- Do you want to quit your job and travel the world? Or do you want to travel to different countries but wonder how you can do so while working?
- Hi, I am Rahul Bhan, a qualified Chartered Accountant from India with a CIA and MBA from Nyenrode University. Currently, the Audit Head for Asian CGIAR Centers is in Sri Lanka.
- I always loved travelling and am so glad that working as an auditor helps me discover the world… I have explored more than 50 different countries.
Here is my story.
Humble Beginnings and Pursuing Chartered Accountancy
I was an average student who was very interested in sports but also did well in school. I had been a state-level player of table tennis as well.
1985. When I was in grade 9 at the age of 13, I decided to become a chartered accountant. Crazy, right!
The decision was based on the praise that my uncle got from my relatives after qualifying as a chartered accountant. At the time, I had no idea about the various subjects in CA… but I was certain that Chartered Accountancy was what I wanted to do.
After completing my schooling, I opted for commerce. (In the early ’90s, you could enroll for the CA course from the ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) only after graduation.)
So, I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Commerce and received a 78% in my final year B.Com., placing me second in the university (yes, 78 percent could get you a rank back then!)and immediately enrolled for the CA course.
And here began my CA journey.
Luckily, because of my university rank, I got selected by A.F. Ferguson and Co., New Delhi (India), to do my articles. (Back then, this firm was considered the best Indian CA firm.)
Working at AFF between 1990 and 1993 was the best period of my life. This was the time when I was exposed to some of the best corporations in India and abroad.
I got the opportunity to lead many statutory audits of various clients like Nestle, Goodyear, Glaxo, ABB, Eicher, Escorts, Eternit Everest, KEC International, ANZ Grindlays Bank, Unilever, Partap Steels, Eicher Group, Action Aid (Nepal), Timex watches, etc.
But my CA journey had lots of challenges too. I had passed my Intermediate Exams in the first attempt, but the CA Final Exams tested my intelligence and patience!
I had failed my CA final exams twice before finally clearing them in July 1995.
In spite of the several failures, becoming a chartered accountant was quite a milestone!
Struggling to Find a Job as a New CA to Finally Moving Abroad
Now I was a qualified chartered accountant, but the troubles were not over yet, as the next big task was “to get a good job.”
July–September 1995 I spent three months searching for job opportunities and appearing for interviews.
Since I loved travelling and exploring the world, I was very keen on finding an opportunity in India. It wasn’t easy; there were days when I wondered if such opportunities would ever come my way… but I DIDN’T GIVE UP.
Eventually, my perseverance paid off, and I was hired by KPMG Abu Dhabi’s audit team.
Jan’99. A few years later, I got a job opportunity in Johannesburg, South Africa, with PKF as an audit manager. This was my first real exposure outside India; as in Abu Dhabi, my interaction was confined mainly to Indians and Arabs.
I was all excited as well as nervous, as South Africa had been famous for apartheid, and as an Indian working there in a white Jewish company, I did have some challenges. But the opportunities and exposure that I got were amazing.
What Next? Considering pursuing an MBA or CPA?
My CA degree from India was questioned when I worked in different countries… comparisons were made between CA, ICAI, and other international qualifications like CPA (AIPCA), etc.
I soon realized the importance of having a “foreign degree” when working outside of India, and so I decided to pursue the same.
Now again, pursuing CPA (US) would have undermined my Indian CA qualification, and hence I decided to go for an MBA.
Also, in various interviews during 1995–1999, I faced a typical question: “Why should a company hire a chartered accountant instead of an MBA?” I believe the MBA vs. CA debate was a hot topic back then.
2000-01. After a good GMAT score, I was selected for an MBA at Nyenrode University in the Netherlands. We were a group of 40 students from 19 different countries. It was a lot of learning and great exposure. In fact, my international exposure and understanding of cultures started picking up in Europe after pursuing an MBA.
During my MBA, I did an internship with Canon (Netherlands), where I had the opportunity to be trained in the Prince 2 methodology of project management in London, United Kingdom.
Post-MBA, I joined Deloitte, Amsterdam, as a Junior Manager in Audit. Later, I took jobs with a Turkish bank in Amsterdam, Moore Stephens, and Ernst & Young in Kuwait.
All these were external audit positions, except for the bank, where they hired me as an internal auditor.
In 2006, my colleague in Kuwait borrowed my credit card to buy books for the CIA exam. Just out of curiosity, I had a look at the CIA website and tried a sample question paper, scoring 55%, with the passing mark being 75%. Then I realized that with a little more study, I could become a qualified CIA agent.
Unlike my CA Final struggle, I was able to pass my CIA exams on the first try.
I encourage professionals in the auditing field to pursue CIA, especially if you are looking at working in different countries.
I quit my job to start a business, only to return to my corporate job.
We all have those moments where we feel that we must try and venture out on our own. The same happened to me. I wanted to become an “entrepreneur.”
In 2010, I quit my job and returned to India to start my own company. I was a co-founder, along with another experienced chartered accountant, Manoj Jain, at Riskpro India.
Working with Riskpro helped me create a big network; in fact, in 2012, LinkedIn declared my profile as one of the most-viewed profiles. However, things were not going well for me.
Oct’13. Facing financial challenges, I switched once again to a full-time job and joined a leading company in India. It was in the steel industry.
Jan’16. After a few years, as the steel industry was facing a lot of challenges, I decided to look for another job opportunity. I joined the shared audit service of Asian CGIAR centers based in Sri Lanka. My current profile involves conducting internal audits in various countries for different organizations.
My profession as an auditor has taken me places (literally!). Every day is a new day. My mantra has always been: “Work hard as there is no substitute for hard work, and find passion in your work as this will keep you going.”
I also encourage professionals to “take well-calculated risks,” as the returns can be much higher if things work out, and if they do not, the learning curve is amazing.
Many senior professional CAs told me when I first started out that if I moved out of India, I would forget Indian laws and that finding a job in India would be difficult… but the outcome was quite the opposite.
Due to my international exposure, I can understand the logic of laws and also compare the same in different countries. Today, I can perform my audit in so many countries because of this quality.