How long working hours and a low pay scale encouraged this Chartered Accountant to follow her entrepreneurial instincts

  • Charmi Mehta, a Chartered Accountant and CFA (USA) defied other people’s opinions and chose the finance route over science.
  • As an equity analyst when she met the CFO of Bata and Relaxo she found her business idea.
  • Against many uncertainties and societal resistance, she along with her friend is building a women’s footwear brand Bold Pairs.
  • Long working hours and desire to pursue one’s passion, have spurred a new class of entrepreneurs.

Choosing the path of finance against popular advice

I was naturally good at Mathematics (passed on to me by my Mom) and scored fairly well in chemistry and biology as well. Therefore while I was preparing for my 10th Board exams, people suggested that I pursue the Science stream.

However, when I got my results I had a sudden change of mind and heart... I decided to opt for the Commerce stream.

Everyone including my family was puzzled; they all asked me one question ‘Are you sure?’

My answer was clear – I wanted to go down the road of Finance. Period. 

The reasons were pretty obvious; economic boom or recession; there will always be a need for Chartered Accountants/Financial advisers to help businesses in those tough times. And of course, my natural inclination towards subjects like Math and Accounts sealed the deal. 

A few years into the commerce stream I realized - Finance is much more than mere Math and Accounts. To take my career in finance to the next level, I decided to become a Chartered Accountant (CA). 

My mother always wanted to become a CA. But due to financial constraints, she could not move forward with it.

The aunties in my block were gossiping that I took up CA to fulfill my mother’s dream, believe it or not, she never forced me. I took this with a pinch of salt and focussed on my goal to build a career in finance. 

In 2011, I enrolled for the CA course from the prestigious ICAI (The Institue of Chartered Accountants of India) eager to jump-start my career. 

Meticulous planning, focused approach, and perseverance pulled me through, and finally, in 2015 I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. 

Deciding not to go mainstream... pursuing CFA, USA

While taking up audit and tax assignments during my articleship period, I realized that conventional fields were too mainstream for me.

Subsequently, I decided to enroll in the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst, USA) course. 

From here actually, my fascination with various valuation methods and portfolio management started.

After completing my second level of the CFA program, I secured an internship in Equity Research at Prabhudas Lilladher.

Again, 'people' began to question my decision. They thought I was overqualified to be an intern. 

Let me tell you, it was comparatively difficult to get into equity research with just a CA degree because the industry somehow prefers Engineers + MBAs over a CA.

So, I happily took up the internship and in 6 months became a full-time employee.

The road ahead of me looked pretty clear - Becoming an analyst in 7 to 8 years.

But destiny had something else in store for me!

A business idea that resonates with me

Inspired by my father who has his own business I subconsciously knew that I wanted to do something of my own, but did not have the answer to “What do I want to do?”.

Luckily the finance avenue seemed to have opened doors for me.

As an equity analyst, I had the opportunity to meet CEOs and CFOs of listed companies. Consequently, I started understanding the nitty-gritty of the businesses up close, the working capital cycle, project funding, etc.

Then the unexpected happened as I got to interact with the CFO of Bata India as well as Relaxo in August 2018.

From that conversation I learned that:

  • The size of the footwear industry in India is enormous
  • Per capita consumption of footwear is lower than half of the world average
  • Entry barriers to the industry are fairly moderate as well

Coincidentally, I am a footwear fanatic. To add, I have relatively long feet, and it was always difficult for me to get fashionable footwear that did not hurt.

There an idea was born! I decided to develop a product line that would suit all kinds of feet.

Not the right time to make the move…

Without wasting any time, I began my research, made cost sheets, reached out to people who could help me start this venture.

On the other hand, I kept having second thoughts - What if I fail? How will others perceive my career break? How will my parents react?

Alas, I decided to put the whole thing on hold and continued my professional journey as an Equity Research Analyst.

But I knew this was not the end….

Starting our venture against all odds

In mid-2021, after 4 long years as a research analyst, tired of working long hours and getting paid peanuts, I finally decided to resign and join my family business; manufacturing and trading of inorganic chemicals.

Once again, God had other plans for me.

When I was chatting with my friend Pranitee, an Accountant from ACCA, she mentioned ‘You know what, I want to start a footwear venture in future, do not know when but I will do it’.

I knew I found my co-founder and it was time to take the plunge. 

When we were brainstorming our brand name, we wanted to go with something that defines us, giving birth to “BOLD Pairs”, a women’s only footwear brand.

The first step was to understand the basics of the business so we undertook a footwear manufacturing course. There we learned the fundamentals of the manufacturing process, the raw materials, its procurement, and turnaround time.

Fortunately, I am a ‘Save first, spend later’ kind of person, thus, we were able to bootstrap our venture without too much hassle. 

But wait! My parents were still not convinced. One day they came to me and asked “What are you doing with your life?”

They wanted me to pursue my financial ambition.  

Once they saw our products, they realized it was not a hobby.

That day, my passion turned into reality!

Building it one step at a time

Like any other early-stage startup, the two of us are managing everything from designing to delivery. The major responsibilities are divided amongst us according to our area of expertise.

We have been fortunate enough to have a great team - 1 production head, 5 karigars (craftsman), and our families. But we have had our fair share of ups and downs too.

For instance, at the very beginning, we paid one karigar in advance but he did not deliver a single product. This wasted a significant amount of time and money but once again we picked ourselves... moving forward. 

We have just started our entrepreneurial and have a long way to go. I do not know what the future holds, but I am sure I will not have any regrets!

 

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