Mott India boss welcomes government pledges on infrastructure and industry

Tax breaks for foreign investors and a focus on infrastructure investment promised by the new Indian government are creating great optimism among Indian consultancy, says new head of Mott MacDonald India Liz King.

Mott MacDonald India MD Liz King

King took on the role as managing director of the 800 staff, £15M annual turnover business this month. She previously was head of the Mott MacDonald integrated transport division. Her initial target is to see the business grow at least 15% which will be helped by the plans of Narendra Modi’s government.

“Mr Modi is saying all the right things and there appears to be a great feeling of optimism,” King says. “We are particularly interested in his proposals to encourage tax benefits to foreign investors in the manufacturing sector.”

Industry is the foundation of Mott MacDonald’s Indian business, King explains. The company bought 45 year old local practice Dalal in 2001 and since then it has established itself as a firm part of the Indian infrastructure scene.

“The company started in the industry and advisory sector,” King says “and we work for major businesses like Coca Cola and international pharmaceutical organisations. My challenge now is to use the skills developed here and work with colleagues around the world to export our industrial expertise.” She also wants to expand the company’s infrastructure workload.

Mott MacDonald India  has bases in five cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. There is one design centre providing detailed design work for projects mainly in the Middle East but also further afield in New Zealand and Indonesia for example. King will be looking to create more to help feed the worldwide demand for Indian design skills.

The recruitment market is getting tougher as the economy worldwide improves but she says having five bases in the country will help.  “Because we have five offices in a number of cities and most of our competitors just one, we can target our recruitment where there is less competition and where there is also a good output from the local universities.

Mott MacDonald’s current projects include a new research facility for Shell in Bangalore, acting as engineer for the largest bedsheet manufacturer in the world, involvement in the world’s larges water supply project – Mumbai’s sewerage renewal scheme, and work on metro schemes around the country.

“Our designers are producing excellent work. Their skills deserve more recognition, and more clients,” King says.



Liz King, 53, Managing director India, Mott MacDonald


Why did you decide to go into engineering?

It was in the blood. My great grandfather was a civil engineer and I’m told my grandmother wanted to be one back in around 1920 but at the time that was out of the question. But it got me looking into the profession pre O level; and Maths and Physics were obvious choices for me at A level.

Where did you study?

I studied a BSc course in civil engineering with a fourth year diploma at Southampton University. At the time Southampton was trailblazing the idea of the four year civils Masters course which is effectively what mine was.

 Who was your first employer and why?

Only six of us on the civil engineering undergraduate course went on to do the fourth year, and for that we had to find a sponsor to back us with money and work experience. After a very tough interview I got my sponsorship from Mott Hay & Anderson (now Mott MacDonald). And I worked one summer with the bridge design team and the next summer on site on the M27. I was offered the chance to join as a graduate engineer and never looked back.


How has your career developed?

You can pretty much divide it into three parts.

1.     Training and getting chartered which involved me being mobile and working in various offices and on different contracts. I was chartered MICE in 1988.

2.     The technical part, which lasted ten to 15 years. I worked in structural repair and durability and became a specialist which exposed me to lots of sectors from nuclear power stations to water treatment works through to bridges. That was much more single office based and suited the time I was bringing up a young family.

3.     Management. I found I enjoyed management the most and became divisional director of my division which opened up other management roles in the business. That meant I was back to being professsionally mobile again. I was offered a role in the highways division managing the technical advisory team which involved me moving my family lock stock and barrel to Winchester. And then I was commissioning manager for Highways Agency Area 3 for three years, then divisional manager for integrated transport for five and a half years and now I am managing director for India.


Did you have a career plan?

No, not really. I have always been fairly ambitious and I am driven to seek out new challenges. I have learned to never say no to an opportunity because even if it sounds like it might be dull you always learn something new and it creates new opportunity. I’ve always made it known by conversations in the right places when I am ready to move onto the next challenge and a new role has always appeared. You have to be willing to move about though, there are so many more opportunities if you are.

 Why have you stayed at Mott MacDonald?

The company has always given me enormous support throughout my career and particularly with all the ‘woman working’ issues like having babies, and being able to work part time. Mott MacDonald is employee owned which means I feel a genuine attachment to ‘my’business and I like that our destiny is in our own hands.

 Did you have a particular mentor or someone who has influenced your working life?

That was my director during the early part of my career  – Dr Jonathan Wood. He was very good at going out and winning bits of interesting technical work and research for the business and he’d throw his graduates in at the deep end. I learned that if you apply yourself you can become expert in anything.

 What keeps you interested in your work?

I am a shareholder and I want to drive the business to succeed. As an MD it’s my role to do that and create genuinely exciting career paths for my staff.


What advice would you offer your younger self?

Apart from being mobile and flexible there was a nugget of advice that Jonathan Wood gave me that I’ve hung on to. He said if you go to a conference, always ask a question. If you do that people feel they know you and they come and talk to you. It’s a great way to get yourself known. And now every time I’m asked if someone can go to a conference, that’s what I tell them to do.

 What have been the pivotal moments in your career?

There have been three big game changers.

1.     Being prepared to uproot the family and move to Winchester for the highways job.

2.     Taking on the Integrated Transport role which meant changing the way I worked from being based pretty much in one office to travelling round the country constantly to 10 different offices.

3.     Being prepared to move to India. My husband is working here too, and my daughters are 23 and 21 and are very excited that mum has provided them with such a great place to come and visit.

 What has been the best moment in your career?

Meeting my husband Roger on site on the Hayes bypass where he was working for Balfour Beatty (he has since joined Mott MacDonald). Otherwise, coming to India. I am enormously excited about this job.


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