Indigo Global, an elite corporate strategy and solutions firm, recently appointed Craig Snyder as its president and CEO.
Ask Ajay Raju about Indigo Global, the all-purpose elite corporate strategy and solutions firm he founded, and you’ll learn perhaps more than you ever wanted to know about the mating habits of deep sea anglerfish.
“Like the males of most species, the anglerfish exists for the sole purpose of finding a mate,” says Raju, “but unlike even the most compatible of human couples, when two anglerfish connect to reproduce, the male fuses into the female, losing its eyes, organs and its own bloodstream, literally becoming one with its partner.”
That, Raju emphasizes, is precisely the level of commitment Indigo seeks to bring to its client relationships. Offering its eligible clients tailor-made packages of executive-in-residence services and captive venture capital access, Indigo embeds experts from a range of industries with its clients, taking both ownership of the problem they’re engaged to solve, and a stake — win or lose — in the solution.
For those grossed out by the anglerfish analogy, the “What’s In a Name” tab on Indigo’s website offers an alternative working metaphor: in 1917, a young Mohandas Gandhi heeded the call of a group of unknown, destitute indigo farmers facing brutal oppression at the hands of their landlords and imperial government. Traveling to the remote province of Champaran, Gandhi would spend a year mobilizing the farmers in resistance, and developing his own visionary strategy of organized civil disobedience in the process.
Over the past decade, Indigo has been quietly but effectively swooping in to provide all manner of companies, big and small, foreign and domestic, its bespoke blend of investment, crisis management, legal, strategic communications, back office, regulatory and cultural competency guidance. Conceived in and launched from the rubble of the Great Recession, it was precisely the circumstances of the 2008 crash that made the need for an outfit like Indigo self-evident to Raju.
“Even a casual student of capitalist history like me has to know that cyclical crises are inherent in the system,” says Raju. “We knew that what happened in 2008 had happened before, and more importantly, that it would happen again. It may be impossible to predict the precise contours of a particular crisis, but for any company there are always essentially two outcomes: adapt or die.”
With Indigo, Raju was determined to build a shop that could help companies not only survive crises and adapt to a daunting new economic landscape, but leverage the variety of its subject matter experts and venture capital connections to meet any present challenge and anticipate new opportunities yet over the horizon.
By embedding its industry experts directly and deeply in clients’ c-suites, says Raju, Indigo allows its clients to “be lean and develop the first-mover advantages that existing leadership may not be equipped to exploit.” At times, he notes, Indigo’s team is able to take advantage of later-mover opportunities “to reverse-engineer operations and technology that in-house leadership lacks the bandwidth to handle.”
Indigo recently appointed Craig Snyder — a well-known and highly regarded Philadelphian of note in his own right — as its president and CEO. With Synder at the helm, the firm is now reconciling its intimate approach to client service with a step into the public spotlight. Snyder brings to Indigo a singularly robust rolodex of rarefied political contacts. As the longtime leader of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, former chief of staff to the late Senator Arlen Spector and a founder of his own public affairs consultancy, Snyder’s contacts and familiarity with public sector power maps add powerful new weapons to Indigo’s arsenal.
The addition of a known quantity like Snyder might suggest that Indigo is poised to shift from anglerfish mode to a mass market service provider, but it also hints at the possibility that the firm is making an intentional play to dispel a lingering cloud of mystery — not unlike the recent decision of Palantir, the data mining éminence grise, to go public.
Snyder wasn’t brought on board because he is well known, Raju insists; rather, Snyder is known because he carries a professional portfolio that harmonizes with the political, regulatory and financial tune of the current era. Indeed, as governments at all levels come to rely on private companies to handle sophisticated, tech-intensive information and infrastructure projects — and enter into rich contracts to do so, like Palantir — the line of demarcation between the public and private sectors becomes increasingly porous. Of course, that means the regulatory picture remains as blurred as ever. With an experienced political actor like Snyder able to sift through the risks and consequences of this environment, Indigo is able to offer its clients lines of communication that they might not otherwise establish on their own.
For Raju, the rationale behind the Snyder hire is simple: It enhances Indigo’s service offering. “We’ve got nothing against growth,” says Raju. “We’ve been growing since day one, but at a pace and scale that jives with our philosophy.” To Raju, transforming Indigo into an off-the-rack provider of prefabricated consultancy packages is completely antithetical to its founding principles. Far from trying to be all things to all people, Indigo seeks to be one with a select few clients, developing service strategies so closely hewn to those clients’ identities that they almost organically become part of Indigo’s own identity.
One critical distinction between Indigo and traditional consultancies like the McKinseys and KPMGs of the world is that Indigo relinquishes ownership of the intellectual property it creates for its clients. And in many cases, it opts instead to build its revenue model around acquiring an equity stake in the company. The obvious outcome of such an approach is that Indigo sinks or swims along with its client, just like a pair of mating anglerfish.