This Chartered Accountant worked at a Big 4 firm for a few years and eventually started his own CA practice. Did it pay off?
- Hi! I am Hitendra Ranka, a Chartered Accountant, Co-founder, and Partner at Ranka & Associates, based in Ahmedabad, India.
- I realised early on that I wanted to have my own CA Practice. However, just starting out as a CA fresher wouldn’t make sense so I decided to build my skills by working at MNCs or Big-4 Firms.
- Almost 4 years in the corporate world, I was happy with the knowledge I gained, and thus I followed through with my entrepreneurial plan and established my firm in 2017.
- Even though the gestation period was difficult, our hard work paid off and today we have made a name for ourselves (though we still have a long way to go!)
Always wanted to start my own CA Practice
Like any other student, I was also in a dilemma concerning my career after completing my schooling. However, I always had an inherent interest in accounts and finance which is why I was keen to pursue Chartered Accountancy.
After years of hard work and a lot of learning, I qualified as a CA in November 2012!
From the day I cleared my CA exams, my goal was to start my own CA practice. However, I didn’t want to start in routine CA practice of Income-tax, Indirect tax, or Tax Audits. Even my Articleship experience was limited to Accounts, Audit (mostly vouching and a bit of ledger scrutiny and finalization), and Income Tax (small clients).
Therefore, the plan was to start working at MNCs, or Global Accounting and Audit firms to develop my skills in audit and accounting advisory services of large listed/MNC clients before starting my firm.
What next now?
Building corporate experience in Audit & Advisory
I started interviewing and landed my first job as an Associate Consultant (SAP FICO) at Infosys Limited.
Although this profile was great in terms of pay, facilities, and work-life balance, it didn’t suit my overall objective of starting my own CA practice in niche specialized areas.
Hence, in 2014, I moved to KPMG Audit & Assurance service line after serving for a few months at Infosys Limited.
At KPMG, I could finally work in the domains I wanted to build experience.
I served three years in KPMG partly in Chennai and partly in Ahmedabad (as I wanted to start my practice based out in my hometown, and took internal transfer within the organization).
Working at KPMG helped me to improve my interpersonal skills and grow as an overall professional. I also managed to build good connections professionally which helped me later in my practice.
Time to take the entrepreneurial leap
After 4 years in the corporate world, I knew it was time to make the move and start my own practice. Surprisingly, even though I always wanted to start my own practice, quitting a secure job was not an easy decision!
The thought of starting from zero with no recurring money added to the difficulty...but I knew it was a now or never kind of a situation and so in 2017, I started my own CA Practice in partnership with my brother who is also ex-EY in Risk consulting practice.
From day one, the objective was to develop a specialized practice in Accounting Advisory Services. My IFRS background and knowledge, and KPMG work experience, also turned out to be useful during the early days of the firm.
We started by renting a small office in the heart of Ahmedabad and hired two junior staff. We also had to do most of the work by ourselves since our Practice area was very specialized and we didn’t have enough surplus to hire more people and clients too expected us to be involved significantly in the execution of engagements.
At that time, Indian Accounting Standards (Ind AS) were new and only applied to a selected group of large/listed organizations. So, I started utilizing my connections and began providing full-fledged Ind AS implementation/support services to clients of listed organizations.
Over a period of time, we managed to build our network and could fetch more assignments on audit support, risk-based internal audits, IFC implementation, among others.
Challenges on the way
My entrepreneurship journey hasn’t been easy and it came with a lot of challenges. The five top challenges that we had to face while growing the firm are:
Fetching and pitching for clients for specialized work where Big-4 dominates was in itself a big challenge.
- Although we knew that without delegation, our firm couldn’t grow beyond a point, due to cost concerns, we couldn’t delegate.
- Due to the specialized nature of our practice domain, we did not get recurring clients became an issue. So, most of the assignments we received were only one-time engagements.
- Since our firm size and strength were fairly small, clients were reluctant in allocating large work like an internal audit.
- Oftentimes, CFOs or Finance Heads would discuss technical subjects with us, so we had to be adept on technical matters to demonstrate our expertise. Hence, we continuously had to explore new practice areas to keep ourselves updated.
Even though the gestation period was difficult, our hard work paid off and the CAGR YoY turned out to be impressive.
Timeline of our Firm’s journey: 2017 - present
- It was a humble beginning for the firm. We had limited credentials and fetching work was difficult since we dealt with niche areas and the clients we pitched to were usually large clients who had multiple CAs working in their team internally.
- We started with areas like Accounting Advisory services (under USGAAP, IFRS, IndAS frameworks), Virtual CFO roles for MNCs, Due Diligence, Audit support, and Tax practice.
- On the execution front, we couldn’t delegate as clients expected us to execute the assignments directly. So, we had to meet their expectations as this was the significant entry point in large organizations for us to prove ourselves.
- This year was very difficult since we had a small team, and we two Partners had to spend most of our time calling potential clients, requesting meetings, following up after initial meetings, etc. But this worked and we received few large engagements from listed organizations and MNCs.
- Moreover, even routine admin work and other office activities had to be done by us since we were short-staffed. For example, making presentations, profile building, website building, evaluation of various software available and selecting the best, training the teams, thorough research on work, etc.
- Pitching and delegation of work for our domain areas was still a challenge as we couldn’t afford candidates who could do such work independently. We also had to deal with irregular cash flows and increasing expenses (personal household and office related).
- This year we had a deep introspection internally and thought to expand our areas so that we can build up more consistent work and team.
- So, we started fetching good quality audit works, IFC implementation work, Valuations, and Financial Modelling assistance.
- With the new regime of Valuation effective from 1 Feb 2019 where only Registered valuer enrolled with IBBI could do valuations under the Companies Act, and IBC, 2016, I personally was determined to explore this area in our firm.
- Fortunately, I was one of the first few Registered valuers to be enrolled with IBBI in India which helped me fetch good assignments of large organizations, startups as well as leading listed companies on a PAN India basis.
- With extensive experience in valuation, technical accounting, corporate finance, tax, strategy, and deep industry knowledge, we started offering an integrated approach to assist clients calculate, analyze and report on a broad range of valuation issues.
- We advised clients on all aspects of valuing companies, swap ratio determination under Amalgamation and Mergers of companies, listed and unlisted securities, complex financial instruments, intangible assets, etc.
- Further, we started associating with transaction advisory large consultancy firms in India from whom we can source large valuation and financial-modeling-related engagements.
- This was the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, since we had made prior arrangements in terms of IT infrastructure, it didn’t affect us much.
- On the contrary, we fetched more business. Of course, this was due to the efforts we put in the earlier years in building networks on a PAN India basis, subject-specific expertise, quality work, and deliverables served to our clients.
- We also started using MS office suite for our work including MS teams for most of our meetings, presentations, and reviews considering the current WFH scenario.
In my view, newly qualified CAs now must develop specialized areas of practice to do quality work since routine works can be done by non-CA tax consultants too.
Although there’s an increase in compliance work, the fees have decreased since the routine practice has become extremely competitive. So, a Practice in meaningful consultancy, advisory, etc., would be a better choice.
If you want to start your own, give your 100% and go for it.
Ranka & Associates, Chartered Accountants provides services related to Audit and Assurance – Tax and Statutory audits, Valuations and financial modeling support services, Virtual CFO services, Due Diligence, Risk-based internal audits, Fixed Assets Management, and Inventory Management, IndAS/IFRS/USGAAP convergence, as well as regular consultancy (GST and other regular compliances) to various Listed, MNC and other large corporates on PAN India basis.
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