This CA kept a long term vision and opted for a Sales & Business Role. And how you can too!
- Hi, I am Kailash Rathi, a Chartered Accountant & Financial Services professional, with over 8 years of experience.
- I decided earlier on that Auditing, Taxation and traditional finance roles were not my areas of interest...I wanted to equip myself with the skills required to manage a business.
- It took me almost 2.5 months to find my first job as a CA fresher with a rank....in short, I created my career path by design and not default.
- Here is my story of How even after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant (with a Rank) at a young age I still took my time to find the right opportunity!
Back Story: Why Chartered Accountancy?
To put it in perspective, I have a total of 9 Chartered Accountants and Company Secretaries in my family…and I would always look up to them!
When it was time to decide my career path, pursuing ‘Chartered Accountancy’ was the most obvious choice… however there was no family pressure to pursue CA, I was free to do whatever worked for me!
So, my decision to pursue CA was driven by my entrepreneurial family roots, inspiration from my siblings and my interest in numbers!
(When I look back now, I wonder whether it was a conscious choice or natural ingrained decision.)
Studying to be a Chartered Accountant
“Aim for the moon. If you miss, you’ll land among the stars”
When I started my CA journey I was clear on one thing - I wanted a rank.
Keeping this in mind, I planned my studies...however, my CA journey was not a straight road!
Unlike other CA students, I could never put in long hours of study. Luckily my mom helped me understand that 'Long hours are NOT important, quality hours are'...I followed exactly that and used my limited study time to be highly productive!
I think giving 100% focus when you are in front of your books is crucial, if not, then you are just lying to yourself that you are studying.
Having a written plan and budgeting for time – worked in my favor during my CA studies.
Early on, I understood my weakness (in theory subjects) and strength (in practical subjects), and I kept working to come up with the curve on these subjects. In parallel, I made it a point to ensure no slippages on the subjects that are my strengths.
I cleared my IPCC (intermediate exam from ICAI) with an All India Rank and finally, in 2011, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant with an All India 33rd Rank!
Challenges in finding the right opportunity (inspite of a rank)
While working for various clients during my internship years, I could fathom that my long term interest is not in auditing, accounting or taxation.
In short, ‘I knew what I did not want to do, but was not sure of what I wanted to do’.
So here I was, a freshly minted Chartered Accountant – all excited about my debut interview calls (all thanks to the Rank) from large FMCG and Consulting firms like BCG, P&G & HUL.
Getting those interview calls was the easy part but getting through them was a challenge.
Why? There were hardly 10 positions to be filled by those companies among 100+ rankers across the country!
When I went out for interviews – I realized – the other candidates were superior in terms of current affairs, general knowledge, communication skills, etc.
I couldn’t make it to the cut (rightly so) and was not shortlisted!
What Next? Forging my own Path
With passing days, the early excitement waned…though there was hope, edginess started creeping in!
It was challenging and disheartening not to find a job for a reasonable time…even after getting a rank!
I did get a lot of opportunities in Audit and Accounts, but I did take these job offers that came my way! After all, I was clear Auditing, Accounting and Taxation was not my area of interest.
So, I stayed focused!
And finally, after a wait of about two and a half months, I was offered a job by Pidilite Industries (Fevicol maker) as a management trainee!
We were a batch of MBAs and CAs who were supposed to be rotated in different departments over a span of 12 months…this was exactly the kind of opportunity I was looking for!
Needless to say, I grabbed this role so I could learn across different functions and in parallel understand what my real interests lies in!
During the course, I was fortunate to handle a brand acquisition project and then integrating the newly acquired business into the organization.
In the process, I got hands-on experience in mainstream business management and also realized my inclination towards this role.
Thinking outside the box: Business Centric and Sales Roles
After almost two years at Pidilite, I consciously started looking for opportunities with a business-centric role.
My quest to grow beyond the traditional finance role continued...and I soon landed a job as a business planning manager in the CEO's office at India Infoline Finance Limited, an NBFC.
The role was challenging as it entailed long-range planning, new product launches, strategic initiatives, business performance reviews, industry benchmarking, etc.
Daily interactions with senior management across all functions of the organization gave me a bird’s eye view of how a business runs!
After almost a year, with an intent to gain experience in a line function I solicited a sales role and my supervisor was supportive of the change.
(Advice – Don’t shy away from asking what you want)
Few friends and colleagues also expressed hesitancy in my choices…but I knew how important it is to know how to sell!
Yes, there were times when I was in doubt, especially, during my initial days in sales, when there were long waiting hours and no conversions!
However, I was enjoying the new experiences and more importantly learning greatly..this always drove me ahead!
After a yearlong immensely useful sales stint, I handled roles involving product management, process re-engineering and digitization...all roles involving mainstream business management!
I was lucky to have a super supportive boss who offered me varied exposures, with a line of sight on my career.
Advice - It is extremely crucial & instrumental for all doing corporate jobs to have a sales stint; irrespective of function, qualification or role.
Next Move? Digital lending
Having worked in two entrepreneur managed Indian companies, I moved to Fullerton India – a Temasek (Singapore) owned Indian retail NBFC in the MD’s office.
Acclimatizing to the MNC culture and also gaining experience in managing international stakeholders was immensely beneficial.
Shortly I was entrusted with the additional responsibility of setting up & scaling the MSME lending portfolio in the digital vertical of the organization. It was a sales cum business development role involving constant engagement with the fintech community for identifying opportunities through partnerships for onward lending to small business owners!
Extra Tip: With digitization & changing landscape across industries, lending is also moving the digital way.
My role allows me to keep myself abreast of these changes and be in the game. So have a macro view of things and align yourself with what is happening around you.
Be in the driver's seat of your own life; don’t go with the flow!
I am lucky, things are turning up as planned (Even if blur and hazy; have a plan and work towards it) and I look forward to going to work every day with an anticipation of learning new things (don’t settle and ensure to move out of your comfort zone).
Gone are the days when your degree restricted the role you could do. I daily come across many founders/co-founders of fintech with a CA background running the startups successfully.
I believe, with the varied “on the job” experience, I could develop the skill sets required for the job and the CA knowledge allowed me to ask the right set of questions in the journey.
Let your formal education become your stepping stone to the world, but don’t allow it to become the reason of your identity.
Kailash Rathi is a Chartered Accountant and has exposure across Business Acquisition, Restructuring, Commercial Finance, Corporate Strategy, Product Management, Digitization and Sales.
In his early days, he used to teach accountancy to budding CAs and love guiding others from the experience he has gained.
(Image edited by Ankit Lodhi)
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