How this 31-year old CA quit his well paying job in Qatar for a purpose driven career in the education sector in India
- Hi, I am Jithu Koshy, a proud Chartered Accountant from India.
- I hail from a typical middle-class Indian family and worked very hard in life to be where I am today.
- After qualifying as a CA in 2011, I moved to Qatar for better opportunities and forged a successful career for myself. However, with changing priorities, I was looking for a purpose-driven career.
- In 2019, at the age of 30, I took the bold move of quitting my well-paying job in Qatar to return to India and contribute to the education sector with my financial skills and business acumen.
- Here is my story of success that was forged by determination, passion, and a desire to contribute to society.
Determination and Perseverance that made me become a Chartered Accountant
When I just started college my family was hit by a sudden financial crisis. As a Commerce student, in the hope of an alternate less costly career path, I enrolled for the Chartered Accountancy course from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).
I also knew the CA qualification would give me back all I lost, at a low investment cost.
Unlike many of my colleagues who pursued CA with self-doubt, I was very clear that I would clear the CA exams and become a CA. I knew that I had to become a Chartered Accountant for me to get back to normal life which I enjoyed before 17.
I went ahead and wrote my first level of the Chartered Accountancy exam – CPT. The moment I heard I had cleared the exam, I moved started with my articles (in Bangalore) – more for the stipend (Rs. 3000 per month) than for the love for CA.
Coming from a small town in Kerala, I lived in cramped spaces with 7 or 8 friends (to cut my rental costs). Most of my roommates, would party on a daily basis & enjoy as they were all pursuing more comfortable courses. I used to stay away from all those activities and focused on my studies throughout that journey. I used the ICAI’s library for my studies.
There was a burning desire in me to succeed and get myself back on to a decent quality of life and I knew that CA was my lifeline.
I gave my best and soon cleared Intermediate level and CA Final exams along with my articles.
Three things got me through that period of life in flying colors – knowing what works for me, determination and luck.
Wherever I went for audits, I always tried to learn in-depth about the business side of the industry. I would do this by analyzing their financials over the past 3 years, asking the right questions to the employees there and reading up on the key challenges the industry in which that company operates is going through. Thus, I had a slightly different approach to audit from the general norms.
Having analyzed what works for me, I knew I liked to listen to lectures first (to get introduced to a topic) before I study it. So, even though I had to struggle to find the means to pay for it, I decided to go for tuition for all subjects for Intermediate and Final exams. Apart from office & tuition, I also used to work at daily wage jobs during the weekends to earn the money to go to classes.
I was determined to succeed and I did succeed qualifying as a CA at the age of 22 in 2011.
First job as a CA fresher in Qatar at a Big 4 Firm
Once I cleared CA, I got a job offer in KPMG, Qatar, my first post-qualification job. This was Oct’ 2011.
My articles training at Varma & Varma Chartered accountants, one of the oldest CA Firms in South India, helped me a lot in my first job.
I was hungry to succeed and the first day at the office, I went into the managing partner’s room, who is now one of my most beloved mentors, Mr. Gopal Balasubramanian and I asked him “What should I do to sit in your seat after 10 years?”
He was shell-shocked and pleasantly surprised all at once, by the spirit of that young boy and this is what he said: “Grit, determination and continuous learning will get you there.”
Fast forward, during this phase of my life, I worked on two aspects: Improving my communication and leadership skills by enrolling in a Toastmasters club.
At work, I gave my best and I learned all that I could at every given opportunity by slogging for long hours in the office. I was promoted within 9 months to assistant manager.
Forged a successful career in the Telecom Industry
In a quick turn of events, I got an offer from Ooredoo, a listed telecom client of mine in Qatar. It was also at this time that I decided to get married to my long-time friend from CA Days, CA Neethu.
Considering the shift in my personal life, the financial returns the new job offered and the opportunity for professional growth, I decided to move to the Telecom Industry.
In Ooredoo yet again, I had a bullish run with 3 promotions in 4 years. I started as a Senior Analyst in finance, then becoming a Specialist in Costing & Telecom Economics within the finance function and from there moving on to take a much bigger responsibility in the Chief Operating Officer’s office as Manager, Benefit realization and business case reviews.
With each promotion, I was getting closer and closer to the real decision-makers in the company and observing how they make decisions. I realized that a lot of varied factors play in how one takes decisions & this got me to read up on two topics – behavioural economics and design thinking.
Evolving priorities and desire to give back to society!
By this stage (almost 6 years at Ooredoo), I felt I had reached a point in my life, where I needed more meaningful ways of putting my learning on both the management & leadership sides to practice.
I also started travelling to India frequently on the weekends to train children from various schools on how to manage finances.
I had realized that there was immense mental satisfaction in sharing knowledge, be it with children or professional colleagues.
My life was in a smooth sailing phase and we had visited 15 countries in these 4 years, as a family. I also realised that I needed good mentorship to further grow up the leadership ladder.
Around the same time, I became a Father, by this stage I realized that my social commitments which took up my evenings could come in the way of giving enough time to my child & family, in general.
With the entire evolution, I realized that it might be better for me to work in a company/career which is aligned to my social values also. This way, by directly contributing to the company, I would also be contributing to my desire to give back to society.
Quit my fancy job in Qatar and moved to India venturing into the education sector
I searched for the right opportunity for almost 6 months until it finally came in the form of ‘Vivartana Ventures India Private Limited’, which is a company I had invested in, in 2017. The company is working in the education sector and endeavors to bring about a societal transformation in the field of education.
I was first appointed as the finance director, then promoted to the CFO. I am also one of the 5 board members of the company now.
As a board member in Vivartana, I look after Strategy, Finance, and Corporate Governance. I am entrusted with the responsibility to expand the management team in these three areas. Initially, the learning curve was quite steep. However, with the same spirit, I had during article ship days along with wonderful mentorship from the leaders in the company, I was able to get up to speed with the tasks ahead.
Moreover, I am able to correlate to the business outcomes of the company. The fact that the decisions we take will help build a better future for India, makes this job much more exciting than anything I have worked on till now.
I am able to spend more time with my family now since I have cut down on a lot of social commitments I had when I was in Qatar.
I realize that priorities evolve over time, be it at a personal level, family level, professional level, or social level. It is important we are tuned to each of these and do our best to maintain the appropriate balance relevant to the times.
I am still only 31 and at the early stages of my professional journey. I am sure more exciting days will unfold. Wherever I am, I believe in giving 100% commitment to the job and in dreaming big within the possibilities of that job, so that I can push to do the best for myself and for the company.
In today’s world, where business is evolving rapidly, young professionals have ample opportunity than before to make a mark. There is also a need for fresh & innovative thinking in all functions.
With continuous upskilling, a strong personal compass guided by an appropriate value system and a lot of professional reading, we can stay ahead of the curve and contribute in bigger ways to the companies we work for.
My suggestion to young professionals would be to dream big and go after those dreams. As finance professionals, we have a lot to contribute to business & industry and some skills we have developed are so critical to business decision-making.
We need more finance professionals to think “Business first” and take a more comprehensive approach in designing systems and processes which will take the companies forward.
Above all, I believe that being a “human-first” & connecting with people will help achieve tasks and in taking the team forward.
Now It's Your Turn...
Would you ever your quit a well paying job for a purpose driven career?
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