A Big 4 consultant working in the automotive sector stresses the need for a support system to promote sustainability
By Disha Roy Choudhury: An Apeejay Noida alumnus, Faisal Khan is working as a senior consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India.
His work revolves around developing growth strategies in the automotive industry. Faisal graduated in Economics from the University of Delhi after which he went on to pursue a master’s degree in the subject from The London School of Economics and Political Science.
He also holds an MBA degree from the Indian School of Business. In an interview, the Mumbai-based professional talks about how car companies are adopting sustainability, the challenges along the way, and more:
Take us through your work profile.
Faisal Khan: I am a part of the management consulting practice at PwC and primarily work with clients in the automotive sector.
The industry has been undergoing a lot of changes recently. The Government is focusing on sustainability now, which has prompted companies to adopt the same.
A lot of traditional companies have been compelled to make a switch from just being carmakers to players who are making electric vehicles or new software. Our work as consultants is to help clients develop their growth strategy and go-to-market strategy.
A large part of how we help them is also by connecting them with startups. India has the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world.
Many of them are far more technologically advanced. So, I help companies by facilitating collaborations with these startups. This involves working with the CXOs of various companies and startup founders.
Is enough technological research happening in the automotive sector in India?
Faisal Khan: Yes, but the research has to be proven on-ground. And that involves building an ecosystem where there will be Governments at the centre and the state who will support by providing subsidies.
Do companies face a similar challenge when it comes to sustainability?
Faisal Khan: Sustainability is an agenda whose rewards will come in the future. It is always a trade-off between letting go of profits right now and putting in investments, and then getting the rewards 10-20 years down the line.
Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) is a hot topic now where Governments are asking companies to become more sustainable and make zero-carbon commitments.
But to achieve this, every company would essentially have to transform the way they have operated for the last 20-30 years.
Sustainability, therefore, comes with the challenge of long-term rewards at the expense of short-term costs. So, the on-ground action is not exactly seamless.
Consultancy is not an easy job. What is the key to sustaining yourself in the field?
Faisal Khan: It only works when you find some value in the work you are doing — that is my source of motivation. If you are doing a job you like, and not because everybody else is doing it, you will be able to sustain it.
As a consultant, I have also seen how industries and startups work. This has made me realise that consulting allows me to work on a lot of different problems, which, in turn, ensures the work is not monotonous.
Otherwise, consulting is a job where you end up working 12 hours a day. And you can only deliver consistently if you are genuinely interested in the work, or you will experience burnout.
What role did Apeejay School, Noida, play in shaping your personality?
Faisal Khan: I joined Apeejay Noida in Nursery and completed Class XII in 2011. We had a very strong value system at Apeejay, which helped me later on in my life—it helped me stay grounded and not get caught up in a bubble.
At school, I literally witnessed how the infrastructure developed over the years. What also sets Apeejay apart is its strong focus on sports.
Our school had a very big playground where we played various games. So, the school also facilitated our all-round development.
Why did you opt for Economics after school?
Faisal Khan: I took up Science after Class X. Economics was my optional subject. Somehow, when I started attending Economics classes, I liked it more as compared to the other subjects.
Not only was it easy to understand but I could also see its real-world implications around me — when I would read the newspaper, for instance, I would be able to trace back economic developments to a particular theory.
You went on to pursue an MBA in the middle of your professional career. Why?
Faisal Khan: In every job that you pursue, there is a very steep learning curve in the beginning, after which you get used to the work. I felt something similar at the time and thought that an MBA would be a good option for me.
First, an MBA introduces you to subjects that you would perhaps not study otherwise. With a background in Science in Economics, I had not studied Accounting and Finance or Sales and Marketing until I did my MBA and realised how important it is to know these subjects as a professional.
The main value of an MBA, however, is its alumni network because they are the ones who will help you in the future.
I think if you are doing an MBA, try to look for a good college because the people you spend your time with will eventually impact your personality.
Any word of advice for Apeejayites?
Faisal Khan: What students should actively start doing is networking with Apeejay alumni. It is the best way to gain knowledge and know about various industries.
The alumni would definitely be happy to guide them. By the time students reach Classes XI-XII, many have a hard time trying to figure out their career choices amid external pressure. They need to know what professionals are actually experiencing and that is where the alumni can help.
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