This CA in Dubai took an entrepreneurial leap after 2 decades and launched an inheritance management company

  • Hi, I am Praveen Mehta a Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant based in Dubai, UAE.
  • In 2011, after almost two decades of building a successful career in the corporate world, I took an entrepreneurial leap and set up my own management consultancy firm.
  • In 2016, a series of events made me realize the several inheritance issues families face. This motivated me to find a better way to help other people in similar situations.
  • And that is when in 2017 we launched Sara Advisory - an inheritance management company to support families facing unexpected succession challenges. 
  • Here is how as professionals we can use our experience to build social enterprises to make an impact. 

The ripple effect - how one CA turned into 10

I belong to Ajmer-Rajasthan (India) and did my schooling and graduation from there.

My uncle was a CA and as a child, I remember how respected he was in the community. He was also incredibly well to do.

Between my love for numbers and my uncle, I was inspired to become a CA and in 1991 I qualified as a CA and a Cost Accountant. 

I wasn't the only family member influenced by my uncle, as now we have 10 CAs in our family!

So I am a CA - now what?

Like most newly qualified CA's, I wanted to gain industry experience but did not have much direction in terms of what kind of industry experience that I wanted.

Did I plan my career? I can’t say that I really planned my career - I was a good learner and always tried to do my best - that was the gist of it.

My first few jobs were all at public companies in India, I started at Birla Yamaha Ltd in Delhi and later moved to Jindal Strips Ltd in Hisar-Haryana (India).

At the age of 24, I was heading-up the costing and MIS department at Jindals. I loved every moment that I spent there; from the work to the amazing people and connections.

However, as a young ambitious professional, I was looking for more - more growth, more savings, and better opportunities.

What next?

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Moving to the UAE & becoming a CFO at a young age! 

UAE is renowned for its potential to 'build up savings' - so moving here was always at the back of my mind.

I had some relatives in UAE and that pre-empted me to apply for a position there.

In 1998, I got my UAE-break with Jumbo Electronics LLC. 

In 2001, I was appointed as Group Finance Controller of Century Cinemas, and soon after I was promoted to the Finance Director.

In 2005, Century Cinemas merged with Grand Cinemas - this was an incredible transaction to have been involved in, particularly at such a young age.

Around the same time since I have a very entrepreneurial mindset, I bought office space in Jumeirah Lake Towers with the intention of using it for my own business one day. (I know it was a bold move, but this decision definitely paid off!)

After the merger, I was appointed as the CFO of Grand Cinemas. I worked in this position for several years before instigating another merger and establishing Novo Cinemas in 2011. (In 2011, Grand Cinemas merged with Novo Cinemas.)

What next?

Entrepreneurial leap after 2 decades in the corporate world

By now I had done well for myself and had a steady income flow so I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial dream. But what venture should I start? 

I had always noticed that one of the biggest challenges that companies in Dubai face, is relating to management and poor decision making.

Why? Business leaders not entirely understanding the local investment environment.

The offshore shareholders rely on the decisions made by the hiring heads of the business, who have not lived in the country for long and do not invest in local intelligence to arrive at better decision making.

I had a variety of industry experience and since I had lived in Dubai for over 12 years, I had a good combination of skills to offer better decision-making abilities to various businesses.

In 2011, I launched a management consultancy firm, 'Prudent Management Partners DMCC'

Here we help businesses with financial management, accounting and VAT issues, due diligence for M&A activity, contract reviews, company setups, cost optimization, and more. In addition, we managed operational issues in their business, such as marketing and human resources.

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Starting yet another venture & becoming a social entrepreneur

In 2016, one of my old real estate clients lost her husband. I helped her face several inheritance issues that accompanied wapping up her late husband's estate. The challenges that she confronted, motivated me to find a better way to help other people in similar situations.

Over a span of the next few months, I did a lot of research and observed that people often view estate planning from the giver’s point of view and neglect to consider the other side of the coin i.e. the person receiving the inheritance.

I found that the people who receive the assets often have no idea what to do with them and/or how to manage them. This often led to losing a large portion of the wealth inherited.

I knew that this business is based on unexpected events, so it is not easy to forecast the revenue. However, despite the challenges that a business like this would face, my desire to offer families the right kind of support in such difficult times, pushed me to pursue the forge ahead.

And so, in 2017, I decided to launch Sara Advisory - a company that I formed to help people retain the value of their inheritance.

Business model 

Our business model is simple. We have three kinds of services that families may need:

  • Sara Pearl is for families to collect the wealth which can be spread over various forms like real estate, financial instruments, business entities, valuables, partnership interests, movable assets, intellectual properties, etc. This is done with legal help.
  • Sara Gold is purely an education service that helps families understand the wealth they acquired and all knowledge about it. The heirs may be unexposed to stock markets or real estate but may acquire it from family, they can avoid doing costly mistakes by investing in learning from it.
  • Sara Solitaire is a management outsourcing service for people who inherit a running business. One of our prospects was studying in the USA when she lost her father in Dubai. The business needed to run and she was the only one who could run it.  But coming immediately would mean her wasting all effort and losing her degree. She needed some time and management help for business. That is where Sara Solitaire fits in.

We charge our clients based on professional time spent but we are flexible in customizing the service package in view of the circumstances of each case.

Challenges

Since this is the world’s first such company, it takes time to explain the concept to people.

I remember when I shared this idea with my CA friends and many other business associates, they all liked it very much, especially the female business owners. However, they were also apprehensive and questioned the viability of this segment as a business.

Also, this is not like selling consumer goods. Not every day people inherit wealth. It’s a niche market and the good thing is to be there and being able to help those who desperately need it.

Since this was not my first business activity, my primary revenues were not based on it. I had sufficient infrastructure to treat this as marginal business and keep going without really worrying about the financial implications of doing it.

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Wrapping up…. 

Sara Advisory is likely to pick up and become a trusted brand for handling inheritance management for recipients of wealth. We will be reaching out to the market post-COVID restrictions and help more clients.

As a Chartered Accountant, I feel we work to make rich people richer in society. Our work should change the lives of ordinary people too. So, I strongly feel that financially viable social solutions are needed for the greater good of society.

My message to all reading this is that being a CA puts you in a great position to make a noticeable difference in any organization. But after getting fair experience, this is the best qualification to create your own businesses for solving society’s problems.

We should not spend life accounting for other’s actions. We need to act on our own at some point in life.

Now It's Your Turn...

Do you think finance professionals should turn to social entrepreneurs? Comment below and let us know.

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