What Is Consulting? – Akbar & Birbal Edition

1547 AD

The Court of Emperor Akbar…

The courtiers were all sitting and conversing with each other. Suddenly, trumpets started blaring. A herald announced the entrance of the Emperor. The great king walked briskly into court and sat on his peacock throne. He looked worried and lost.

Todarmal, a loyal courtier noticed this and asked, “Jahapannah, is everything all right?”

The king did not reply immediately. He stroked his beard thoughtfully. Suddenly he perked up. He looked at the entire court and spoke, “My loyal advisors. You help me with great advice and greater support when needed. Today I bring a grave problem before you. My dear departed father visited me in a dream today. He asked me to feed all the cows in my kingdom. This he said will ensure that I am able to unite Hindustan. But, he said, the cows must be fed with a meal prepared in the royal kitchens. Only, I do not know how many cows live in my domicile! Now my loyal subjects you must help me. Go find out just how many cows live with us!”

The entire court looked baffled. How would they set about creating a census for cows in such a huge kingdom, in a single day?! It seemed an impossible task. Suddenly Birbal spoke up. He said, “Great King, I know how many cows live in this kingdom! There are 7,43,762 cows in our kingdom.”

Before the king could respond to this outrageous statement, another courtier spoke up, “Really Birbal! How do you know? What if there are more cows?!”

Birbal smiled serenely and replied, “Well, if there are more cows, the relatives of local cows have obviously come to visit them. And before you ask- if there are less than 7,43,762 cows- obviously, some of the local cows have gone away to visit their relatives and friends!”

Present Day- 2017

Today’s CEOs are much smarter than Akbar. If you wish to be a consultant today, you’ll have to be smarter too! When you guesstimate an answer, there must be solid logic and situational awareness behind it.

Your answer should have been given after estimating the number of cows in the country.

  • You could have done this by estimating the probable places where cows stayed.
  • In this case, you should have estimated the percentage of cows belonging to temples, to the upper class Hindus, to the dairy farms and finally stray cows.
  • You could have simply asked for the total population of the upper class Hindus, and estimated that they would have 3-4 cows each.
  • The temples each had 2-3 cows as well. You could guess the number of beasts by simply counting the number of temples.
  • You could have asked for the number of dairy farms in the country and the average number of cows they housed.
  • Stray cows would probably account for 25% of the total cow population.
  • Adding all these numbers would bring you to a believable guesstimate as to the number of cows in the country.

But if you answered as quickly as Birbal did, you probably just failed the interview. Before you can solve any case correctly, you must know the ground rules. And there are different types of cases you may have to deal with! If you want to be a consultant, you must ask the right questions, study available data thoroughly and then present your case.

Meet real consultants and find out the right way to guesstimate! Get to know what is it to be a consultant, what the consulting world is like before you even give your entrance exams! Meet consultants from EY Consulting & UC Strategy at MISB Bocconi, Powai, on the 30th September! Register here.

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