How this CA created a mark in his dad's 30-year old practice with his diverse experience from banking to a funded startup
- Hi, I am Shashank Goel, a practicing Chartered Accountant at Ajay A Goel & Co, a 30-year old CA firm started by my father.
- Immediately after qualifying, I started my career in the private sector bank with the intention to join my father's firm someday.
- In 2016, just when I made up my mind to return to my hometown and join my dad's practice, I was offered a role at an early funded startup.
- Around this time startups were blooming in India so I took up the opportunity. My experience at the startup was priceless.
- In 2017, when I returned to my hometown and joined my dad's traditional CA practice, I decided to diversify to new areas of current relevance.
- Here is my journey of how various experiences helped me build much-needed skillsets and helped me to add more value to a traditional CA firm.
Changing lanes: From engineering to CA
Born and brought up in Kanpur (India), I aspired to become an engineer and eventually become an entrepreneur. As destiny would have it, I did not fare very well in the entrance exams.
After this setback in life, I started looking for alternative career options. My father who is a reputed chartered accountant himself in Kanpur convinced me to pursue CA from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).
Coming from a science background, I had no knowledge of even the basic accounting terms and had to learn everything from scratch.
Owing to the guidance of my teachers, my hard work and my luck, I secured the second rank in the Kanpur region in my CA foundation course. This instilled confidence in me to go ahead and continue my CA journey.
Fast forward, I gave my best and eventually qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the latter half of 2014!
Working at a startup...not my dad's firm!
When I qualified as a CA (2015), I had the option of continuing at my dad's CA firm, however, I knew I had to build additional skillsets that could bring value addition to the firm.
During my article days, I remember visiting Mumbai - the financial capital of India, and being fascinated by the lifestyle and work culture. I knew I wanted to work in this city and as soon as I passed my CA final exams, I looked out for opportunities in Mumbai.
The city was kinder than I thought.
In less than a week, I had two interviews scheduled - one of which was at IDFC Bank, in their corporate banking infra team.
I jumped at the opportunity and under the guidance of, Mr. Devang Shah, Mr. Harshal Mahavarkar (whom I consider my first and the most valuable mentor) & Mr. Mangesh Kelkar excelled.
From a private sector back to a funded startup
By now I had completed a year at IDFC and planned to return to my hometown (Kanpur) to join my dad's firm.
However, as destiny would have it - Rohit Agarwal (Investment Advisor at Sequoia) introduced me to Pranay Surana the co-founder and COO at Flyrobe - India's Largest Fashion Rental Startup. This was in 2016.
They had just raised a Series A Round and was looking to build an in-house team to look after Finance, Taxation, Cash Management, and related HR Functions along with various other growth functions as well.
At that time the startup culture in India was blooming and I knew this would be a great learning experience.
When they offered me the role to build and lead the team, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Learnings at a startup
Joining the start-up in its early phase was a boon for me as I was responsible for administering and making policies that had a direct impact on the organization of almost 120 personnel.
I executed end to end fundraise of USD One Mn in venture Debt, developed a strategy for cost reduction thereby reducing cost by 30%.
Also since the hierarchy levels are flat the management is easily accessible which helped me to seek better insights from people who have taken the risk and followed their passion.
Needless to say, it helped me sharpen my decision-making skills, and most of all allowed me to be around some of the brightest minds.
In short, the experience was priceless.
Time to return to my hometown: Joining my dad's CA firm
After a year at the startup, my father requested me to return and join the firm.
At first, I was reluctant but then I knew I had to start someday (sometimes later becomes never, so I decided to move back immediately). However, quitting the startup was a very tough decision as I was enjoying my work and was very well settled in my role.
I also realised that by now I had gained enough experience that could be immensely helpful to add more value to the firm, and here started my journey at Ajay A Goel & Co. This was in 2017.
Creating a mark in an already established firm
When I joined my father’s firm, they provided traditional services relating to Tax Audit and other auxiliary Advisory Services.
Having experienced life at a funded startup first hand, I knew the challenges startups face - be it managing end to end finances, compliances, incorporation, etc. So in 2018, I started a new branch office in Delhi to cater to Startups, in the Delhi NCR region.
When we launched our office in Delhi we had to start from scratch with limited resources.
Since we did not target traditional clients as their expectations and needs are quite different from what we were planning to offer, materializing the first few clients was a challenge.
It involved convincing potential clients for a meeting, working on building their trust in you and your services, and eventually delivering the services with 100% dedication.
(I have learned that in this industry the fastest way to grow is through word of mouth.)
As of date, we have diversified into GST, Project Finance, Startup Advisory, and more recently into IP advisory services.
Today we have clients across 3 countries and we have grown at a CAGR of 60% YOY and will work to grow at this rate or more for a considerable future.
All this can not be done single-handedly, I am extremely thankful to the complete AAGC team.
Challenges on the way
When I joined my father’s firm the expectations were indeed very high as you have to live up to the already created reputation.
So the first challenge that I faced was to overcome the mental barrier and settling into my new role at the firm.
To win the marketplace you need to first win the workplace; so the second challenge was to build a great team and retain every team member. But I am happy to add that we have managed to do so.
The third and the most relevant challenge in today's time is the technology barrier. While our community is well versed with the financial and taxation aspects, in the current scenario technical up-gradation and knowledge have become a necessity.
Machine learning and automation have changed how various business functions and to keep up with the growing demand, we all need to embrace the change and sharpen our skills to sustain in the ever-evolving market.
My future goal is to channelize technology to streamline monotonous processes. This is something I look to start building upon in the next phase.
Now when I look back, I believe starting with a blank slate was the biggest advantage I had, which I capitalized upon.
Leaving a secure job for a startup and then leaving the same to start something of your own has not been an easy task, but the process has been truly enriching.
I think what has helped me through all this, is accepting change and the willingness to go out of my comfort zone.
To all young professionals, consider working at startups funded or not and get an all-around exposure early in your career.
Working at an early stage funded startup helped me get an in-depth knowledge of all business processes.
I also have to add that when a young CA is inducted into an older practice, he brings in a fresh perspective and is more flexible in adapting to the changes which in turn results in better services to the clients and holistic growth of the firm. At the same time, the experiences and learnings of senior CAs help the firm to navigate in the right direction.
We are at that point in time where both - the younger, as well as the older generations, have to adapt, evolve, and work together.