VLT Labs acquisition to be SEA springboard for Digital McKinsey

  • Malaysia will be the hub for Digital McKinsey as they step up operations in Southeast Asia.
  • Hopes VLT Labs’ pioneering spirit, startup culture will rub off on McKinsey as it reinvents itself


VLT Labs acquisition to be SEA springboard for Digital McKinsey


MCKINSEY & Company has announced their acquisition of talent and assets from VLT Labs, the digital business builder and product development studio based in Kuala Lumpur. In doing so, the management consulting firm signals their intention to aggressively increase the presence of Digital McKinsey in the region.

"Our digital practise here has more than doubled in the last twelve months," enthused Nimal Manuel (pic), managing partner, Malaysia, McKinsey & Company. "By next December (McKinsey's digital and analytics people) will make up about one-third of McKinsey's Malaysia service."

This announcement was made at McKinsey's inaugural Digital and Analytics Forum in KL. The acquisition of VLT Labs means Digital McKinsey now has more than 50 designers in Asia, a significant chunk of their 300 total worldwide.

Read Also: McKinsey acquires KL-based VLT Labs

"We've decided to make Malaysia and KL one of our lighthouse studios in the region," explained Michael Gryseels, senior partner and leader of McKinsey Digital Labs, APAC. "The reason why we're excited about Southeast Asia (SEA) is because it is one of the largest and fastest growing consumer markets."

Gryseels hopes their first such acquisition in SEA is a sign of greater things to come. "Three years ago, we were hardly in SEA doing any work. Now, (digital and analytics) are a significant part of our work here."

This sharp growth in the region is in line with McKinsey's overall transformation worldwide. "The McKinsey of today is not the McKinsey of ten years ago," pointed out Nimal. "(Now), we don't just do strategy, we help our clients implement strategy and deploy them."

"For the last hundred years, we've been solving business problems but we've kind of taken a very analytical approach," explains Gryseels.

Now Digital McKinsey has been introducing concepts like Design Thinking and Agile methodology to their clients – familiar to startups, but foreign thinking to traditional businesses.

Meanwhile, McKinsey in SEA is chasing the wind. "At a global level, it's more of an evolution. Here in SEA we've made a massive step up," said Nimal.

The decision to do so was made a year and a half ago.

"We agreed that Malaysia's going to be a hub for this and this is a first step in that journey."

For Andrew Tan, CEO and co-founder of VLT Labs, it has been an equally transformative experience.

"When we started out we purely helped startups. Now when we talk to clients we can actually look end-to-end. We can not only help build your products, but can help you take look at the strategy of products."

Apart from VLT Labs' expertise in design and engineering, McKinsey were also keen to partner somebody home-grown.

"They're very much ingrained in the local ecosystem of startups, they have ties with academics and colleges around design," said Gryseels. "We like that local flavour."

He also hopes that VLT Labs' pioneering spirit rubs off on McKinsey as a whole.

"We want to bring that kind of startup entrepreneur spirit into McKinsey," he explains, "to create that more entrepreneurial startup-like culture in McKinsey as we are reinventing ourselves."

Nimal agrees. "We don't want Andrew to come in and then we impose our style on him."

To start off, their new acquihire has been helping redecorate the new offices.

"I've gotten very specific feedback from Andrew in terms of what the McKinsey Digital section should look like," said Nimal wryly. "Trust me, it looks very different from the rest of the company!"


Related Stories:
Making Industry 4.0 a reality for Malaysia
Digerati50: Collaborating and creating
VLT Labs to help Cradle startups level-up


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