In May 2023, Catalyst Consulting Group celebrated 31 years in business. Officially over 3 decades of revolutionizing organizations’ abilities to best serve their operations and their constituencies, our 31 years of experience has taught us a thing or two. We sat down with our founder and CEO, Arvin Talwar, to recap what the 31st anniversary has meant to him, specifically during May’s observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As an Asian-Indian American, Talwar’s heritage classifies Catalyst Consulting Group as a minority-owned enterprise. However, the minority-owned-business categorization was never Talwar’s leading value proposition or opening selling point. In fact, he prefers the contrary – that the diverse identities of those at Catalyst, including his own, are of latter consideration to their qualifications, work ethic, and character.
Our conversation took us back in time – pre-Y2K, when Catalyst was awaiting the technology boom, a time when Talwar had multiple ongoing business ventures.
When considering his heritage and its place in the identity of his business, he provided, “When I started out in business 30 odd years ago, everybody was trying to do the right thing. But they were driven by business value and not just by what I believe would be to pander to a certain community. They would really say, let me get the best of breed. If it happens to be with a minority business, better yet.”
However, the tone shifted in the mid-90s, when Corporate America was compelled to take the public sector’s lead in developing viable minority and women-owned enterprise supplier programs. Large companies realized benefit in highlighting their strong cadre of suppliers that were owned by minorities and women entrepreneurs. Quickly, such supplier programs became a priority for the boardroom, purchasing departments, as well as marketing.
Talwar recalls the first opportunity in which establishing his business as a minority business enterprise was of interest. He had developed a strong relationship with a large consulting firm, and Catalyst was included in one of their proposals. After our team won and had landed the opportunity, a question was posed. “Aren’t you a minority business enterprise?” And Talwar recalls saying, “John, what’s that?”
It was a bonus for the partnering firm to partner with minority business enterprises. Talwar said that the experience led him to a sales channel that he hadn’t previously realized.
He recalls, “We then started seeing an aggressive transformation in Corporate America. Back in the late-90s and even early-2000s, Corporate America figured out that having a thriving minority and women-owned business supplier program was good for business.”
It was then that Talwar was inspired to develop an idea of his, one that would merge several components of his background and expertise. This business idea became Castlerock Group. With Corporate America more focused on viable minority suppliers and the trend toward strategic sourcing, Castlerock Group identified suppliers that competitively “made the cut” of strategic sourcing and were potential acquisition targets. Castlerock Group was equipped to acquire non-minority suppliers as well as support minority professionals with their expertise and capital. With this endeavor, Castlerock Group was able to support suppliers in contracts with large companies of Corporate America, such as Ford Motor Company, Ameritech, Eli Lilly, among others.
As time progressed, Talwar decided to direct all his attention to Catalyst Consulting Group, but the experience with his other endeavors provided him with perspective and wisdom as it relates to consideration of heritage in the workplace. Being a minority-owned business provided an advantage to Catalyst without our leadership initially realizing or recognizing its significance, which ultimately is very
telling of the core values at Catalyst. What is most important to our team is not based on what you identify with, but the qualifications you possess and the quality of your work.
While being categorized as a minority owned business, Talwar did not want this to be the reason his company received work. The hard work and dedication of our team is what gets the jobs and builds the strong reputation we have today. Talwar went on record to say, “I would shy away from even saying Catalyst was an MBE until it was absolutely necessary to say so. And my thinking was, if they’re going to hire my firm based on credentials, qualifications, references, the fact that we were an MBE was a collateral benefit.”
Respectfully, this month does hold quite a bit of significance for our team. Throughout his career and since founding Catalyst, Talwar has noticed changes in the business environment and has found new ways for his heritage to have an impact on his work.
It is with this respect that we wish to acknowledge and reflect upon the history and celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. We hope you join Catalyst in honoring the rich heritage, resilience, and contributions of the community throughout history. Let us celebrate those of AAPI heritage who have overcome adversity to make such a lasting impact in society.
Ultimately, the pride with which Talwar speaks about his company and what he has built with his team is rooted in the dedicated and hard-working individuals of the past and present at Catalyst. It is the merit and integrity of our work and those who make our team what it is – not filling quotas or percentages – that fuels his pride. At Catalyst diversity and inclusion are not buzz words and quotas to meet, but instead the celebration of differences beyond heritage. Differences in voices and perspectives, experiences and ideas – it is what enhances the melting pot that we’ve achieved at Catalyst.
Here’s to our 31st year in business!