The 25 years

This January my consulting company Environmental Management Centre LLP completed 25 years! I am writing this post today to share my experience in this journey. This story telling may help young entrepreneurs entering the profession of environmental management.

I left my full-time teaching position at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay to establish EMC. I was 40 years old then and wanted to do something different. I don’t think making money or growing in size and in turnover were the motives of EMC. EMC always remained a boutique consulting company and did not become a Corporation. We began with a team of 3 and today all people counted we are around 20.The company operates as a family. I have been very fussy in inducting people on our Team.

It is important to set the definition of growth when you set your organization. For a person like me who always wanted to be involved in multiple roles and enjoy wearing different hats, EMC was another important “experiment”.  However, EMC  remained close to my heart. It became my identity. I always looked at Team EMC as if it was a master’s class of students I used to teach at the Indian Institute of Technology. So, the consulting work EMC did, was by a Professor of Practice and the Team.

In 1996, I wrote EMC’s mission as “Practicing Sustainability to the Advantage to All”. Looking back now, I realize that I had used the term sustainability much earlier. At that time, sustainability was not the buzz word as it is (overly) used today. The mission statement emphasized that practicing or mainstreaming sustainability can be smart to give an advantage to all. “To All” was an important term in the mission statement as  it included even our competitors!  You must think big to ensure a healthy competition.

Over the past 25 years, EMC completed more than 500 assignments in India and across the world. We worked with Governments, Corporates, Financing Institutions, Research bodies and Community based Organizations. The portfolio has been thus rich and diverse. “National roots with international experience” was perhaps  selling point of EMC. Most of the times, we were sole sourced and enjoyed the support of “repeat clients”. We could build long term relationships, almost like an extended family.

Every assignment we worked on was unique and different. We couldn’t possibly use a templated approach. I personally don’t enjoy work when it becomes routine. So, each project was a discovery, delivered on the basis of “evolving terms of references” (as both client and consultant were learning). In this process, we came up with several “firsts”. Due to my travels and multiple roles in the environmental profession, I could never get a bandwidth to publish all these innovations in our consulting practice. Innovations in consulting generally do not get published.

I am now planning to publish an “EMC Coffee Book” presenting the case studies built on EMC’s assignments and experience. This Coffee Book will not be a marketing publication of EMC but more of an expression of experience –  sharing innovations to inspire young consultants, businesses, investors and regulators.

Internship in the career matters. I conceived “EMC Internship Program” in 2004. Internship at EMC is taken seriously with thorough mentoring. By now, more than 100 interns have taken benefit of being with EMC.  Last year we conducted a tracer study on EMC interns and the feedback was simply overwhelming.  Internship at EMC is really sought for. We receive around 200 applications in a year and we accept only 4 to 5 interns after a careful evaluation. Interns helped EMC by becoming “EMC Ambassadors”. More importantly the internship program created important institutional linkages that EMC could leverage on.

In the course of last 25 years, nearly 100 professionals moved out of EMC to further their careers. Some set up their independent businesses, drawing inspiration from the work at EMC; some took up advanced studies and some relocated elsewhere in India and overseas. All these colleagues, whom we call as “EMCians” are still connected. Today we operate a “What’s App group” for EMCians. This is yet another example of an extended EMC Family. Sometimes I feel that our repeat client’s network, EMCians What’s App group and EMC’s Internship Program are the true impact indicators of organizations like EMC.

When we talk about impacts, it is important to follow up to check whether the  consulting work made any difference. Did it influence policies, introduced new methodologies  or developed tools to improve practice for effective outcomes? For an environmental company, giving statistics on number of environmental clearances obtained is perhaps not the true outcome indicator. So, I introspected our 500+ assignment portfolio and found that only 10% of the work we did, resulted in the “intended or desired change”. In most cases, impacts could not be harvested because of organizational inertia at clients end, or because the administrator in charge got transferred elsewhere or because there were challenges on mobilizing the financial resources.  This experience has been rather frustrating. This is where you need a political support with leadership that looks beyond and not limit the vision and mission to a 5-year period!

It is important to create a “market” for environmental services not just for achieving compliance, but also for building competitiveness of the business by going beyond compliance – essentially “smart sustainability”. We also need to build “capacities to deliver”. Consulting companies can play an active role in this endeavor, but unfortunately very few consulting companies are engaged to take this on as a “professional responsibility”.  In 2009, I made a deliberate effort to support awareness and training programs in environmental management through EMC. We funded these activities from our own budgets, cutting down our profits. We did not seek any grant or external funding.

I believe and firmly so that such an exposure (i.e., working  for a “non-billable” activity) is necessary for the personal growth of the Team. By working on community initiatives, you bring in the sensitivity and empathy in the work you do and become a responsible and ethical environmental consultant. Today, this work of EMC is housed under a not for profit – Section 8 company – Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation that we set up in 2012. In the last 10 years, Ekonnect has grown and is making a significant contribution to build capacities and promote eco-entrepreneurship in India as well as overseas. Team EMC continues to support Ekonnect.

Many ask me “tell us which consulting assignment excited you the most?” Honestly, it is difficult question to answer for any professional. But I must end this post by telling you a story.

One of the large glass manufacturing company near Mumbai, asked me to spend some time at their manufacturing plant. I asked the CEO what is it that you expect me to do. The CEO said, reach the plant early by 9 am, walk around and meet me for a short chat post lunch. Stay with us for 5 days. I agreed to this weird assignment as I was curious.

On the first day, the CEO introduced me to his department heads and told them that I will be doing a walk through and their teams should provide me any information or answer questions. In closing the meeting, the CEO said that he expects a handwritten page each day. “Dr Modak, write in bullets and with a large size font please.”

I walked around on the first day and met the CEO post lunch. I handed over to him a page of my observations and suggestions. The CEO took a good look at the page and asked me a few questions. The conversation ended in just 15 minutes. The next day I continued my walk through and met the CEO with another one pager. When I reached his cabin, I saw that there were two department heads with him –  the departments I had visited in the two days. The CEO had on his desk the one pager I had given for Day 1. He had made remarks on items I had listed. I saw some scribbling was done.

“Well Dr Modak, many of your suggestions were relevant. We have already implemented four out of seven and are getting immediate benefits. One of your suggestions is not practical. Remaining two suggestions are good but will need some preparatory work.” I was amazed to see how focused and action oriented the CEO was.

On the fifth day, the CEO called for a closing meeting with all the department heads. He summarized my suggestions and actions that were immediately taken and those that will be implemented in the next 3 months. He asked for close monitoring to assess the impacts of actions taken considering savings, emission reduction and workspace safety. At the end, he thanked me for my time.

“What about submitting a report Mr CEO?”  I asked after the meeting was concluded.

No need of a report, Dr Modak, said the CEO.

Those were perhaps the best moments in a consultant’s life.

I wish I get to do more such assignments in the next 25 years with EMC!

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  1. I have been fortunate to associate with you in the early stages of EMC with Gas modelling for RCF assignment (when I was with Bhagwati Associates) and since then on various occasions. Like your last Case Story and resultant conviction for EMC and you. Best Wishes

    1. Yes Kishore, I do remember working with you on the RCF Air Dispersion Modelling Project. Those were the days. I still recall Y R Pakala and M G Rao and our conversations and plant visits. Glad you liked the last story.

  2. Dear Prasad,
    Hearty congratulations on achieving this milestone with a rich harvest of experience, as well as a rich range of creative and out of box contributions made over all these years. My best wishes ti you and EMC for an equally creative and meaningful future.
    Warm regards
    Girish Sohani

    1. Dear Girish. Thank you so much. I look forward to working with you and BAIF. Planning a visit to Pune in Feb and will see you there if you are attending the office. Warm regards

      1. Sure we will meet in Feb. Let me know when you are visitng.

        We are plannedg to take ahead the work on Circular Economy in the Agri Sector in cooperation with HDFC Bank and look forward to working with you on that .

  3. Hearty congratulations on silver jubilee of your passionate creation.1996 happens to be the year in which I was asked to manage Environment and Energy by my organisation after over 25 years of operations in speciality chemical manufacture.After just five years in SHEQ as per the rules retired from this activity. After brief stint in Environment management for body last 25 years I continue to follow sustainbility for my soul.At the end of the blog what you have mentioned reminds me of Brigadier Pennathur who after his innings in defence Operations and Research management was consultant to several Industries.He used to warn his clients that paying consultant fees and collecting reports is not enough .You have to deliver and get benefit for what you pay for!

  4. I’m indeed blessed to be a tiny part of this big family. Happy Silver Jubilee Dr. Modak and EMC family!

  5. Congratulations Dr. Modak. The article is indeed an inspiration for young enterprenurs like me. I just realised that I am also walking in a similar trajectory working with Governments, Development Agencies and Financial Institutions in the domain of energy use in buildings and cooling. Look forward to connect to you sometime soon.

  6. Congratulations and Long Continuation!!! Our Polish CP Program shall enter its 33 years Anniversary autumn this year as an NGO structure – also nice isn’t it?
    Greetings Zyg

    1. Lovely to hear from you. And so happy to know about 33 years of the CP program. Wasnt it called NIF-NOT? I just completed a book on Practicing Circular Economy that should hit the stands by May 2021. In this book, I attempted to trace the evolution with Cleaner Production program as a major milestone.

      Hope all is well with you, Warm regards

  7. Prasad, Watching your activity and progress since your student days. Amazed at your versaility and efficiency . Sure, you will provide a beacon for professionals –new and veterans . All the Best for future endeavoours.

  8. Congratulations! Lots to learn from your wisdom and enriching experiences. Keep doing and keep going after all you are the best example to the rest of the world. Tek Bahadur

    1. Dear Tek. Many thanks for your message. I see a great potential and a commitment in you. I am sure one day you will a lighthouse to many youngsters and lead the way.

  9. Dear Sir, Very well written with absolute clarity & thoughts in mind and implementation at ground. I am sure It is inspiring for all of us who wants to contribute in a positive way. CEO Experience is classic example how Top leadership should think and act. Thank You very much. Regards.. Sanket Shah

  10. Thanks for allowing me to be a part of EMC’s journey. It was a learning curve for me and I enjoyed every bit of it. Indeed am indebted to you and my colleagues at EMC for making this ‘ride’ thrilling and enjoyable. Best wishes to EMC and to you for more such jubillee to come by.

  11. It was always a fantastic experience interacting with you and your team. The winter school in circular economy conducted by EMC made a lasting impression on me and the learning has always helped me in the stakeholders interactions henceforth. Thanks a lot for being an awesome resource person and bringing people from different walks of life together. All the best!

  12. Congratulations Prasad for completing 25 years in Consulting. The blog was a good read and reminded me of my 30 years in Engineering consultancy. Wish you all the best for your future works.

    Ashok Paranjape

  13. Congratulations sir for completing 25 years in consulting. Wish you all the best for your future endeavors. I would like to work with you sir.

  14. Congratulations Dr. Modak on 25 years of EMC! I very fondly remember my internship with EMC and that has indeed shaped my career. I missed the EMC intern survey ( the baby kept me quite busy then!) but would love to be part of the whtzapp group. You have been a great inspiration! Wish you and EMC all the best for your future endeavors! – Reshma

  15. Thanks Dr Madhuri. I have now stopped working on water distribution networks. Last work closer to your interest was LOOP 4.0. You may like to read my blog on the “Story….. “, Search for LOOP on this website. Regards

  16. Dear Sir,
    Many congratulations on the 25th anniversary. While working in corporates, I was one of the attendees of the course “Integrating ESG Prespectives in Sustainable Investment Decisions”. Coming to today, I have left my corporate career of 7 years in Mumbai and started my environment consulting organization named Little Green World based in Ladakh and focused on conservation and behaviorial change in the Himalayan regions. Your story is truely inspiring and gives me lots of hopes and faith that my decision of leaving the corporate isn’t wrong and money is not everything.

    Keep writing and keep inspiring, there are many young entrepreneures like me who need guiding person like you.

    – Preeti Chauhan

  17. Dear Preeti

    Thank you so much for your response. Despite the frustrations, there is still so much hope. I wish you all the best for taking forward Little Green World. Do reach out to me should you need any help. Regards

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