity. We rent good individuals. We’ll be spending 8-12 hours working with this particular person, so we wish to have individuals who we like and luxuriate in working with. We rent good individuals and provides them quite a lot of freedom to do their work.
How do you make sure that you execute at your greatest and get the end result that you just wish to get?
We’ve saved our operation easy. We use the OKR framework to handle and monitor progress. We begin with broad targets. Say certainly one of our targets is to construct a world consulting firm out of Bangladesh. Be the very best place the place individuals would wish to work. With these targets, there are outcomes hooked up that point out what it means to attain a sure goal.
For example, what will we imply by turning into a world consulting firm, and what outcomes if we obtain them will point out that we’ve got achieved the target? For example, one end result might be our consumer checklist would come with high world firms, monetary establishments, high nonprofits, and so forth.
How will we measure progress?
We’ve a win-rate ratio the place we see proposals versus win ratio. We take a look at our income progress numbers. We’ve a number of effectivity metrics. For instance, we take a look at our working leverage ratio.
We calculate the satisfaction scores of shoppers. Whether or not shoppers would advocate us or not. We fail typically. And we are saying sorry to the consumer that we could not provide the greatest service. We then attempt to study from our errors. I would not say every little thing goes based on plan. We make errors. However that is additionally a part of rising the enterprise. We’re a studying group.
We’ve tried to construct programs in order that our operation is easy and issues occur uninterrupted. For instance, recruitment. We have automated quite a lot of our recruitment processes the place issues occur with out energetic intervention.
The important thing I might say is that you just consistently have to take suggestions from two particular events. One is your shoppers. You must take fixed suggestions out of your consumer, be in fixed dialog together with your shoppers, and see the place you possibly can serve them higher in order that your shoppers are vested in your progress. The second is taking fixed suggestions out of your crew. They will let you know what must be performed, what’s not working, and so forth.
We attempt to take common suggestions from these two teams. I would not say we at all times succeed. There can at all times be a distinction of opinion however we attempt to finish issues on good phrases.
Have thick pores and skin. Purchasers provides you with quite a lot of suggestions that may make it easier to get higher.
We’ve shoppers who referred to as us throughout COVID and gave us further work as a result of they thought it was a troublesome interval for us. You need these sorts of shoppers. As a result of shoppers know that if I am not right here, their life could be troublesome.
I believe staying targeted on the answer — attempting to know the problem of the consumer, and why the consumer needs your service — is vital. For instance, certainly one of our shoppers was working quite a lot of analyses with us. I requested them what the top objective of this was. They mentioned they wish to take a big institutional investor, in order that they’re working these analyses to place collectively a technique and talk their plan with the potential traders. They’re a big 20 billion greenback firm. Now that I do know his objective, it will get simpler for me to run the evaluation to construct the enterprise case for a similar objective with the best information integrity. If we can provide him this resolution, he would not work with some other agency. As a result of he would have the belief issue with us. Constructing that belief together with your shoppers is important.
Then creating an everyday suggestions loop to assemble suggestions. After which your teammates. If they don’t seem to be motivated and do not feel empowered, the enterprise will go nowhere. These are some things I imagine are extraordinarily vital.
How does your enterprise improvement work? How do your distribution work as in how do you attain out to your shoppers?
Let’s examine how the consulting enterprise used to work prior to now. For example, there’s a British investor group. They obtained a proposal from Bangladesh. They often would name one of many consulting corporations and ask: we obtained this proposal, how might we transfer ahead? They focus on and get to work. Traditionally, that is how consulting used to work. It didn’t depart a lot room for brand new corporations except you have been very nicely related.
Nevertheless, the mannequin has modified. For example, you wish to put money into an Indian firm. What’s the very first thing you are gonna do right now? You’ll Google earlier than doing something and skim issues up on-line. That breaks the normal worth chain for consulting. We’ve tried to take advantage of this transformation within the worth chain.
What are the plans for the subsequent few years?
Our plan for the previous 8-10 years was to see whether or not we might give world-class consulting providers in Bangladesh. We’ve been working in Bangladesh, serving shoppers in Bangladesh. The following objective is to construct a world consulting firm out of Bangladesh.
Our enterprise in Bangladesh has been rising persistently and we’ll proceed rising this enterprise. However now our objective is to go world. PwC operates in 100 international locations, so why cannot a Bangladeshi firm do the identical? I needn’t function in 100 international locations however can I function in 5/10 international locations?
We have Bangladeshi corporations that promote their merchandise the world over akin to Pran in a number of international locations. We promote software program providers the world over. These are wonderful feats. Now we would like a information firm out of Bangladesh. Folks from all the world over know the BCG matrix or totally different fashions of McKinsey. We wish to construct an identical firm for the world. If LCP can do it, I might be humbled. However I wish to see one thing like this occur within the subsequent ten years. Can we construct a world consulting firm utilizing Bangladeshi skills? That is our subsequent objective.
We’ve discovered over these years that we’ve got native skills. You possibly can serve world shoppers with native skills in Bangladesh. Now we wish to discover out whether or not we are able to do it for world shoppers throughout international locations.
Now we are saying that we wish to be the McKinsey of Bangladesh. Sooner or later, we wish to get to a spot the place somebody in Nepal would say that we wish to be the LCP of Nepal. So that is the objective: constructing a world consulting firm out of Bangladesh.
What are the challenges by way of getting there?
There are challenges particularly linked with doing it in an rising market. Consulting enterprise is linked with the worldwide economic system, which is at all times a problem.
Consulting will not be simple to scale. Expertise retention is at all times an enormous problem. These are very high-caliber skills and they’ll at all times have quite a lot of choices.
There are different systemic challenges. It’s a crowded market. It is troublesome to distinguish. Lots of people are presumably wanting on the similar market.
Equally, lots is determined by how we construction the corporate in order that future potential companions can are available and be part of us. We’ve a management crew right now however what occurs subsequent, who will we go on the baton to?
For now, the principle problem might be financial challenges, which is true for all companies. Not simply LCP. The world goes by a troublesome time, which is extra like a cycle however issues are about to get harder for at the least a number of years.
The second problem is getting the precise expertise onboard. That is once more a problem for everybody. There’s a lack of excellent skills available in the market. You additionally run a enterprise, so you already know that very nicely. It’s onerous to search out the precise individuals. I believe it’s a grievance that everybody has. Furthermore, lots of people are transferring overseas. Sooner or later, we would have to contemplate hiring globally. So discovering a sustainable resolution to individuals downside is a problem.
What are the most important classes you could have discovered constructing a world consulting firm out of Bangladesh?
There are some onerous classes. One large lesson is that at all times be very very clear, trustworthy, and open. For instance, talk on day one what you are able to do, your expectations, the expectations of your companions, and so forth. It’s okay in case your views are totally different. However at all times be clear and open.
You needn’t win every little thing. There might be losses. For instance, certainly one of our co-founders left a number of years again when he migrated overseas. It was a troublesome interval. However after I look again now, I say it is fantastic. Folks will come and go. If I depart LCP, it doesn’t suggest that LCP will die. None of us are indispensable. I believe we needn’t win every little thing. You possibly can let small issues go. As an alternative, have a number of focus areas the place you wish to win.
All the time keep a wholesome steadiness in every little thing you do. It’s about working good. Rent people who find themselves higher than you. Do not work your self to dying. Construct a company the place individuals can work and have a life as nicely.
I believe it is a good place to finish right now’s dialog. Thanks so very a lot for taking the time to talk with me.
Thanks for having me.