Are you an Accountant and feel your role is restricted to only becoming a CFO or starting an Accounting/ Consulting firm?
Then this article is a must-read.
In conversation with The CA Story, we have Ameya Shah, a qualified Chartered Accountant from India who co-founded Logibricks Technologies Private Limited in 2017 with Aditya Kulkarni (Chartered Accountant), Karan Kabra and Chandni ( both MBA IIM-A grads).
In less than three years, Logibricks has created amazing products for Mfg and Retail / Trader Sectors and has a team of 53 employees.
They have achieved all this being totally bootstrapped.
Currently, they are looking to raise their first round of funding to scale up the operations, reach markets, hire industry veterans and also technology stack enhancements /optimizations
Here is his story from an employee to a co-founder of a Tech Company.
Becoming a Chartered Accountant
I am Ameya Shah a qualified Chartered Accountant from India.
I come from a family of professionals where my father is a practicing Chartered Accountant.
So my natural choice was to ultimately become a chartered accountant and join my father in his practice.
However, after becoming a Chartered Accountant, I joined Reliance Industries Limited (a leading company in India) through campus placement where my role was to handle internal audits for multiple corporate functions. I worked there for two years.
Later I moved on to Asian Paints Limited handling Internal Audits for all Plants and a few corporate functions.
Post that I joined a Tier II Automotive Company incapacity of a CFO. My tasks were to streamline the Finance function, create management reports/insights, review the operations of the company and all other things that were required to establish controls in the whole organization.
Hence, I enjoyed doing internal audits quite a lot in my articleship period followed by an internal audit profile in the companies that worked.
Taking the Plunge and Quitting my Job to Start a Consulting Firm
I believe as a Chartered Accountant, it is one of the most important jobs to help create values for our clients in whatever roles we are by helping them in streamlining processes, help them in business decisions rather than just being compliance experts.
During my stint as a CFO, I realized:
- That despite ERP being implemented, there were many other applications that were used parallelly and had multiple data points that did not talk to each other.
- ERP implementation was done incorrectly and looked like it was forced upon the business with people entering data with no right reporting.
- Consequentially results that were otherwise normally expected from the ERP were not at all accruing.
With my love for Technology and understanding of Finance, I managed:
- To fix things in the company by reimplementing the entire ERP once again
- I set up clear processes for each function, with data only from ERP as a base
- Linked KPIs to the numbers reported in ERP and ensured all other software were either linked to main ERP or removed.
- This ensured that a single ERP would do the talking and help us create management level reports/dashboards.
It was here that the idea of starting a Tech company to create ERPs and helping SMBs came to mind.
But I did not think much on it instead decided to enter management consulting and utilise knowledge gained to help multiple clients.
That’s when I quit my job and joined a group of Chartered Accountants in Pune (India) to start a company in 2015 called Ankekshan Consulting.
The focus was to just do Management Consulting in the fields of Internal Audits, Internal Financial Controls (IFC), Due Diligences, Fraud Investigation Audits, Virtual CFO Services.
Few of the directors in this company (including my co-founder in Logibricks – Aditya Kulkarni) were the ones I had done my articleship with and hence it was a natural choice to be co-founders in his venture.
We started our Consulting business with a couple of assignments in this area.
Gradually got a couple of listed companies as our clients, scaled up to a staff of around 15 in less than a year, partnered with multiple business associates who had created a niche in their own areas and used their services in our assignments. This was resulted in achieving a turnover of around INR One Crore in less than 2 years.
This was absolutely amazing and we seemed to be on the right path.
Moving on and Starting a Tech Company
However, the idea of starting a tech company to help create ERPs and other integrated / plugin products for SMBs had not faded.
As luck would have wanted it one day we met Karan Kabra who was a consultant for a common client.
During our Internal Audits with a client, there was a critical Audit observation and was to be presented to the Audit Committee. The chances of rectifying the same were very minimal as it involved a lot of calculations if done manually. However, we realised that the same was completed by the client through one of their consultants (Karan) who managed to create a complex excel tool in less than 2 days and ensured that the issues were completely rectified well before the Audit Committee.
In fact, Karan had already created an ERP for his own family business and it was a wonderful application but lacked accounting and he wanted accounting professionals as co-Founders in his venture.
Thus, Logibricks was born in 2017.
We (Co-founders) joined hands only because our skill sets complemented each other and we believed we could deliver a better product to the clients than the ones already available.
Our belief is these Entrepreneurs DESERVE MORE.
So yes, the decision of starting a Tech Company was more of a passionate decision, more on guts and never a truly calculated one.
Deciding on our Products
Logibricks is a B2B Enterprise Suite Company. Our products come with the vision of making businesses future-ready.
It provides SMBs web-based, integrated, cost-effective, scalable products to help SMBs:
- Manage all the business operations including accounting in a single application
- And then using the same data to augment their business profits and revenue by allowing effective decision making, seamless integrations externally through an effective value chain ecosystem.
All these products have been created giving due importance to balance the operations of an organization and also the financial implications of the same.
The idea is not to restrict the ERP to record transactions and draw basic reports like Sales, Purchase registers and Financial statements.
But help the business grow, increase revenue, optimize costs, enable seamless transactions externally reducing the Non-Value Add(NVA) and ultimately ensure scalable growth.
We have integrated machine learning models to help with sales Targets, Predict Stock out situations, Ensure optimized inventory across all stores.
Some of our products are:
- Manufacturing ERP for different types of industries including process industries, assembly Industries, Food and Agro Industries, Automotive Industries, heavy manufacturing industries, etc..
- Retail ERP targeting multi-store retailers, single-store retailers, micro stores like Kirana (Grocery shops)
- Eway-Bill Pro – A plugin application to manage the entire life cycle of e- way bill in a very easy and sophisticated manner with further linkages to FinTech (Supply Chain Financing) and Logistics Optimization
- Field force management application to track the movement of field engineer, support staff to enable them to use a checklist for audits, expense managements and intimations to stakeholders for breakdowns and other repairs
- For Media Companies, we have products that include movie optimizers, promo optimizers and AD optimizers built on data science models.
Running Our Tech Company
When we started, it was decided that Aditya and myself would handle the functional part of designing the ERP.
Karan would take care of the Technology and the Development Stack and Chandni would manage the Sales and Marketing part.
Coming from CA fraternity our job is to ensure that product is feature-rich, future-looking has a business-friendly approach, and also ensure that all the validations and controls that are otherwise necessary are pre-built into these applications.
However, it was quite difficult for both functional and product development guys as we (Aditya and me, both Chartered Accountants) did not understand the developers’ language and they did not understand our requirements, validations, controls.
Since it was new for everyone, we could hardly understand whether we are on the right track .
But, we did manage the show and pulled it off eventually.
Having the right co-founders, right core team members is a big challenge and we are fortunate to have both.
Funding our venture
Since I worked for a few years and was lucky to be paid well it allowed me to save a reasonable amount. The same was in the case of my other co-founders who did well in their jobs and had managed to save.
However, what I didn’t know was how much amount would be required to start the business.
When we started creating products, being completely bootstrapped company, it was tremendously difficult as we had to pour everything from our own pockets.
Traditional finance channels like banks, NBFCs DO NOT support you (except personal loans/credit card loans with interest rate as high as 15%) because according to them there is no collateral available to them.
Things are really tough in these cases as you have to manage personal finances, manage company finances.
It was not that difficult for a year or so but things became difficult as months passed by.
Primarily as discussed earlier, banks and NBFCs don’t support the company. We ended up borrowing funds from friends, family and on some personal fronts. These are costly and paying even their EMIs is tough. There is no secret sauce to this and you have to try all means to get money.
So, its tough guys. If you are a weak hearted, get panicky quickly, it’s going to be difficult. You are used to getting salary on 30th / 31st and now you wait for such messages to receive in your inbox.
Cash outflows are already planned with an uncertainty of cash inflows. This affects personal finances quite a lot. And unfortunately, no planning can help you face this situation.
Getting our first client
Things started and we cracked our first client within two months from starting the company.
The task was to create ERP and go live in less than 6 months. It was a mammoth task for us as the client did not wish to miss the April deadline ( being a new financial) and we had just 5-6 resources.
We eared up for the same, worked day in day out, underwent multiple reviews but managed to go live on the pre-decided date and the implementation was totally successful.
After the first ERP implementation, we have grown leaps and bounds, increased team sizes, we have revised the versions of ERP, improvised quite a lot but that first ERP is still our First Love and in every sphere of life you know you don’t forget your first Love no matter what.
Building a Team
We started this journey with 3 people.
Today, our strength is 53. This would include:
- Around 35 development team (which includes both Web , Android & ioS developers)
- Around 7 in data science
- 5-6 business analyst
- Balance 4-5 should be in Admin, HR, Accounts and IT
- The team size is growing and there are multiple open positions and Yes, we are recruiting
We encourage an inclusive growth approach and ensure all team members are treated equally in everything that we do.
We can only sell dreams to our employees and that starts in the interview itself. Practically we can’t have interviews. It’s more of discussions and not interviews.
Employment is like marriage. It’s not one-sided but always two-sided and unless both are equally motivated and happy, things don’t work.
I talk more in interviews than the interviewee and explain to him/ her what we are, what we want to achieve, what are our goals, what type of people we are looking for and ultimately see whether we could travel the journey together.
It’s about making them feel that he is the owner too of this organisation and is equally responsible and accountable like a co-founder.
Daily Challenges and Struggles
- The workforce increased, client commitments increased but all without any financial help.
- Paying employees on time is very important as they are your only assets. Losing a key employee is very fatal and employee churning is quite common.
- If you are worried about finance you cannot focus on the product development and this affects the overall company growth.
- In such difficult times, you have to motivate yourselves and still keep your head high and support all your decisions. There have been multiple instances where I had a feeling of quitting and cursing my decision but again I would pounce back with a feeling ‘APNA TIME AAYEGA’ (means Our Time Will Also Come).
- We are ultimately selling products and solutions to clients. They help us get cash flows. It is important to understand what the client wants and see those products solve their problems.
- We cannot end up creating products that force the business to change its processes.
- We get such tricky situations every day where a client requirement has to be studied and determined whether the same is a standard feature that will help all or it’s a client-specific situation and needs customization. This is a daily struggle but on the flip side it adds to our learning library.
- We end up knowing more of problems and our solutions ultimately become more flexible and scalable
Technology changes very fast.
- We are faced with this challenge where we have to adapt and adopt newer technologies very quickly. So many things happen around the world and if we do not keep ourselves updated, our failure is inevitable.
- We have to keep upgrading, learn new technologies, face newer and newer challenges totally not thought off and still ensure that the SHOW must Go On.
- Unfortunately, there are no CPE like programs here in this space. But yeah, I have ended up going to more and more of Tech conferences than our finance seminars these days.
Today Logibricks is a Start-up India Recognised company and also been selected for:
- RISE Hongkong Event as ALPHA Start-up ( It’s the Largest Tech conference in the world) in July 2019
- Selected to represent India along with 85 other startups in Indo-Singapore Summit held in Singapore in August 2019
- Top 100 Start-ups in Start-up Istanbul Event in October 2019
- Won First Prize in Hackathon Organised by Jharkhand Government
- Been selected in top 5 Startups in Esselerator program organised by ZEE Media Group
Even today, after we have built manufacturing and Retail ERP and those being LIVE at multiple clients, we have a long Product Road Map ready with many features that are still to be developed.
Features need to evolve, Legal/Regulatory requirements mandate new features.
Clients evolve and this all results in a good Road Map.
1.Changing Roles of Chartered Accountants in Tech Companies
Aditya and my role as Accountants are in making the product feature-rich which is a result of our consulting experience in the past, our research of what ERPs should have and most importantly the understanding of why a business would adopt an ERP. This is the exact reason for our being on this journey.
We, Accountants, are trained to face any situation (as we have faced CA exams). We as CAs have a very important role in these Tech products and this is an upcoming career option.
To do this, it was necessary that we CAs bring the deep functional knowledge onboard and it continues to be the base all products that we develop.
In building this tech company I have also learnt to code. Though I can’t be a true developer I currently design databases, understand the Stored procedures, identify bugs and prima facie test and learn to write reports also along with crystal reports ( the Print Layout design tool).
- Typically, in a tech company, CAs are in Finance function managing Accounts and Financial Management. This is seen at numerous companies. However, dynamics are changing and many Chartered Accountants are now Product Managers in tech companies.
- If the products have something to do with finance, accounts, and compliances, there are many roles created for CAs.
- They are responsible for creating a product roadmap, working closely with the developers and sales Team, look for Revenue Outlook and be overall responsible for the overall profitability of the product.
2. Using the CA learnings to your advantage
CA Degree does not restrict you. According to me, it prepares you to be tough, disciplined, knowledgeable and someone who can solve problems.
We have to use these skill sets to help create value for ourselves and customers. Use these skills and you could probably do anything. You can start a business, join non-conventional start-ups.
However, we have to admit that as Chartered Accountants, Prudence or Conservatism (one of the basic accounting assumptions) is built-in our decision making and all our accounting /economic decisions are made based on this principle.
Though it is good to have this, at times when you are in a business or entrepreneurship this creates an issue.
We are not taught to take risks. Our education style even does not allow marketing/branding. We face a lot of challenges because of these in our operations.
Few classic examples like:
- Commercial proposals created by me are many times lesser than the one created by my other co-founder who comes from IIM Ahmedabad (I have hence stopped creating proposals )
- Valuations in the funding pitch decks, when created by me, is much lesser (as based on DCF method) as compared to ARR /MRR methods or any other modern methods
- The hiring of resources, adoption of new technology, finding out innovative ways of solving issues are a function of how much risk you are ready to take and somewhere we will have to take more because higher risk brings more profit (which we have been taught very clearly but we are not being able to practice)
So keeping all this in mind we need to know our strengths and work on our weaknesses.
3. Sales is very important
- Sales is a very important function.
- You might focus quite a lot on building products but if you don’t have too many paying customers things would be really tough.
- Hence start working on Sales and Marketing plan at the start of the company.
- We may be passionate to create something, but customers may not be ready to buy it or our products are a bit futuristic.
- Research, competition analysis, and Customer Behaviour understanding are very important before we get into this. Otherwise, we end up in losses and then closures.
4. Learning to Create a Balance
- There is always a Chicken and Egg situation where you are confused between creating quality products, stabilizing them, adding newer and newer features versus getting clients even if the products are not that great but at least worth selling.
- You have to balance both.
Our profession teaches us quite a lot of these and prepares us for these difficult times.
I may not be a good typical accountant anymore, but the profession has taught me a lot and I am here because of the profession. I owe a lot to this profession.
- All that is required is a LEAP of FAITH. And trust me this is the only thing that is required. Believe that you can do it, take a leap and start working in that direction.
- In words of Ratan Tata – I Don’t take the right decisions. I take decisions and make them right.
- So basically, take a decision and work towards it. Try newer and newer unexplored areas, leave geographical, emotional barriers and go ahead. If you feel the decision is not right. Take one more decision and make this decision right
Be Ready For Failures
- Be ready for failures. But don’t treat them as failures.
- Look upto them as learning points.
- Not everything can’t be taught in books.
Be a good storyteller
- Learn to be a good storyteller. Good Sales Person. No matter whatever you do, you have to do storytelling.
- You will have to sell dreams, sell aspirations, sell value creation thoughts.
- These tactics will give you good customers, good employees, good vendors. But ensure you perform more than you sell and not vice versa.
Now It’s Your Turn…
Do you want to start a company like us? Do you have a tech company?
As Accountants what more can we do to serve our clients better?
I would love to connect with you and know your story. I could be reached on LinkedIn at Ameya Shah.
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