Exploring the Journey of a Chartered Accountant with Hindi-Medium Schooling to Now Working in Singapore
- I am Kushal R Jaju, a Chartered Accountant and B.Com. (Hons) graduate from India.
- I grew up in a humble background of Merta City, a town in Rajasthan (India). Growing up and studying in a vernacular medium school, I had very little command over English.
- In 2019 I got an opportunity to move and work in Singapore at Essilor Luxottica Regional Headquarters as the Finance and Business Controlling Manager.
- All my years of persistence and faith in moving and working abroad came true with this opportunity. It surely did not happen overnight but it happened at the right time.
- I am married to the love of my life, Urvashi and I’m also the father of a cute little girl, Jeevika.
- Here is my story to inspire other professionals, especially those from smaller cities and towns.
From a Small Town to Pursuing Chartered Accountancy
I was an average student in school but thanks to my dad, I developed a keen interest in studies as he would promise me a gift if I scored well in the exams.
With the desire (or rather greed) to get new things, I started taking my studies quite seriously which led me to do well in school. That was the time when I started to dream and had this desire to do well in life.
Since I belong to Rajasthan (this state in India is known as a Chartered Accountants hub), a lot of my relatives & friends were either qualified CAs or pursuing CA. So at a very early age, I knew that I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant!
Before passing my 12th standard exam, my father sent me for career counselling which reaffirmed that Chartered Accountancy is the right choice for me. The session also suggested that I opt for English as the main language in my further studies.
After completing my class 12, I decided to move from my hometown to a bigger city to study further and pursue my dreams. While pursuing CA, I also enrolled for graduation in B. Com (Hons).
Being from a vernacular medium school (Hindi medium), this was my first time pursuing my further education in English so it was very challenging. I had no option but to overcome it.
#What I Did: I put in extra efforts and time, tried communicating in regular English with my friends. I even joined an English speaking course, thinking this might help in improving my English communication and in building my confidence. However, it did not help much and I dropped out within a week and started learning all again by myself. I did everything people around me suggested - reading newspapers, dictionaries, listening to English news channels, etc.
I graduated in 2010 and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2012. (Finally!!!)
My journey wasn’t easy as it may seem. I have had my fair share of struggles and failures in every aspect of my life. Slowly and steadily I overcame everything. Moving away from home was really a big decision for me and my family. But luckily my parents supported and understood my dreams.
While I speak about my struggles, I must mention my super supportive sisters - Seema and Pooja. Also, my uncles who stood by me whenever I wanted to give up and always motivated me.
Quitting my Job in India to Find a Better Opportunity Abroad
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I got my first job after 2 months in the capital of India - New Delhi.
Life was good - the company, the manager and the pay were all good - within a year I was also promoted as a controller; but I wanted more in life!
I wanted to work with multi-cultural and diverse teams and learn about different geographies. So while still working, I started applying online for opportunities in Singapore, Dubai & Hong Kong.
Luckily, I got shortlisted by a company in Hong Kong. (I was so excited!)
I cleared the final interview rounds, received the offer letter and even joined their Mumbai office for a month-long induction after which I was to move to their Hong Kong office. But as luck would have it, as my dream to move abroad was about to come true - I had to drop the option of moving abroad owing to a personal circumstance.
I was totally shattered. This not only left me jobless but also completely 'clueless' about how to start chasing my dreams again.
BUT I NEVER GAVE UP.
I believed in the mantra “Keep Your Dreams Alive” and started my journey again.
Now, I had two options - either to go back to my previous company or to start looking for a new opportunity. I chose to go with the latter. And with this started another phase of struggles, depressions, and failures!
Searching for a job in a competitive city like Mumbai was not easy. I was struggling to find the right opportunity. I used to spend nights searching online portals of MNCs and job portals to find the right opportunities.
I used to connect with people I knew, share my resume with them and wait for their calls. My best friends Vivek, Shilpi and Lokesh helped me during my hard times in Mumbai. They looked after my stay and meals and helped me get through this depressing and tough phase.
It took a long time for me to get through again and restart my career as there was a gap in my employment and there were other constraining factors like schooling from Hindi medium.
Finally, after job-hunting for 4 long months, I joined Welspun (a well-known textile company in India) at its plant in a small town. This was in 2014.
It was a tough decision to move from a big city to one small town but the job role was very lucrative. In hindsight, this role set my path for the future.
I would advise all the CAs who are at the start of their career –Give equal importance to the role offered, as much as you would give to a city.
#WhatIDid when I was jobless for 4 months? When I reflect on it today, I consider the gap as a blessing in disguise. In those four months, I worked on myself, learned the value of networking and was able to focus on what was needed. Most important of all, I learned how to bounce back on hitting rock bottom in my career.
Moving and Living In Singapore - “A Dream Come True.”
In 2017 I got an opportunity with Essilor Luxottica at Bangalore, India. This company owns various famous eyewear brands like Crizal, Varilux, Bolon, Ray-Ban, Oakley, and many more.
After working for almost two years, in early 2019 I was internally offered a new role at Essilor Regional HQ in Singapore a dream-come-true moment for me. (Woohooo!!!)
My mother and my wife (is presently pursuing her Ph.D.) encouraged me to follow my dreams.
Once I was shortlisted for the role, I went through multiple rounds of interviews with my manager(s) in Singapore and HR representatives. The interview involved a series of questions on technical and business acumen.
The interview went really well and in early Feb’19, I was selected for the new role in Singapore! My role was to partner with the business teams on their annual plans, reporting actual performances, profitability and cash-metric enhancements, setting up new business models in various geographies and assisting in the global expansion of the brand.
In a few months, we gladly packed our bags making Singapore our new home.
"How can I move to Singapore and what is it living here?"
The best way to find a job in Singapore is to look online. There are immense resources available to apply for jobs. Online Job portals for Singapore: EFinancial Careers, LinkedIn and Indeed.
To find a job in Singapore, you can:
- Reach directly to companies via careers section of the websites
- Apply for jobs on online job portals
- Apply for Internal Transfers
- Connect with Employment Agencies
- Use your network
Once you get through the interview process and secure a job, the employer will apply for your Work Pass with MOM (Ministry of Manpower) which is an online process.
Once approved, you will get an IPA (In-Principal Approval) letter from MOM which will work as a one-time entry pass in Singapore to get your Work Pass issued.
Below I answer a few FAQs about Singapore
The work-life balance here is amazing. Singapore is a highly developed economy, housing about 29% of its population as non-residents, and hosting some of the most iconic landmarks, and is a dream country to work in.
Getting a Visa: As a foreigner, if you want to work in Singapore you will need to have a Work Pass (Employment Pass or S Pass). There isn’t a direct entry to get a pass, one must first find an employer who is ready to sponsor a work pass.
Cost of Living in Singapore: Singapore has been continuously ranked as the most expensive city in the world for expats. The average cost of living for two would be around SGD 4000 a month excluding education and medical expenses. (It further depends upon your lifestyle)
Accommodation: There are two types of accommodations in Singapore - HDB, public housing managed by the Government. (These are affordable, low-cost housing) and Condos developed by Private Companies. (These are expensive but come with a lot of amenities).
To rent a 2 BHK flat in HDB can cost about SGD 2,500 and a condo flat can cost about SGD 3,500. Renting a house also depends upon the proximity to the CBD area and available amenities.
Commute: Singapore has well-connected lines of public transportation, buses and MRT. The daily commute is affordable in Rail/Bus, around SGD 1 per trip. You can often see people riding bicycles to office. Footpaths are also well maintained.
Utility Payments: The average monthly cost of Electricity, Water, Wi-Fi and other essentials can be around SGD 250.
Food: Singapore has many restaurants offering multiple cuisines. At Singapore’s hawker centres, one can get a meal at about SGD 10.
Salary: It depends upon your skillset and years of experience. Companies prefer candidates with versatile finance skillsets who can manage multiple portfolios together.
In my opinion, the average annual salary for a CA fresher can be around SGD 60,000 and with few years of experience, it can go above SGD 100,000 per annum. However, if you have experience in high demand roles like FP&A, Treasury, Analytics, etc your salary may be above the average offering.
Opportunities: Singapore houses regional headquarters of many MNCs for the Asia region. The Start-up Ecosystem is also flourishing. There are opportunities in Accounting, Finance Business Partnering, Banking and Treasury, Finance Analyst jobs for Finance professionals.
"Which finance qualifications are recognized in Singapore?"
In my opinion, all professional qualifications CA/ACCA/CPA are recognized here in Singapore, though the most preferred qualification in Singapore is ACCA (though I’m pursuing CIMA at the moment).
ACCA, CPA roles help develop finance acumen and CIMA helps develop business acumen. You can find a job in the industry as well as Big 4 firms.
Kindly do your own research before deciding which qualifications you need to pursue.
To Sum it Up
If you dream of it, you can achieve it provided you work on it, you work for it. Always remember that with consistent hard work, everything can be achieved.
If things are going hard, introspect yourself on what went wrong and how can you improve it. Solutions to most of our problems are within our consciousness.
Stay Confident, Stay Positive. What really matters are inside; trust your instincts.
I strongly believe in Karma. Be nice to people, eventually, it shall come back to you. “What goes around comes around” - as they truly say.
Now It's Your Turn!
Have you considered working abroad? Or working in Singapore?
Please leave a comment or get in touch with me on LinkedIn, if you have any questions.
I’ll be glad to assist you as much as I can.
(Edited by Vikrant Kembhavi)