• Role: Consultant
  • Location: Mumbai
  • University: Dublin City
  • Degree: BA Hons Philosophy & MSc Economics
  • Organisation: Alfa

David O'Callaghan

I had been with CHP for just under a year when I was asked if I would be interested in doing a six-month stint in Mumbai. During university I had travelled through India with friends and absolutely loved it, so the opportunity to go back there – and get paid for the privilege – was too good to refuse. I have now been here for five months and it has more than exceeded my expectations.

Our Mumbai-based client is a market leading electronics and engineering company that manufactures a huge variety of equipment, from nuclear power plants and MRI scanners to mobile phones. We have worked for a number of years with this particular client in the UK and Scandinavia and, on the strength of this relationship, were chosen as their software provider for their new Indian venture. Because their equipment can be so expensive they have an in-house asset finance business, which their customers use to pay for their products over an extended period rather than with a lump sum. CHP provide the software, Alfa Systems, which our client uses to manage these often large and complex deals.

What my role involves

My manager and I are the only two CHP consultants based in Mumbai, making this quite a small team by our standards – most CHP projects have between 5-15 team members. Being part of a two-person team, I have been given a lot of responsibility for somebody with my level of experience. This has been challenging at times, but I have learnt a huge amount as a result. The culture at CHP is extremely collaborative and my manager here is no different; he has been extremely supportive and I’ve never felt out of my depth despite the responsibility of the role.

I am in charge of reporting and management information which are both key areas for the client’s business. Reporting is particularly important as the financial reports which Alfa produces are used by the client’s senior management to influence key business decisions. As a result, it impacts all areas of the business which means that I get to deal with people of all levels of seniority, from front-end staff right up to the Chief Operations Officer and the Head of Risk and Credit of our client’s Indian office. Currently I am working very closely with the risk department to develop a set of reports which they can use to better understand their exposure to different customers and sectors of the market. This has given me an invaluable insight into how big lenders, such as my client, make their decisions.

A junior consultant’s working day

The first thing I do when I get to the office (after gorging myself on the amazing breakfast at the hotel we are staying in) is check my emails. I am in constant contact with CHP colleagues based in both the Asia-Pacific region and in the UK. Reporting touches all areas of our client’s business. As a result of this wide remit, I regularly work within areas of the asset finance industry that are completely new to me. But there is always somebody at CHP on hand to provide crash courses in everything I need to know, be it collections, settlements, funding or accounting.

After considering the suggestions and feedback included in my colleagues’ emails, I get down to preparing for client meetings. These occur most days and are usually with the client’s designated experts in areas ranging from risk and credit to operations and sales. The client will generally send me a meeting agenda outlining what is to be discussed. They may, for example, want Alfa to automatically generate a monthly report to assess the performance of their sales team by sales person, margin, volume of deals and asset type. I need to assess whether their requirements are feasible and, if so, how much effort will be required to implement them. In order to determine this I really need to understand the area of the business in which the client works.

The client’s staff will often have years of experience in the industry so it is very important for me to be up to speed. That said, many of these people, while being experts in their own fields, will often not be fully aware of the challenges involved in converting a functional business concept into an automated process; highlighting these issues and, hopefully, overcoming them, is where CHP step in.

What is really enjoyable about my job

What I have particularly enjoyed about this project is the range of cultures and backgrounds of the people working out here. Our client’s Mumbai office is staffed by a great mixture of locals and Europeans are assigned out from their European offices – in any given meeting there might be people from four different countries offering a variety of opinions on the best approach to take. The meetings can occasionally get quite animated, but my favourite thing about working here is how people are able to leave their work in the office. It’s not unusual to see two people practically shouting at each other in a meeting one minute and chatting away about yesterday’s cricket results over a cup of chai the next.

The people here are extremely sociable, and never more so than at lunchtime: eating alone is unheard of. We either head, as a group, to the office canteen (where you can get a selection of dahl’s, curries and delicious Indian breads for an extortionate 40 pence!) or, if we have time, out to one of the amazing local restaurants.

In the afternoon I generally get to work on actually developing whatever report I’m working on. My client uses Microsoft SQL Server 2008, an industry-standard data management and reporting tool. I come from a non-technical background (I studied philosophy and economics) yet the technical side of the job is one of my favourite parts. I have always enjoyed puzzles and problem solving, and I find it extremely rewarding to crack something which is particularly tricky. The technical training at CHP is top-notch and as such I don’t feel that my background has been a hindrance in any way. In fact, the majority of our consultants come from non-computing backgrounds, having studied everything from classics and modern languages to natural sciences.

I am also currently working with a colleague based in our London office who is updating Alfa to deal with India’s complex system of service taxes. Today I have a telephone meeting at 17.00 to check on their progress and to answer any functional questions they may have. I have seen this enhancement progress from the initial client requirements right through to this late stage of development. It has been extremely satisfying to watch it grow, as it will make a huge difference to the client.

That will take me through to 18.00 which is when we usually leave – we’re pretty good at managing our time at CHP and it’s rare that we are required to stay any later. Then it’s back home for a quick change of clothes before heading out to explore the city.

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