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Government vs Private Consulting: Salary, Hours, Lifestyle

Shatakshi Sharma, St Stephens College, University of Delhi Graduate, ISB MBA, strategist to government of India, former BCG management consultant, advisor to tony blair institute, ivy league exchange student, LinkedIn Top Voice and co-founder of Global Governance Initiative

Career Insights by GGI is a new series by GGI sharing hacks and tips around management consulting, MBA, product management and public policy.

In this GGI career insight, we will be sharing insights into: the various facets of working in the Government of India as opposed to the private sector.


Have you ever thought, what are the realities of working in the Government of India?

If you wish to get more information on working with the government of India in a lateral advisory role, then look no further. This career insight is going to help you understand, end-to-end, what it is like to work in this role.

1. Why did I join the Government of India?

If I were to be honest, at the age of 24, I wanted to pivot my career.

After working at a boutique management consulting firm and a leading start-up, I realised that I no longer wanted to work to make the rich richer.

I was more inclined towards a role which was at the intersection of decent wealth, a lot of learning and high impact.

I got lucky as the placement cell of my alma mater reached out to me about this job opening. After 3 interview rounds, I was able to work in the Ministry of Commerce.

2. Realities of working in the Government of India?

2.1 People you work with

On a daily basis, I was working with secretaries, joint secretaries, etc. They were all rank holders in UPSC exams.

I used to work with the current chief secretary of GoI. To date I admire her a lot, she’s the iron lady to me.

Having said that, I used to work with non-IAS officers as well like deputy secretary, undersecretary, etc.

2.2 Meetings

I realised that not all meetings were very fruitful as they lacked agenda and clear next steps.

But, it largely depended on the people charing those meetings. The lady I previously mentioned made sure that after every meeting there were clear goals, next steps and owners.

2.3 Grey-hair matters

Having worked in the private sector, I speak from experience that in such organisations, what matters is merit, data, innovation and best practices.

However, at times, in the public sector grey hair mattered. More weightage was given to what the senior most officials were saying even though they did not share their reasoning behind it.

2.4 Respect and Culture

As much as I am on board with respecting everyone, there is a stark difference in the public sector in referring to people as “sir” or “ma’am”

In the private sector, I used to call all my bosses by their first name.

I personally have a lot of dissonance with the sir-ma’am culture because that is when you put them on a pedestal. This is when innovation stops and you have inhibitions before sharing your ideas.

I find this to be a very colonial way of working in the twenty-first century.

2.5 Working Hours

Do you actually work 9-5?

I’ve realised that if there is a mission-mode project, if there is criticality, public sector employees don’t just curtail themselves to 9-5 like private sector employees.

2.6 Skill building

In government, a little less focus was put on relevant skills than in private.

Though, the government is coming up with a lot of schemes to up-skill the young generation of the country.

Had the civil servants been sufficient in future skills such as emerging technologies, data, benchmarking information and thinking prom a holistic point of view, them lateral advisors wouldn’t have been required.

2.7 Work Projects

One of the main projects I worked on was the digitization of the paperwork in the GoI. It may sound mundane, but I am very proud of my work on the project.

I was promoted to become project manager where I was responsible for setting processes, sharing best practices, and setting monitoring and outcome practices. We were able to digitise more than 34 central ministries.

2.8 Salary and Perks

I joined this role at an associate level and my starting salary was 45,000 Rs per month.

It was a contractual role which could increase as much as I wanted because of my good performance.

After 9 months, my salary was revised to 60,000 Rs per month.

Then I was promoted and my salary looked like some 80,000 per month.

I genuinely believe that for a pre-MBA with 3-4 years of experience, this was good money.

3. How can you get a job in GoI?

You can work for GoI through direct and indirect methods.

A direct approach would be through NITI AAYOG, Quality Council of India, Andhra Government, Punjab Government, Maharashtra Government, Chhattisgarh government, Haryana Government, etc.

An indirect approach would be through BCG- Public Sector Advisory, Dalberg, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNDP, World Bank, UN, etc.

If you need more help getting into management consulting and product management, feel free to check out my education venture- Global Governance Initiative. We invite industry leaders to host Masterclasses and teach our students the hard and soft skills required to excel in their careers.


Author: Shatakshi Sharma, Co-CEO Global Governance Initiative, Ex-BCG Management Consultant, Former Policy Advisor, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

If you are interested in learning about GGI's MBA Scholar program, you can learn here.

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