Meet This Company Secretary Who Launched Her Own Firm In The 1990s And Is Still Going Strong
- Amita Desai wanted to become a Company Secretary but opted for Law instead. And, just before she could give her Law exams, she got married! But the desire to pursue CS never left her.
- Soon after, with a year-old son to take care of, she pursued Company Secretary and cleared it in her first attempt.
- Amita now runs her own firm - Amita Desai and Co in the commercial hub of Mumbai (India) and provides services under the Companies Act, LLP, FEMA, IBC, and general business practices to be done legally.
- Here’s a story about determination, resoluteness, and an undying spirit to carve out a niche for self.
Starting Small And Starting Early
It was 1980. Having scored pretty decently in class 10 exams, my father wanted me to take Science but I took up the Commerce stream! He was still happy with my decision.
While still studying in college, I used to tutor school students so I could be financially independent. That was when I first started earning.
I also helped my father in managing his business which developed the business acumen in me.
In 1985, I completed my B.Com degree. But that was not it, I was looking to study further.
My dad stood for education - he knew how transforming and empowering education is and encouraged me to pursue a professional qualification after B.Com.
When it was time to decide what next after graduation, MBA was one option. However, I wasn’t too keen on doing an MBA. So, I dropped the MBA idea.
So, what next? I wasn’t particularly inclined towards Accounting or typical finance - so, going for Chartered Accountancy or Cost Accountancy was out of the question. That was when I stumbled across Company Secretary.
At that time (and we are talking about the 1980s), there were a number of Chartered Accountants in the country, but ONLY a handful of Company Secretaries.
People didn’t know what a Company Secretary was or what a Company Secretary does.
In fact, even I just knew that it was a multidisciplinary profession and required a meticulous mindset. This interested me a lot.
And I decided to enroll for the CS course.
Only that I didn’t.
So, my family thought that choosing CS meant government employment or personal secretary work - which, obviously, they did not want their daughter to do. Thus, my father suggested me to study Law.
I went ahead with Law studies.
My 1st semester exams were due in May 1988. But, unexpectedly, my wedding dates (which were planned after my exams) got preponed to March'88.
And I could not appear for my Law exams.
Starting A Business and Losing My Dad
I got married.
My husband was very supportive and advised me to start a business instead of studying further. (At that time, this was considered a really progressive mindset. So, please, don’t raise your eyebrows!)
I took a loan from my father of $500 in 1988 and started a wholesaling business of everyday items like chocolates, biscuits, etc - ‘AmiDeep Agencies’ (derived from Amita and Sandeep, my husband).
The business started off really well. Within just 6 months of establishing it, my business was doing very well. (That was a BIG accomplishment!)
I would wake up early and get everything ready and used to also take tuitions for classes XI and XII...working was my passion!
Did I get tired? Yes. Was I ready to give up? Never. Hustle was the answer.
And then, life gave me a beautiful gift. My son was born in May 1989. But, suddenly, my father fell severely ill and after a week of high fever, passed away in early August 1989.
He was my strongest support - I was inconsolable and shattered. Just after, in September 1989, I wrapped up my business too.
A New Phase: Enrolling For Company Secretary
My father always wanted me to study further and have a professional qualification...so, after a year of his death, August 1990, I decided to study further as a tribute to him.
I registered for the Company Secretary course from the ICSI (The Institute of Company Secretaries of India).
My son had just turned one. Along with raising him, I managed all the household chores, attended the guests, continued tutoring - and I studied too.
My husband was my biggest supporter throughout. If not for him, nothing would have been possible for me.
And you know what? I cleared my CS exams in the first attempt itself! A dream come true.
So the period from 1985 to 1990 - Even though they were just 5 years, it was a long, eventful journey. I married. I started and closed my business. Became a Mother. Lost my dad. And qualified as a Company Secretary.
Starting My Own Business, Again!
I was fiercely independent from childhood (thanks to my dad!). Working for a boss was an alien concept to me.
Also having a professional qualification like CS empowered me.
So, aged 30, with just $ 70 in savings and a small room of 15 x 15 sq. ft., I started my independent practice as a Company Secretary from my HOME- ‘Amita Desai & Co.’.
My husband strongly advocated ‘discipline’ in business. So, even though my home was my office, I was in work-mode’ by 10:30 A.M. till 5:30 P.M.
My son had just turned 4, but he got used to seeing his mum in work-mode - so, he would ask for my permission before bothering me during work (I adore my cutie for this!)
When I first started there wasn’t much work, but I still used to sit in my office religiously - reading up the Company Act or preparing a checklist for various corporate actions or devouring any CS book that I could lay my hands on.
And if you DO NOT GIVE UP, magic happens...One day, my mentor called me - asking me if I was open to taking on work. Of course, I was.
And I took the assignment and completed it without any expectation of fees. No, I wasn’t stupid. Learning was my payment. I was looking at it long-term and had to get started somewhere.
And guess what? The client offered me a retainership for 4 visits a month.
And I got referrals. The CS of that company recommended me to another group too. Word-of-mouth helped to expand my practice.
I always focused on adding value to my clients. So, when they paid my fees, it would be done happily and with satisfaction.
Most of all, they remembered me for my work. And, they referred my services in their circle. Referrals don’t come easily. You gotta earn that with your amazing work!
Work kept coming.
2003. From a 15x15 sq. ft. room in my house, the company shifted to an office of 500 sq. ft. with a dedicated team of 12 members.
2011. We moved to a 650 sq. ft. office and were 15-people strong.
2015. We started operating from a 1500 sq ft. office located in a plus commercial building in the heart of Andheri (Mumbai).
Tackling Challenges When Growing Your Business
“We don’t grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.”
The field of CS was pretty new at that time when I started, and people did not know much about my scope of work or my services.
So, while talking to clients, I had to explain what I did and what I could do for them! In short, I had to sell something which people did not know about. Communication skills helped me through here.
Also, I understood the importance of upskilling myself. I always kept myself updated about the latest happenings in the field.
As a company, we focused on quality and providing value - which is why referrals worked and clients approached us for our services.
Most importantly, I have always been true to my profession. That has kept me sailing through. And the business afloat.
Money came second. On some occasions, I even had to write off my fees...but a few bad experiences did not shake my faith in people.
Today, our office is equipped with the latest technology and is upgraded to keep up with the changing times.
We have a team of young, energetic people guided by experienced professionals.
Tips For Starting A Business
To grow in any field, these 3 P’s are essential: Passion, Purpose, and Persistence. You need to have that drive, that strong desire to build something.
Here are some of my tips for anyone who wants to start his/her own company —
- Start with WHY. Why do you want it? And do you want it enough? Are you willing to work for it no matter what?
- Start only if you believe in it truly. Without a purpose, you won’t be able to stretch it for long.
- Offer value to your clients. Don’t just work for money. Give something that would profit them. Offer solutions, provide value and your client will afford your
- Upskill I cannot stress this enough. Studying a course is just a start. You need to keep updating your skill-set throughout. Keep learning.
- Stress is part of the job. Don’t get bogged down by it. Take it as an opportunity that helps you grow. Don’t ever think of quitting. Keep
- Enjoy the journey. Cherish it.
As a Company Secretary, you can excel in many areas and NOT just the Companies Act.
You can be advisors of FEMA, IPR, GST, Fund Raising, IBC, CSR spent and many more. The sky is the limit.
Life may look perfect today but I had my own share of challenges. My NEVER GIVE UP attitude helped me through it all.
I even lost my husband to cancer but that did not stop me. I took it in my stride and today my son is a Doctor - A Cancer Specialist.
Listen to your heart. You know that voice at the back of your head telling you what to do… that which you often ignore. Listen to it. Please. You won’t ever regret in life! Never ever.”
Now It’s Your Turn!
Are you happy with what you are doing in life?
Do you also want to start something of your own?
Are you motivated by reading Amita’s story?
Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to share it with your friends who need that push in life.
You can connect with me on LinkedIn at - Amita Desai
(Edited and revised by Simran Doshi)