Risk Management and Foresight in New Mobility Services: Akshay Prasad’s Take on Strategic Planning in Mobility

Akshay Prasad | Senior Engagement Manager at Arthur D. Little
Akshay Prasad | Senior Engagement Manager at Arthur D. Little

Akshay Prasad is an emerging key player in the ever-evolving landscape of management consulting—a seasoned Senior Engagement Manager at Arthur D. Little who considers strategic prowess paramount, standing at the crossroads of growth, cost reduction and transformative change.

Akshay steps in here armed with a wealth of experience spanning close to 10 years of work experience in management consulting covering traditional mobility and new mobility services such as Electric vehicle, decarbonization strategy, and alternate fuel study.

Akshay excels in Business Model Benchmarking, Competitor Analysis and Go-to-Market Strategy. His expertise in Opportunity Assessment and Feasibility Analysis reflects a commitment to sculpting strategies for enduring success in today’s dynamic corporate landscape.

Let’s explore the nexus of growth and transformation, where Akshay is crafting success stories for businesses in collaboration!

Revolutionizing Mobility

Akshay shares insights into his diverse project portfolio spanning both new and traditional mobility. He notes, “I’ve tackled projects covering the entire value chain, be it in the realm of new mobility or the conventional one.” In the dynamic landscape of new mobility, he emphasizes the significance of initiatives related to Electric Vehicles (EV), decarbonization, circular economy, and alternate fuel strategies.

Delving into a specific project, Akshay illuminates the challenges faced during the commercial and business due diligence of a local LiB OEM in Southeast Asia. He observes a growing trend of regionalization in the LiB battery supply chain posing hurdles for new entrants. Akshay highlights the difficulty of penetrating a market dominated by established players, especially in the mobility sector.

Reflecting on a particularly challenging experience, Akshay recounts the struggle to convince the target company to adjust their original business plan. “It wasn’t just about convincing them of their ‘aggressive plan, but also offering a viable alternate strategy,” he remarks. The proposed strategy involves a focus on customized mobility and niche applications along with leveraging non-price differentiators to gain market traction.

The project’s success lies in the client’s acceptance of key recommendations, marking a rewarding experience for Akshay. He stresses the importance of strategic planning, foresight and risk management in navigating such complex scenarios. As he succinctly puts it, “The learning was multiple but broadly around strategic planning and foresight and risk management.”

Collaborative Mantra

Akshay is a professional, navigating diverse industries and finds intellectual stimulation in the convergence of topics. He shares, “It allows me to see client issues from a different perspective and gain insights into adjacent industries.” Tackling these ‘convergence topics’ demands an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach fostering learning from colleagues across practices.

Akshay emphasizes, “I rely on a collaborative mantra to address complex client problems.” The key is maintaining clarity on client issues and engaging relevant experts, both within and outside the firm for effective brainstorming and optimal solution identification. This collaborative ethos not only enhances problem-solving but also contributes to ongoing professional development. Akshay’s approach serves as a practical guide for those navigating complex challenges in the dynamic landscape of diverse industries.

Elevating the Future

Passionate about Automotive and New Mobility, particularly E- Mobility, Akshay emphasizes, “Decarbonization efforts are crucial, given the transport sector’s significant contribution to emissions (24% as per IEA in 2019).” As economic growth and urbanization surge, the demand for ‘mobility/travel’ rises, making E-Mobility and alternate fuel strategies pivotal for sustainable progress on a societal and national level.

To stay abreast of industry advancements, Akshay employs a multifaceted approach. “My involvement with the Automotive industry at Arthur D. Little keeps me updated on E-Mobility through projects and internal seminars,” he shares. Regular reading on automotive topics, active participation in industry communities on LinkedIn and the publication of thought leadership further enrich his knowledge.

Actively engaging in E-Mobility conferences across Southeast Asia, Akshay ensures he’s at the forefront of the latest developments connecting with industry experts and policymakers for invaluable insights. Akshay’s commitment showcases a comprehensive strategy for staying informed and contributing to the dynamic landscape of E-Mobility.

Swift and Strategic

Recalling a notable project, Akshay reflects, “We supported a new entrant in Southeast Asia’s electric two-wheeler market, a challenging task due to specific client needs.”

The client aspired to collaborate with a battery-swapping market leader driven by a B2B ride-hailing agreement. However, the proposed arrangement proved unprofitable and time constraints ruled out in-house development.

Akshay’s solution? “I recommended procuring full electric two- wheeler kits from China—an affordable and timely alternative aligning with the end consumer’s needs.”

The revised business case not  only ensured a swift market  entry but also promised a positive ROI from project commencement, a stark contrast to the original plan’s prolonged timeline. Akshay’s strategic recommendation showcases the adaptability crucial for success in the ever-evolving landscape of electric mobility providing a valuable lesson for industry enthusiasts and decision- makers alike.

Innovative Approaches

In the service and knowledge industry, Akshay notes, “Our contribution to the client is led by discussions determining the scope of work.” Market analysis varies based on this scope and client needs emphasizing the identification of key segments, their size, growth potential, and customer and competitor insights. In E- mobility, regulatory analysis is crucial due to dynamic regulations. Akshay underscores, “Risk analysis is imperative for uncertain topics like E-mobility.”

When advising clients, he prioritizes a comprehensive understanding of their requirements. “The foremost area is focusing on understanding client needs for customized recommendations.” This approach ensures tailored solutions, a pivotal factor in the landscape of service and knowledge industries. Akshay’s insights provide a clear guide for professionals navigating diverse client landscapes emphasizing adaptability and a client- centric approach in delivering effective recommendations. In addition to this, other aspects to consider are:

Tailor-made approach: This has become extremely important as each client is different having their own requirements and differences in terms of readiness hence one size fits all approach doesn’t exist.

Long to mid-term perspective: Developing strategies with a slightly long-term perspective or at the very least few months beyond the project.

Stakeholder engagement and buy-in: It is extremely important to engage with different stakeholders from the client side and not only the immediate counterpart. In such cases, Akshay usually volunteers to present the Project findings not only to the immediate team but to other members so that a general alignment and consensus exist within the client.

Pilot/market testing: If possible, one should also consider a pilot testing or success-based fee approach if feasible in the project to ensure a ‘skin in the game’ approach to the client.

Building Trust, Delivering Value

In the realm of strategy consulting, Akshay asserts, “Building and maintaining strong client relationships is paramount.” Strategies employed include a blend of strategic acumen, effective communication and a general commitment to exceeding client expectations. This approach proves essential, especially when engaging with high-level client counterparts. Akshay’s concise wisdom encapsulates the key pillars for success in strategy consulting—strategic insight, clear communication and a commitment to client satisfaction.

To ensure they over-deliver client expectations, some steps taken include:

Understanding Client Needs: As previously mentioned, a thorough understanding of client business, industry, objective, and needs is essential. This is usually done with comprehensive discussion, stakeholder interviews, etc. Sometimes it does happen that a project is conceived but the client also does not understand their ‘key requirement.’ In such cases communication is key.

Clear communication: Effective communication is at the core of client relationships. Akshay always tries to be transparent with my clients throughout the engagement ensuring clients are informed about project progress, challenges and updates Regular Check-ins: As part of the project plan, we do have ‘regular check-ins’ which are crucial to keeping clients in the loop and gathering feedback. These interactions go beyond project updates providing Akshay an opportunity to understand evolving client priorities and adjust the work accordingly.

Anticipation of Needs: These direct interactions with clients through regular check-ins not only benefit getting project feedback but also a deeper understanding of client ‘real issues’ and ‘requirements.’ This in turn helps to anticipate client needs on a more proactive basis. He is always sharing news, articles and ideas with the clients even outside or beyond the project so that clients can always recall he remembered them. This further showcases a forward-thinking approach which clients today prefer as they don’t want to work with advisors but ‘trusted advisors’ and helps to showcase ‘value demonstration.’ One should not only offer such insights or knowledge when there is a project but even during other times because this only deepens the relationship with clients.

Responsiveness and Accessibility: At a personal level, Akshay is highly responsive and accessible which is a non-negotiable with respect to his clients. Clients need to feel assured that their concerns or queries will be addressed promptly. This includes being available for impromptu discussions and maintaining an open line of communication.

Collaborative Approach: Collaboration is something he emphasizes not only with my colleagues but also with the client. Akshay shares, “I try to build a collaborative environment where the client counterpart and team feel like a valued partner in developing the story of their solution.” This involves seeking their input, integrating their expertise and jointly celebrating achievements whenever possible.

Post-Project Follow-up: Lastly after a project concludes Akshay engages in post-project follow- ups with the client to assess the long-term impact of the strategies. This is not possible all the time but whenever it is it provides valuable feedback for him personally but also demonstrates a commitment to the client’s ongoing success.

The Rise of Regionalization

E-mobility is disrupting the automotive industry,” declares Akshay, emphasizing dynamic developments across the value chain. Notably, advancements extend beyond LiB technology with a shift towards solid-state and sodium- ion technologies to diversify from China’s LiB dominance. Akshay identifies a trend he terms the ‘Regionalization of LiB supply chain,’ as major countries strive for independent LiB cell manufacturing capabilities.

Additionally, non-traditional players are entering EV production diversifying the market. Charging infrastructure evolves, with battery swapping gaining traction in emerging markets. Akshay foresees a surge in innovative business models and service providers entering the automotive value chain, expecting accelerated collaboration trends among technology, energy companies and startups in the years to come.

Transparency, Recognition and Growth

Effective leadership is quite important as a Senior Manager in the consulting industry as one is balancing the expectations of the senior (Partner, Principal), the needs of the client and the requests of team members in terms of professional development.

Akshay’s approach to inspiring and motivating the team is focused on a few leadership principles listed below:

Open and Transparent communication: Transparent communication is essential for building trust within the team and Akshay ensures that information flows freely providing the team with context and updates while acknowledging both successes and failures.

Recognition and appreciation: Recognizing and appreciating the effort of any team member is critical for motivation. Hence whenever possible and budget permitting Akshay tries to celebrate accomplishments with the team (big or small) through project dinners etc. fostering a positive team culture.

Clear expectations and results: During the project, Akshay aims to build a clear expectation with tangible outcomes and milestones so that the team has full clarity of what’s needed. In cases when support is needed or a matter needs to be escalated, Akshay regularly encourages members to speak up so that no undue pressure is felt with the team or loss in time or efficiency due to a lack of understanding of expectations. Lastly, the work expectations are aligned mutually so that they are justified.

Continuous feedback loop: Akshay states, “I engage in regular check-in and informal feedback-sharing sessions where the focus is not only giving feedback but also receiving feedback so that the work plan of the team can improve continuously.”

Mentoring and professional development: Although Akshay’s firm has a formal track of mentorship for all my team members, he is always willing to support them on an informal basis regarding any aspect of professional development where they are seeking guidance, training, or any kind of informal support.

Wheels of Change

With extensive experience in E-mobility in India and Southeast Asia, Akshay shares his notable distinctions. “In India, the E-mobility revolution is driven by startups like Ola and Ather, while in Southeast Asia, State-Owned Enterprises take the lead,” he notes. India’s substantial population creates an inherent demand, unlike individual Southeast Asian countries leading to a more collaborative approach. Akshay emphasizes that Southeast Asian SOEs are open to strategic partnerships globally. India’s existing automotive brands provide a solid foundation, lacking in Southeast Asia where government reliance on foreign companies’ strategies is prominent. While Vinfast emerges in Southeast Asia fostering more regional brands is crucial.

Akshay anticipates a unique challenge in Southeast Asia attracting global tier 1 component suppliers compared to India. “India’s massive demand base may draw global suppliers for local manufacturing, serving Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa posing a potential challenge for Southeast Asia.” Akshay’s insights provide a nuanced perspective on navigating the diverse landscapes of E-mobility in India and Southeast Asia, emphasizing collaborative opportunities and regional nuances.

Strategies for Success

Initiating collaborative efforts, Akshay emphasizes, “Arthur D. Little organizes activities like dinners, fostering camaraderie and stronger interpersonal relationships.” Clear communication is paramount, with Akshay focusing on establishing very clear communication channels accommodating different preferences.

Regular check-ins during projects and business development activities allow for progress updates and issue resolution.

Akshay’s global exposure and Dual Masters’ degree from esteemed institutions like the London School of Economics and Yale School of Management contribute to his cultural sensitivity. This sensitivity proves invaluable in managing a diverse team leading to enhanced problem-solving, improved client relationships and the attraction of top talent seeking inclusive environments. Akshay’s strategies highlight the significance of collaboration, effective communication and diversity in fostering innovation and client satisfaction within the consulting landscape.

The Modern Consultant

In the contemporary consulting landscape, Akshay asserts, “The role of a consultant is now more of a strategic advisor, focusing not just on recommendations but on implementable solutions.” This shift is particularly pronounced in E-mobility, driven by the emergence of a ‘level playing field,’ prompting new industry entrants seeking hands-on implementation support. The automotive sector, especially in E-mobility faces rapid transformation, necessitating recommendations that endure disruption and stand the test of time.

Successful consultants must possess a blend of essential skills. Akshay recommends cultivating deep industry knowledge emphasizing specialization to meet evolving client demands. Digital literacy is indispensable, given the pervasive impact of digitalization across sectors. He underscores the importance of data analytics proficiency for informed decision-making. Additionally, consultants play a vital role in opportunity sizing and prioritization, contributing to strategic business growth.

Effective communication and a client-centric mindset remain paramount. As Akshay notes, these skills are foundational for understanding clients’ unique challenges and delivering tailored solutions. In the evolving consulting landscape, professionals must align with these skill sets to navigate industry nuances successfully.

The Power Play

Akshay underscores the critical importance of battery recycling amidst current developments, stating, “Battery recycling may be most critical going forward.” The potential demand surge in electric vehicles (EVs) poses a risk of supply shortage for critical LiB materials making recycling pivotal.

Additionally, the concentration of LiB materials in specific regions calls for a diversified supply chain favoring battery recycling for material sourcing and de- risking. Potential export restrictions by material-endowed countries further elevate the importance of recycling.

Akshay anticipates that these challenges will drive innovation in battery recycling economics, becoming favorable in the coming decade. With the rise of circular economy principles, emphasizing the 3R approach (Recycle, Reuse and Reduce), primary material demand, especially in EV emission life cycles, is likely to decrease making battery recycling a key player in sustainable resource management.