From no money to buy books to becoming the President of ICAI, Atul Gupta shows us the power of education and dedication

Atul Gupta, Former President of ICAI

  • Atul Gupta started with humble beginnings in Delhi. 
  • He is a Chartered Accountant and a Board Member at The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).
  • Atul reveals how his focus on indirect taxes has helped him create a successful practice and how ICAI tackled the COVID-19. 
  • Today Indian CAs are recognised in more than 100 countries and the CA qualification is not only related to tax or audit, believes Atul.

Education paved the way 

Growing up life was difficult, as financially we were not very well off. 

Every decision was made to mitigate the financial distress that we were in. 

We did not even have enough money to buy books. My friend and I used to cut the books into two parts to study. 

I gave home tuition to pay our rent. 

Then one day my friend’s brother suggested that I study to be a Cost Accountant. It seemed like a viable option so I enrolled in the Cost Accountancy course. 

In fact, my elder brother is a CA, and later on, he inspired me to join the CA course as well. 

Overcoming all the challenges, I eventually qualified as a Cost Accountant and later as a Chartered Accountant (1999). 

How did I manage to do so? I had no other option. 

Single-minded focus was the only way out. “Necessity is the mother of Hard Work”. 

Career ahead: Niche focus

I never thought of joining the Big 4 or any other company because my elder brother had his own CA practice. 

In fact, I had been assisting him in his firm for almost 8 years prior to becoming a CA. 

We had a small office with big dreams, and I decided to work with him. It happened very organically. 

Yes, I did look at becoming an IAS officer, and (many are not aware) I even qualified for the civil service examination. However, I could not clear the interviews. 

It did not bother me because after good research, combined with a Chartered Accounting background, I realised I was drawn to Indirect Taxation. 

So, I decided to focus exclusively on Service Tax (Indirect Taxation).

It was quite a bold move because back then from 1999 through 2001, it was still a small subject.

Today we have a very fulfilling practice in the area of indirect taxation and it is directly linked to how the Indian economy has grown. So yes, having expertise in a niche segment can bring success. 

As of today, we have a decent practice with more than 100 team members and 30 senior Chartered Accountants.  

Education and divine blessings helped us get to that level.  

 

Making a positive impact as the president of the ICAI 

We kept growing in our careers but I always had a desire to give back… after all, I was that boy whose life was transformed because of education! 

I started as a regional council member.

Then in 2004, I contested the election of cost accountancy and in 2006 I contested the election of the CA Institute as well. 

I contested six elections altogether and was successfully elected. 

To start with, it was never a  dream to become the president or a council member of the ICAI, it happened by dint of destiny and blessings. 

I was elected as the President of the ICAI in 2020. 

As you can already imagine it was a tough year for all of us but as I used to say - The COVID-19 situation, could lock us down but it could not knock us down. 

It was during these times that the ICAI transformed into a digital learning hub, and you will be surprised to know that we were more efficient, during the lockdown than we were before.

In usual circumstances, we would have ten or twenty reforms every year, but during Covid-19 we planned and executed more than 100 reforms. 

Today out of 4 lakh qualified CAs, I believe there are more than 40,000 chartered accountants who relocated overseas. Our profession is recognized in more than a hundred countries. 

I am happy to share that we started with 29 countries in 2020. With great support from the Council and team ICAI, we made it available in 44 countries in the world. 

Today, ICAI has Representative Offices in more than 70 cities of the world and in 50+ countries. So it has truly been a great journey.

CAs play a key role in the success of the economy

Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first president of the country, has said that chartered accountants are the conscious keepers of society. 

CAs have to continue with this job. 

Society should also recognize that it is the chartered accountant who always aspires for growth because the growth of the businesses means the country is growing. 

Today, our country is a $3 trillion economy and we aspire to be a $10 trillion economy. CAs should help the country in getting there.  

With the aspiration of a mechanism of joint audit, (which is a need and a demand of the ICAI), Indian firms can dream to build the next Big 4 firms from India. 

There are certain policy interventions, which are required and I am developing a paper on that. Very soon I will be submitting that paper to the government as well.

I encourage everyone to Dare to Dream and Believe in the Power of Education. 

Since our profession revolves around economic development, every 10 years, you will find that there is a paradigm shift in the economic development & our profession as well. 

I always used to say that you have to understand a new way to do your job.

Chartered accountant qualification is not only related to tax or audit. It is a professional attitude.

Closing…

Based on the digital disruption, the new way of doing business, and the economic evolvement (which is happening continuously) we have to re-skill ourselves, to remain relevant in the value system. 

We have to understand what will be the new age requirement. And then we have to continue providing the valuable services in the ecosystem.

We have a motto - Ya Aeshu Suptaeshu Jagruti, which means “thereby the person who is awake when everybody is sleeping is a chartered accountant." 

In the true sense, it means a CA is somebody who can foresee changes down the line and can envision the outcome. Thus, they have to always be one step ahead. 

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Contact chantelle@thefinancestory.com in the first instance.

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