How this CA Firm went from a team of 2 to 20+ in a span of 4 years offering more than 70 services
- Hi! I am Mohnish Wadhwa, a Practicing Chartered Accountant and Managing Partner at Wadhwa & Shah Chartered Accountants.
- After working at Big 4 firms like KPMG and Deloitte, in 2014 I quit to take the entrepreneurial route and started my own proprietorship firm.
- Three years later, I joined hands with a senior Chartered Accountant, Atul Shah and started all over.
- Luckily all the risk paid off as in less than 5 years we scaled the practice to new heights offering more than 70 services.
- Here is our journey.
Tracing my entrepreneurial dream to pursuing CA
Hailing from Amritsar, India; following a political riot situation in the entire Punjab, my family shifted to Hyderabad to start all over.
I had always been inspired by my father, a traditional businessman who has always chased his dreams. Growing up I aspired to be like him.
When it was time to decide on my career path, unlike my friends I never approached a counselor to discuss my dreams because I felt no one can understand me better than myself. Hence, I relied on myself to understand what excited me.
Since I loved numbers and always dreamt of taking the entrepreneurial route someday (like my dad), becoming a Chartered Accountant seemed like the most obvious choice, and here began an interesting journey.
I pursued my articles from a mid-sized firm first in Hyderabad and later in 2007 took a transfer to a mid-sized firm in Mumbai.
I chose a mid-sized firm over a Big 4 firm because I wanted to learn everything from Auditing to Taxation and get an all-rounded exposure so that when I qualify, I could actually decide what I am good at.
This decision paid off as during my articles, I got an in-depth understanding in every area − accounting, filing of returns, statutory audits, transfer pricing, international tax advisory, consultancy, client management, and lots more.
In 2011, after a period of tremendous learning, I successfully cleared my Chartered accountant course!
Joining the corporate world to improve my soft skills
After I qualified in 2011, came the most important question…Now what? Which path to choose?
This question made me rewind to the time I spent during my articles and that’s when I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of working at a CA Firm.
I knew I wanted to start my own CA firm and be a practicing Chartered Accountant. However, as a 22-year-old, there was still ample scope to learn before taking the plunge to start my own.
For instance, I learned many things in the earlier firm, but what I missed learning was - perfection, structuring an organization, and management skills. So, I decided to join a Big 4 Firm to learn these skills.
Luckily, everything went as per my plan and I joined a Big 4 firm, Deloitte in its statutory audit division. I soon realized that I couldn’t upskill by working in one role for long, so, I quit Deloitte to join KPMG with its Tax & Regulatory team. Here I polished my drafting and communication skills.
After almost 2 years, I realized that I have learned enough and it was time I start my own practice.
What next now?
Finally, taking the entrepreneurial route at age 25
Right before I could start my own practice in 2014, I was approached by my former principal with whom I did my internship.
He offered me to join his firm as a Practicing partner on an assignment basis. Since I had worked with him, I knew his pattern of working and we had a deal. Also, joining him made more sense instead of starting from ground zero!
All was going well, however, since it was a family-driven organization, I lacked comfort and couldn’t see my future clearly with that firm. I had a few clients who trusted me and offered me work based on my skillset. So, I chose to start my own proprietorship firm while still working on an assignment basis with my principal’s firm.
Starting a Partnership firm and going from a 2 to 22 member team
After 3 years, my fears had actually turned true. Since my principal’s firm was family-driven, he had a different plan and I always had different expectations from the firm's fortune.
Even though I was earning well by catering to the existing firm’s requirements and also to my clients, I was looking for more. I wanted to have that satisfaction of growing a CA firm with like-minded people. Therefore, in 2017, I parted ways with the firm and decided to start all over.
But the big question was - What next now?
Around the same time, I connected with Atul Shah, a senior Chartered Accountant. I had known him professionally for a long time. So, I was confident enough to share my vision with him of building a leading CA firm. Excited by the idea, he joined as a partner and together we started the firm, Wadhwa & Shah, in 2017.
When we started out, we were just the two of us and a few clients of our own. It was tough starting all over again after 3 years. But I could see the time turning and with one person in July 2017, we were 6 in March 2018.
In 2018, Henil Jain, also a CA, joined us as a senior member in our organization. Soon, in 2019, he made up his mind to make his fortune with us and joined us as a partner.
As our clients sized increased, we kept hiring whenever we met deserving candidates. I kept training them and nurturing them, and got trained too in the interim. In late 2019, we expanded our reach to Delhi and Hyderabad with our branches.
Fast forward to 2021, we are a team of 22 young and dynamic professionals in Mumbai, taking care of almost all the requirements of our clients.
We faced many challenges on the way. The office premise accommodation which I started in 2017 was a self-owned one. But as we grew in size we had to rent out one more office in 2018. It was exciting and challenging; not to miss the additional rental expense in a city like Mumbai.
Initially, we couldn’t even afford specialized people for housekeeping and information technology (IT). There were times when we ourselves had to repair our leaking taps, take care of air conditioning, software, and hardware issues.
Other challenges which we faced were:
- Building a team that shared a similar vision to ours and training them to understand our pattern of work. For instance, our USP has always been responding to queries within 24 hours, but initially, it was difficult getting the team on the same wavelength.
- The next challenge was giving our best to every single client irrespective of what they agreed to pay us. However, since we didn’t have the costing models and timesheet models in place, we initially ran into losses in projects. This was a big lesson for us, but we have developed all the necessary models and systems over the years.
The biggest challenge of all was onboarding corporate clients. Almost all of them have a pre-notion of hiring a Big-4 firm, so convincing them that we are capable of delivering great value was not easy. But over time, we have been able to convince large corporates about our capability and eventually gained their confidence. Also, my consulting experience at a Big 4 came in handy!
Today things have changed for the better. We have learned from our mistakes and have become competent in solving problems.
Timeline of our Firm’s journey
- Started the firm from a self-owned office accommodation space.
- Rented another office.
- It took me around 8-10 months from growing from the existing client base and we started getting new inquiries.
- As usual, we were continuously hiring talents and in the interim I found my old colleague coming my way to join us. Henil Jain, our third partner, joined us.
- It took Henil some time to decide he wanted to practice and finally, he was introduced as the partner in the firm.
- In March, we grew to a team of 15 in the firm.
- By God’s grace, we had picked up and started getting quality assignments like transaction advisory, International taxation-related assignments.
- We also handled mergers, transfer pricing, cross-border transaction advisory, valuation assignments, and so on.
- We concentrated on team-building exercises, knowledge updates, and developing public-speaking skills to better adapt to the organization.
- Now, we have a leader for each role in our organization viz; a person in charge of statutory audits and assurance services; a specialized person for indirect taxes; a brilliant mind on regulatory services and an enthusiast taking care of income taxes. We cater to almost all services with specialized and experienced teams in our organization.
- I, personally, look into transaction advisory, consultancy, and international taxation services.
- We have a dedicated team for company law and secretarial services.
- We service our clients from diversified industries, some of whom are leaders in their line of business.
I would say gone are those days when industries preferred a person with grey hair for taking care of their CA needs.
Today, where the startups are valued not by the topline they carry, but by the uniqueness of the idea and the customer satisfaction, how an organization is valued has changed.
The industries are looking out for young and dynamic CAs who are willing to take up their roles and walk an extra mile to give their clients more than what they asked for.
A piece of advice is that there’s no harm in starting alone but it's always better to start with a team. As one person, you have 24 hours to grow, but with multiple persons as a team, you multiply the growth. The key to success is to never stop learning in life.
Now It's Your Turn...
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