Caliber Consulting founder speaks on the company's evolution

28 May 2021 4 min. read
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Completing six years of business out of Dubai, boutique management firm Caliber Consulting has over that period advised scores of leading companies and high-level government agencies. Managing Partner Rani Salman discusses the firm’s success with 

Established in 2015, Dubai-based management consultancy Caliber Consulting has since then served more than 150 regional and international clients on strategy, operations, organisational design and culture including recent projects covering the real estate, education, and pharmaceutical sectors. While spread across many verticals, typically the firm caters to large, ‘blue chip’ organisations and various government entities, no mean feat for a boutique advisory.

“If you look at our client portfolio, we work with some of the ‘biggest and baddest’ players across industries,” says Caliber founder and managing partner Rani Salman on his most pleasing accomplishments after six years in business. “That is not always easy to do when you are a smaller fish in the pond without that big brand name to stamp on projects. There has been a lot of ups and downs, but definitely one thing I am extremely proud of is our clients.”

Rani Salman, Managing Partner, Caliber Consulting

An MBA graduate with HEC Montréal, Salman originally started out in the field of industrial engineering with a focus on operational consulting and finding ways to improve efficiency and enhance productivity – a discipline he describes as great in connecting science with management. Salman however found himself drawn to more strategic lines of work, and so spent time with various international management consultancies before setting out on his own. 

“I always had an entrepreneurial bug itching inside me,” says Salman. “I could work for the best companies in the world, have the best pay and work life balance, but I would never be happy. I saw some glaring gaps in the consulting market, and decided to go for it. There weren’t a lot of boutiques specialised in organisation design or change for example, especially in the region. I also saw a gap in delivering real value to clients, moving away from documentation production to results delivery.” 

The resulting formula – Caliber has dual lines in consulting and capability building, both of which focus on the integrated business transformation areas of strategy, organisation design, and people & culture – has to date proven a success, as evidenced by the firm’s long-standing client partnerships and a near 95% satisfaction rate. Beyond its offerings, Salman cites three factors in particular which he believes have provided Caliber with its popular point of difference. 

“Firstly, we are focused and boutique so that means we are not dealing with hundreds of clients at a time, we have a handful of clients, and thus they get our upmost focus and attention. Secondly, our thought leadership in certain areas is unparalleled. We have some of the world’s leading management gurus partnering with us to inject their expertise in both our consulting and training practices.”

“Finally, our project teams are not made up of freshly minted MBA graduates, but composed of senior individuals who are specialised and typically dedicated full time to engagements.”

The road ahead

It’s a recipe Salman is disinclined to stray from. While the firm’s stronghold remains in the GCC and Africa, Caliber has clients in close to 50 countries, and with that global ambitions. Yet, Salman doesn’t envision evolving into a major consultancy, but rather to “remain boutique and strengthen our position in the areas we specialise in, and in the clients we already have.” 

“Don’t be surprised if some consulting companies start looking more like tech companies in the near future.” 

In other words, “our aspirations are to scale in depth versus breadth. Ultimately, we would like to become the Rolls Royce of boutiques and top of mind when someone thinks of boutique consulting.”

As to the future of the consulting industry at large, in addition to the ongoing data and AI revolution (“don’t be surprised if some consulting companies start looking more like tech companies in the near future”), and emerging trends toward experimenting and testing over the traditional “investigate, benchmark, analyse, recommend and then ‘big-bang’ implementation approach, Salman believes there will be a greater market focus on value.

“I don’t think clients have the patience anymore to deal with the traditional consulting model of hiring fresh MBAs with high analytical horsepower to deliver flashy PowerPoint decks,” he concludes. “Clients are focusing more on specialisation and value delivery. I think this translates to a greater focus on implementation and more appetite to engage with specialised boutique consultancies which can often give better bang for their buck.”