This Accountant Quit his job in the middle of a global crisis and now is a successful Entrepreneur. Here's his story.
- Hi, I am Mohnish Katre, a Chartered Accountant, and entrepreneur running two successful businesses.
- In 2008, amidst the global turmoil, I quit my job and started my own consulting firm Finkoi to help SME clients with functions such as Working Capital Management, Viability Studies for new projects, Business Valuation, and Debt Fundraising.
- And in 2013, I co-founded ProfitBooks, a cloud accounting software specifically for SMEs.
- Here is my story of How braving challenges and following my instincts helped me start two successful ventures early in life.
How Did I Land Into CA?
When it was time to decide my career path, I was clear on doing my graduation in B.Com and later pursuing an MBA from a good business school...becoming a Chartered Accountant was never the plan!
However, my father strongly felt that I had the aptitude for numbers and insisted I pursue Chartered Accountancy.
Since I could do an MBA only after graduation, I decided to enroll for the CA course immediately after class 12 and see what I could make of it!
When I first enrolled for the CA course, I was not aware of the potential this qualification had. However, almost halfway through I realized the same and gave my best every single day!
I was just 21 when I passed the CA exams. This was in 2005.
Carving my own path - Taking a Paycut for a role as a Research Analyst
I was now a 21-year-old freshly minted CA who cleared all the exams in the first attempt but was clueless about what to do next!
Most of my friends knew exactly what they wanted in their careers and I, on the contrary, knew exactly 'what I DID NOT want to pursue as a career!
I was sure that the traditional CA practice, working in Auditing/ Taxation and the typical Finance profiles were not for me.
With this mix of certainty and uncertainty, I started thinking about what was next!
Around the same time, I attended a few interviews and got selected by two companies.
One was a large conglomerate in Africa (I was offered a home, car, driver, and a big fat package) and the other was a role in a leading IT company in India.
My parents were not excited about me moving to Africa and the IT opportunity did not interest me!
Again. I was left with no option.
What next now?
I was always curious to understand and learn capital markets, fundraising, the different business models, the thought process of business leaders, the way they manage finance and think in terms of business!
Also, during my articles, I did quite a few SEBI Inspections and audits of stockbrokers which I thoroughly enjoyed.
I did my research and realized, an opportunity in Equity Research would be ideal.
So, I sent my CV to various financial research companies only to get rejection letters! But I continued my search and kept applying!
Fortunately, after a few weeks of job hunting, one of the big names in the industry approached me.
I was offered an opportunity to work in the equity research team but of course at a pay cut of almost 50% compared to the industry standards!
What mattered most was that I got the exact profile I was looking for…without a thought, it was a yes for me!
Quitting my job...in the middle of the 2008 recession!
Over a span of 2.5 years as an Equity Research Analyst, I learned financial modeling, business valuations, research report writing and developed good analytical skills.
I soon realized it was the right time to move on and start my own Corporate Finance practice. This was in 2008 when the world was witnessing one of the worst financial crises.
So, amidst the global turmoil in 2008, I quit my job and started Finkoi to help SME clients with functions such as Working Capital Management, Viability Studies for new projects, Business Valuation, and Debt Fundraising.
Needless to say, the initial 7-9 months of starting on my own were full of challenges.
Since I was NOT into the traditional CA practice of Audit and Taxation, making people aware of the Corporate Finance function and getting business was not easy at all.
I was living off my savings and trust me those were some pretty hard days!
With a never-give-up attitude, I went on meeting everyone in my network. I explained to them the importance of corporate finance activities even if the size of their business was small!
One connection led to another and business started coming in.
My persistence had finally paid off, and within a few months things picked up and money started flowing in!
Starting a Cloud Accounting Software to help SMEs
Many a time when dealing with SMEs, we realized that they face many challenges in automating and managing their finances, accounting, etc.
But given the size of their operations, SME’s have constraints spending on automation or technology.
In fact, in 2012, I had a first-hand experience when one of my clients struggled to get real-time data. We tried using the accounting systems available then, but it was not possible to get a real-time view of financial transactions for the company’s management.
Coincidently, my elder brother, Harshal is from a technology background and I happen to discuss this problem with him. He said 'why don’t you try any cloud-based accounting solution.'
He sounded obvious in his solution, but the problem was, there was no such 'affordable' solution back then!
That is when we decided to team up with one more techy friend, Naveen Thota to build a solution, particularly for this client!
In about 4-6 months, the application was ready and the client was happily using it.
That’s when we thought, why not build a generic online affordable accounting application so that many such SMEs could use it!
We spent another year developing an easy-to-use and affordable accounting application...and that's how ProfitBooks was born in 2013!
Luckily, both these ventures are complementary since the end customers are SMEs!
Growing The Business: The Complete Timeline
- Finkoi was started in mid-2008 when there was a global turmoil due to Lehman Brother’s crisis also referred to as a sub-prime crisis.
- In such a situation, it was not easy to start an advisory practice. But as many great leaders have rightly said, 'there are many opportunities at the time of crisis'.
- The initial 6-9 months were really challenging in customer acquisition.
- I focused a lot on learning without the expectation of immediate gratification.
- My biggest lesson - 'Your Network is your biggest Networth which anyone can build over a period of time'.
- We continued growing the business. Our team sized increased.
- In 2009, I was fortunate to work on a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) on their revival plan and was asked to present my report to the members of the Ministry in Delhi! This was a great opportunity for a young entrepreneur like me.
- Company analysis and report sounded very easy than doing a presentation in front of the members of the Ministry! It was the most discomforting task but, as they say, you grow when you come out of your comfort zone.
- As one connection led to another, we started acquiring new clients.
- I had the opportunity to work on the analysis of new industries in Qatar.
- Again it was very challenging but challenges made us grow in terms of knowledge and capacities.
- Co-founded 'ProfitBooks' a cloud accounting solution for SMEs.
- When we started with ProfitBooks, the initial response was really encouraging but we did face challenges.
- There were challenges in terms of how we market our product, how do we raise funds to keep growing, and also keep attracting a good team.
- With team effort and a good strategy, we kept on solving these challenges.
- At ProfitBooks, we worked significantly on GST automation within our application. We were literally working overnight to bring those changes to the application.
- In the early days of the launch of GST in India i.e. late 2016 till mid-2017, there were many issues (and confusion) with the new tax system, etc.
- We spent significant efforts in GST development, most of the proposed forms like (GSTR 2) could not become reality but our efforts (time and money) were invested heavily.
- In business, one needs to keep bearing such losses and keep moving forward.
- At times we moved slowly, but we never moved backward.
- In 2018 we added a new offering in ProfitBooks i.e. white label accounting solution. The solution is useful for large-scale book-keeping firms and also Fintech companies that are dealing with SMEs.
Things are hard only until the time you think they are hard.
Work towards them and they start getting easier. And before you know it, you’ve done it all. Give it a try. You’ll not be disappointed.
I feel starting a venture requires a clear problem-solving idea...if you feel your idea is right, everything else will follow!
I have seen many friends making a great career in the corporate world and they are really happy contributing to the respective organizations in their respective positions.
But if you feel you can contribute to society more greatly by starting a business of your own, then you must take a leap and start a venture.
Mohnish Katre is a Chartered Accountant with over 14 years of diverse experience of working in the field of financial research and providing Corporate Finance services to SMEs.
Now It's Your Turn...
Are you running a business and facing challenges?
Feel free to comment below and ask Mohnish your questions!
(Image edited by Ankit Lodhi)