From almost quitting CA to building a thriving online academy for Forensic Certifications: Meet Mayur Joshi
- Hi, I am Mayur Joshi a qualified Chartered Accountant from India and a Forensic Accountant from ACFE.
- Back in 2000, after failing my CA exams several times, I was looking for an alternate career. I soon decided to venture into the stock market and fell victim to a scam and lost all my money.
- What next? I was very curious to understand the scam and came across the term Forensic Accounting.
- Fast forward, I followed my gut, passed my CFE exams and decided to start 'IndiaForensic' - an education website around Forensic Accounting.
- My bold move paid off and today we have more than 5000 members from all over the world. Here’s my story.
Failing CA multiple times and discovering forensic accounting
My dad is a Chartered Accountant. When I was in grade 10, I made up my mind to pursue CA and follow his footsteps.
Also, since he had his own CA practice, it was a given that I had to take it up someday.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) my CA journey wasn’t a straight road.
After failing my CA final exams a few times, I decided to study the stock market and started investing. (Was eager to earn some extra bucks!)
Around the same time, the Ketan Parekh scam was exposed, the markets took a big hit and I lost a lot of money!
I was terribly upset and wanted to understand how he committed such a big fraud. My curiosity led me to do a lot of research.
Those were the days when forensic accounting was barely known in India, but due to the Enron scam, the western world was effectively using its services in accounting investigations!
I stumbled upon the website of ACFE (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners) and got registered for the course.
Co-incidentally my results were announced on the date of the 9/11 attacks. I passed my CFE but as the events unfolded, I became even more curious about the whole domain of forensic accounting.
So, thanks to my failing CA multiple times I discovered my passion for forensic accounting.
Curiosity turned into a passion and ready to quit CA!
In 2003, after failing my CA exams several times, I was fed up and made up my mind that - If I don’t pass the CA examinations this time round, I was going to quit CA!
Also, since I was struggling to pass my CA exams, having a career in forensic seemed to be a great idea.
The biggest question was, "How can I quit? Would my parents let me?”
(My father was in practice for more than 20 years at that time, and it was not that easy to say no to the family practice.)
I knew that if I had to quit CA, I would need a strong backup plan!
Venturing into the education sector and starting IndiaForensic
I decided to research a little more on the forensic accounting profession, and what I found was a pot of gold!
I realized that forensic accounting would have a great future in the years to come as there was 'no reason' to believe that fraud in India would go down.
I immediately started a Yahoo group (in those days this was a platform to communicate to multiple individuals at a time) where we discussed forensic accounting.
It gained popularity, and then I announced a meetup in Mumbai (the financial capital of India).
I also started working on building my website 'Indiaforensic.com'.
During this meetup, many like-minded professionals informed me that there is no formal education available in fraud accounting. This meet was an eye-opener.
Though most of them had heard about ACFE, they were not comfortable in the high paying fees, particularly in dollars!
I saw this was the opportunity to get into the education sector and soon announced a certification program in forensic accounting under the brand of 'Indiaforensic'.
My first ever registration was not from India it was from Oman. (I remember personally going to the printing press and getting the books printed and writing software codes in dot net with one of my cousins.)
My next few registrations for this course were from KPMG. In those days, KPMG had started their forensic accounting practice and they were the only ones doing this work.
Fortunately, I passed the CA exams that year and was not required to give any excuses to anyone!
My father was incredibly supportive of my decision but he told me that 'if my venture doesn’t succeed in 1000 days, then I should get back to his CA practice.'
Fortunately, Indiaforensic was never a loss-making model, hence I never got the opportunity to go back to his practice.
Word of mouth and personal meetings
Forensic accounting was a small world back then where everybody knew each other and there were very few experts in the field!
In those days, our focus was on personal meetings. We used to go and meet the heads of risk containment units or the fraud control units and tell them about these certifications.
Face to face marketing and the word of mouth publicity was key for us in the initial days. So. I used to travel to colleges and institutes to deliver the sessions on forensic accounting. This helped me to gain access to students directly. Guest lectures helped us on a large scale.
We organized the conferences, workshops and training sessions for the professionals.
Published different research papers that highlighted various facts such as India losing more than $40 Billion in internal frauds – this helped us send the message that the market for forensic accounting was big.
In 2006, I won the global award from ACFE, which helped me get media mileage.
I was on the front page of the Times of India (a leading newspaper in India). This enabled me to be known as an 'expert' in the domain field, and I was often quoted at various events. This is how I gained visibility.
Our initial certifications were in the distance learning mode and were structured very similar to CA exams. So, students would enroll online; get the study material; study on their own and write the exams.
We wrote software that would track the progress of the students and would generate the access for the final exams.
The results would get generated in an encrypted format, the students would send us the same, and we then announce the results.
Later in 2011-12, we migrated from CD-based learning to online. However, there was a demand from corporates for in-person learning when I used to go and train batches of students in the companies.
There is a research team working on syllabus creation, modification, etc. which tracks the developments in the world of financial crimes and compliance.
I am so glad I followed my gut and took a chance to explore the domain of forensic accounting.
Building an education institution exclusively in Forensic Accounting back in 2001 was a bold move in itself.
To promote 'IndiaForensic' I used to conduct various sessions for chartered accountants, and I remember new CAs when asked 'what is forensic accounting' would return with hilarious answers.
Talking to the new generation of students and chartered accountants, telling them the worth of these certifications was not easy.
So, my biggest challenge was convincing people about the future of forensic accounting and recommending our courses.
Timeline of my growth journey
- The Yahoo group was formed and the first meetup was scheduled.
- Indiaforensic was started and the first meetup was in Mumbai for interested professionals.
- We launched our website in 2004 with only a static website designed in basic HTML. It was only a one-man show.
- Won the international award from ACFE for outstanding contributions to the Indian community in 2006.
- Banking fraud course launched.
- The first course was also launched in 2006; this was the combination of the books and CD-based examination software.
- We developed the examination software to carry out assessments online.
- Indiaforensic got its big breakthrough when we first hosted our annual conference in Pune.
- After this conference, we started receiving recognition in the corporate world.
- Company incorporated in March 2008, Satyam Investigation in January 2009.
- Annual anti-fraud conferences; launched the J-Score to identify the anomalies in the financial statements.
- We hosted a student conference, and the auditorium with more than 1000 capacity was over-booked!
- 5 Certifications of 3500 members in 500+ MNC brands; NASBA recognition for CPE
- 7 Certifications; university recognition; accreditation by National Stock Exchange Academy
- Announced the e-Learning certifications in financial crimes and compliance.
- As of 2020, 'Indiaforensic' offers seven certification programs in the Financial Crimes and Compliance domain.
- The study material for all these courses is curated by me personally.
"Future market potential for forensic accounting?"
As long as there are human beings, fraud is inevitable. Till the time we have educated fraudsters, forensic accounting will keep growing.
I don’t see any shortage of students for the forensic course registrations. The market for forensic accounting certifications will mature over the next few years before it starts consolidating.
Many more unexplored geographies still need to be tapped fully.
“What are the certification courses IndiaForensic offers?”
Typically, the certification programs offered in the distance learning mode require at least 180 days to complete. Whereas the video learning programs can be completed with the convenience of the individual.
Brief information on these seven certifications is provided here:
- Certified Forensic Accounting Professional (CFAP)
- Certified Bank Forensic Accountant
- Certified Stock Market Forensic Accountant
- Certified Insurance Forensic Accountant
- Certified Anti Money Laundering Expert
ACFE is focused on the different aspects of fraud examination, whereas CFAP (certification course from IndiaForensic) is focused on forensic accounting.
CFAP is meant for those who have three years of professional experience in the finance domain. If they don’t meet the criteria of experience, we conduct foundation examinations.
“Can students in countries outside of India pursue your certification course?"
There are two aspects of forensic accounting: litigation support and investigative accounting.
Every country will have its rules for presenting the case in a court and while going global, you cannot address the laws of every country. Hence, we decided to focus on 'investigative accounting' and to address the international crowd. We have created the e-learning format of the certification program.
Certified forensic accounting professionals are already present in 11 countries, and certification helps them to get the work.
In order to be a forensic accountant, rather than recognition, you need the skills to investigate, and you need a financial sixth sense. CFAP program equips the students with these skills.
Formal education will get you a living but timing, perseverance, and years of self-education will teach you success lessons that no qualification can.
Running the business isn’t so much as a designated person with a job title. Whether you have HR or not you need to hire, whether you have a technical team or not, you have to resolve technical issues.
Running Indiaforensic taught me to be a 'non-designated person'.
When you expand your business, you need like-minded people who share your vision and that is key!
Change is the only constant thing in life – you have to change yourself as required.
CA Mayur Joshi is the pioneer of Forensic Accounting in India. He has written multiple books, authored multiple research papers and trained hundreds of students on Forensic Accounting. He is the founder of an online education platform IndiaForensic and Director at leading firm Riskpro.
Now It's Your Turn...
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Feel free to connect with Mayur at email@example.com.
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