Why should the $150 billion global management consulting industry be dominated by firms and analysts based in developed markets? Cloud-based start-up Intellia thinks there is an alternative: it offers access to a vetted group of analysts and consultants based in emerging markets all around the world.
“I was constantly amazed by the incredible raw talent in emerging markets – but also depressed by the limited opportunities,” says Saad Raja, the founder of Intellia, who previously spent more than a decade in consultancy roles in a number of different developing economies. “Then the pandemic hit and the penny dropped for many companies around the world that digital technologies mean they don’t necessarily have to hire a consultancy firm that is local to them.”
Intellia aims to build on these foundations. Raja believes that many companies will jump at the chance to secure high-quality consulting services from analysts based in different markets – not least because such services will often be more affordable. But if they are to explore that opportunity, they need a third party that offers a trusted source of high-quality candidates.
That’s where Intellia comes in. It uses a range of innovative technologies and processes to vet consultants – Raja says the firm only hires the top 1% of analysts in any given market. These analysts are employed directly by Intellia – earning a base salary from the firm – and can then be hired out for specific assignments. “We also have an in-house learning management system so that we can train consultants on what clients want,” Raja adds.
So far, Intellia has hired more than 150 analysts, many of whom are already working on consulting assignments clients. The firm’s customer base includes a number of multinational companies, but also sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, public sector organisations and even a Michelin-starred restaurant chain.
Services include value creation plans and portfolio monitoring; investment due diligence and memorandums; economic development policies; pricing strategies; trade, economic policies and strategies; merger and acquisition screening; deal pipeline development; financial modelling; and valuation and analysis.
“Our mission is ensure emerging markets can play their part in the knowledge economy,” says Raja. “They can do so much more than simply providing commoditised outsourcing services.” He is so convinced that his consultants will deliver what clients are looking for that Intellia promises to waive its fees if they’re not happy with the work provided. It is a stark contrast to the approach of established management consultancy services, many of which have a reputation for extremely high costs, Raja argues.
So far, Intellia has sourced its analysts mostly from Pakistan, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates, but the company has plans to expand its reach, with launches planned in Saudi Arabia and Lagos in the coming months.
By increasing the number of consultants at its disposal, Intellia will be able to bid for more projects – Raja sees the business taking on both traditional consulting firms and the growing number of freelancer marketplaces. “Currently, consulting firms take weeks to negotiate exorbitantly high fixed project fees with limited flexibility for businesses,” he argues. “On the other hand, freelancer portals provide relatively low quality, unsupervised services not fit for corporates and the public sector.”
The firm’s fund raising will help in this regard – Intellia has raised around $1.5 million of pre-seed funding over the past 12 months. The money has come from venture capital firm Fatima Gobi Ventures, plus a number of angel investors, many of whom have a background in the consulting market.
The financing is underpinning the company’s scale-up plans, Raja explains. Intellia hopes to have 1,000 active analysts on its books by next year. That will include a high proportion of women, he adds, in line with the company’s ambitions to encourage increased inclusivity. Around half of the existing workforce is female.
”We want to be the first call for senior management across the private and public sector leaders when it comes to strategy, finance, investment and public policy,” Raja concludes. By harnessing talent from a much wider pool than the traditional consulting firms, he thinks Intellia will be able to do exactly that.