How this CA quit his Big 4 job & against all odds built a thriving due diligence firm in the sandy shores of Goa
- Hello, my name is Ashutosh Kharangate. I am a chartered accountant by profession.
- I belong to the beautiful coastal land of Goa and in 2010, owning to a turn of events I returned to Goa and started a Due Diligence & Advisory Practice of my own.
- Was it easy? Of course not. Goa was definitely not ready for the kind of services I wanted to provide but I persisted.
- Today almost a decade later, Mangal Analytics and Research Consulting Pvt Ltd (MARC) - has grown to a team of 30 and a client size of 250 plus....making all the efforts worth it!
- Here is my story.
From a dream to become a genetic engineer to a CA
While my father is a CA, at no point in time did I want to become a CA.
In those times, the ‘breaking news’ was of the first clone having been made. I was pretty fascinated by this and decided that I wanted to be a genetic engineer.
Fast forward, a few years later at a career guidance event I was convinced that CA is the best career option for me. Needless to say, my father was over the moon.
I enrolled for the CA course from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) and here started my CA journey.
I cleared my inter CA exam in the first attempt and created some sort of a record as I was the only student to have cleared among 231 students appearing in Goa.
To add to that I topped my college in B’com and won many accolades.
(While I frankly believed I had no role to play in that, public perception of me being extraordinarily brilliant was created.)
Unfortunately, during my CA Final exams, I faced challenges and missed the first attempt.
Suddenly nobody seemed to be talking about me (to add, I weighed 131 kgs with a 44-inch waistline!)
The only thing which helped me during this phase was my self-confidence and I cleared in the next attempt – I was now a CA! This was in 2007.
Realizing Auditing is not for me and brush with due diligence
During my CA articles, I realized traditional auditing and taxation weren't my things.
I loved finance and costing so I had decided to explore a career in finance.
I took up an opportunity with an amazing company in Goa by the name Kineco Pvt Ltd. It had global footprints.
Here I came across a process called ‘due diligence’. (It's to ensure that the company being invested in does not have any major issues which could cause the investment to go down the drain.)
I loved the profile and soon realized that I would like to build a career in due diligence and advisory.
I did my research and discovered that the Big4 firms have the best Due Diligence practices. I decided to move to Mumbai - the financial capital of India.
Luckily, I was selected at PwC as an Associate – Due Diligence - Transaction Advisory Services.
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug
Pwc actually gave me my wings. I loved my role at PwC and the travel associated with it.
However, at the same time because it is a large organization there were certain rules and hierarchies to follow. I started slowly realizing that I liked doing things at my will.
Thoughts started crossing my mind of 'starting something of my own'.
On a personal front my parents especially my mom wanted me and my wife to be closer to them and return to Goa.
I promised her we will come back within a year.
Unfortunately, my mother passed away suddenly. It was shocking.
After the numbness had subsided a bit, I started thinking of the plans ahead. I realized it was time I return home.
I resigned from PwC.
Launching a Due Diligence Consulting firm in Goa
Now I had three options to start all over in Goa:
- Join my father in his practice – I knew I didn’t like that work and our working styles were different.
- Work for a company in Goa and do general CA work – I didn’t find it appealing cause of restriction of work profile.
- Lastly, start something of my own - I was most drawn to this! But the big question was - What should I start with?
After brainstorming several ideas, I knew I loved my role at PwC and felt that I should try introducing 'Due Diligence services' in Goa.
Many of my CA friends laughed at the idea. They said - 'where is there a market in Goa for business advisory services? Let alone due diligence.'
On the contrary, I felt Goa was perfect for starting something of this kind.
I believed that Goa had several first-generation and second-generation entrepreneurs who had also tremendous potential to grow. They needed good advice on profitability and business strategy.
I felt I had the exposure and could do justice.
On 1st August 2010, I launched MARC - Mangal Analytics and Research Consulting Pvt Ltd (named after my dear mother, Mangal).
Now that I had decided to start in a market that apparently had no demand and surely no supply of advisory services, the first thought was to visit clients whom I knew.
I visited a reputed doctor, the owner of a well-known hospital chain who I had connected with while at PwC, and the other the MD of Kineco who I had worked earlier.
I thought it would be sensible to offer my core strengths to start with as both of them were involved in some M&A transactions.
Both the gentleman was kind enough to offer me an opportunity. One of them offered me a much smaller amount and that too once I proved myself.
While it did hurt a bit, I took it up. Nevertheless, it gave me some great learnings, also was happy I was earning in the first month itself.
There has been no turning back since!
Growing the business and introducing a new service line
The first year I worked out of client locations. The business was growing by word of mouth.
For the first 2 years, it was surprising but no local trusted us - All our clients were non-Goans.
I gave my best and knew I had to prove myself.
In 2013, we were called by the MD of an Italian MNC. He wanted to explore the possibility of bringing the gynaec and derma products into India. It was more of market research and project feasibility.
Frankly, we had never done an assignment like that before. But I took it up as a challenge.
I told him - Sir, let me deliver then you can decide and pay. We agreed on a sum. It was the highest fee I had ever charged!
We put in real effort.
When we submitted it 3 months later, he was pleased. I was almost in tears. This gave us tremendous confidence that we could deliver to a well-informed and aware client.
Also, it gave us a new service offering which has given us a niche today.
Challenges and roadblocks
When we started, Goa was not ready for what we offered due to a lack of awareness!
I had to explain to them that their P&L and balance sheets are not meant only to file returns. It can be actually used to draw meaningful conclusions about their performance.
Several times we were required to perform, show results, and later get paid. I took it up.
Many times we would not even get paid! It was heartbreaking but good learning.
The other aspect was I realized within my first year that only due diligence will not take me far.
So we broke down due diligence into something we call ‘profitability analyses’. Here we analyzed businesses on revenue leakages, where profitability could be improved, how processes could be better. This took off!
I believe the toughest phase for me was when our initial 3 key team members whom I had thought will be with me through the journey resigned in quick succession.
It surely took a lot out of me. But I also learn from the process that ‘I shall be the last man standing’.
Timeline of my journey
- This year was more about exploring the market and understanding the same.
- We offered due diligence and transaction advisory services
- We had only 2 clients this year.
- I worked from home.
- I took up my first office of 200 sq ft.
- Got my first employee at the end of 2011 but by 2012 end the number increased to 5.
- Clients also increased to about 10.
- We had won the trust of Goan entrepreneurs and in addition, done some credible work in the opportunities we got with MNC clients.
- Added new line of services: Market research and project feasibility and profitability analyses. This year also marks the addition of Astra Metals Pvt Ltd as a client.
- Built some great relationships, especially the MD Mr. Satish Shinde. He has been a father figure since. He provides hope that ethics need not be compromised in the journey of being successful.
- These were growth years.
- Moved to a 600 sq ft office. Staff strength increased to 12.
- Client size increased to 50.
- In addition, we entered into an MoU with a 30-year-old European firm to enable internationalization for Indian businesses. This was a great boost.
MAS was rebranded as MARC. We formed a private limited company.
- Also moved to an 800 sq ft office.
- Staff strength also grew to 20 while the client base crossed 100.
- Added several services including MIS, SOP, HR consulting, accounts outsourcing etc.
- Added another 200 sq ft of office space in the same building to reach an office space of 1000 sq ft.
- The client base went past 150.
- Moved to a PAN India client base.
- We formed associations with PAN India consultants, including some in the top 10 to be their partners towards due diligence and market research.
- We moved into a 2000 sq ft office.
- Team size increased to 30. We connected with international consultants and investors to help them with backend analytics and research support.
- We forged some great relationships in this process. The client base crossed 250 in this process.
- For a long time, I wanted to have MARC offices across the country. But the excuses were everything from the inability to travel, to focus on the Goa office, etc.
- However, lockdown provided an opportunity to connect with like-minded aspiring fellows across the country.
- Within 6 months we opened 6 offices of MARC across the country.
- While team size remained at 30 we added 7 partners to the core team.
I believe the most important thing in any entrepreneurial journey is to be on your toes and to have wonderful client relationships.
I feel scaling has been a bigger challenge than starting, so if you have an idea START.
Be innovative and extremely flexible. Entrepreneurship is funny so 'Perseverance is key'.
You have an extremely high one day to a terrible low the next day. It is important to face each day.
One logic I follow is ‘sleep off a bad day’ (not literally of course!). The next day shall be great.
Now It's Your Turn...
Have you considered starting a venture of your own? What is stopping you?
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