This is the second in a two-part series on Boston Consulting Group. In part one, we wrote about the consulting firm’s bold claims of beating its larger rival McKinsey in India and its strategy for rapid growth. If you haven’t already read it, check it out here here The Ken Inside BCG's long game to defeat McKinsey in India Read more .

In one of the most dogged public good exercises, the Delhi government reset the state’s education clock. Over the past five years, evidence of the success of Delhi’s education reforms has been trickling in trickling in Hindustan Times CBSE Class 12 exams: At 97.8%, Delhi govt schools score best-ever results Read more . In late January, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) stamped its approval, too. An independent report by the consulting firm, which works with some state education programmes as part of its Social Impact practice, dissected the Delhi government’s educational reforms.

Right at the outset the report report BCG Context of the Report 1 Read more mentions this was “pro bono” work, done at the request of the Delhi government. (Lest anyone club it with the scores of commissioned reports that BCG produces.) It highlights how Delhi government schools have shown amazing improvements across many parameters—rate of learning, pass percentage, teacher-student attendance, and so on. In the report, BCG says, “the true impact of Delhi’s reforms has been vitalizing the entire system and infusing a sense of renewed aspiration, belief, and deep motivation into every stakeholder—be it the parent, the student, the teacher, the HM or the administrator”.

Since BCG’s first work in Haryana between 2014-17 when it largely tried ‘academic’ reforms in schools, the firm has come some distance. It tried out ‘systems’ reforms in Rajasthan, and a combination of both in three subsequent states. For a consultancy that has been proposing ‘systems’ change in schools, Delhi sprung upon it a totally different kind of ‘systemic’ change.

The outcomes of Delhi’s reforms may have upended BCG’s much-publicised ‘systemic’ change approach, but the firm remains unflappable. “I won’t say it upends, but adds to it,” says Seema Bansal, who leads BCG’s Social Impact practice in the Asia Pacific region. “Top-down changes can be designed but implementation in the field is what Delhi has shown.”

What Delhi has, in fact, shown is that when governments really know the change they want, it can be achieved without paying through the nose for premium consulting. Outsourcing problem-solving to consultants, as is rampant rampant Caravan Is India privatising governance through partnerships in public digital infrastructure?


Seema Singh

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.

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