From winning 117 medals in rifle shooting to qualifying as a chartered accountant: Meet Priyal Keni

  • Hi! I am Priyal Keni, a chartered accountant (CA), Big 4 firm consultant, social entrepreneur, international athlete, and co-founder of Play and Shine Foundation, a non-profit organisation.
  • I started rifle shooting at the age of 13 and as expected, I faced questions about why I did not choose a feminine sport, which does not involve guns and bullets.
  • Over the years, I participated in various national and international competitions, winning 117 medals in rifle shooting.
  • I did not ignore my passion for academics and when it was time to decide on a career path, I pursued Chartered Accountancy and continued pursuing rifle shooting.

After discovering my love for shooting, I fully committed to it despite facing challenges

Growing up, I was an inquisitive child. They say curiosity killed the cat, but it made me who I am.

For this reason, I always tried different extracurricular activities. Sport, to be precise. Since the age of 9, I was involved with, chess, basketball, football, and a couple of other sports.

My school had a shooting club and one day, I coincidentally stumbled upon a poster inviting interested students to orientation.

For me, it was just a mere fascination of holding a rifle for the first time and firing one or two shots. However, after their 10-day workshop, I wanted to continue with the sport.

Having said this, I spent the first few months wondering if it was really something I wanted to do.

As a 13-year-old, I was fascinated with rifle shooting but then I was not too sure if I wanted to go all out and train for it as it needed 2-3 hours of daily training. Also, rifle shooting is not an everyday sport!

It took me a good 5-6 months until I finally made up my mind and then there was no looking back.

The first year was difficult because of reasons like:

  1.  Lack of support, mentors as no one in my family, was playing sport at a similar level
  2. I had to compete in matches, travel and attend coaching /camps. So I had to suddenly stay away from my parents. Life took a 360-degree turn because I was just not used to that kind of an arrangement
  3. Juggling studies, training sessions, tournaments and traveling, as each of these required my undivided attention.

Fortunately. within a year, I conquered these challenges and got the much-needed initial push and I felt that everything was falling into place.

Thereafter, I never looked back since discovering my love for rifle shooting at the age of 13. I kept climbing the ladder and challenged myself to be the best that I could be.

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From holding the rifle for the first time to winning international tournaments

Within a span of 18 months, I started qualifying for one match after the other and started competing at a school and at the district level.

Almost 9 days after clearing grade 10 exams, I qualified for my first international competition and made my debut in Germany. This was in 2010.  It was a very quick trajectory.

I knew at the back of my head that, at some point in time, I would represent India at an International Tournament, but I did not know it would happen so soon.

I was totally not up for it, as I was looking forward to enjoying the next 2-3 months of summer vacation, make the most of it, actually spend some time with my friends.

So, getting this opportunity very early on was a great privilege and an opportunity of a lifetime. I have to admit that being a bright student in academics, I was a little nervous as class 10 grades are very important and every student really looks forward to giving their best.

I received great support from my family, more from my mom who supported me in participating in various tournaments during the two most important years at school where most parents would want their kids to just study!

I also received great support from my school, and friends who encouraged me to give my best in rifle shooting. 

How I blended rifle shooting with my pursuit of CA

I always wanted to make sure that I can get the best of both worlds; so when it was time to decide ‘What Next’ on the academic front, I opted for the commerce stream. I definitely did not want to pursue science as I primarily had a love for numbers.

In addition, I wanted ambitious career goals and a variety of growth opportunities. As a result, I wanted to specialize and maximize my knowledge in it, so I came across CA.

Though CA is a very rigorous professional qualification, I did not put rifle shooting on hold completely as I did not want to miss practice and consistency.

Instead, I became disciplined at all times by using the technique of ‘prioritization of tasks’ while planning my daily schedule and struck a balance between the two.

With this, I was able to manage all national and state-level participation during my prep journey.

In 2016, I took a break to serve articles and complete CA exams. For this reason, I stepped down from the Indian team.

Nevertheless, I continued to compete in the state and national level competitions, thereby still winning medals.

I must say that having those two coveted letters, CA before my name kept me going throughout my preparation, and I never gave up. I then qualified as a CA in 2019.

Post qualifying as a CA, this is how I started my career while continuing to shoot

I completed my CA in 2019 and that year I participated in the national shooting championship that took place in Bhopal, India and I won a Bronze medal.

On the career front, just like any CA fresher, I started looking out for job opportunities.

I did not want to stay restricted to audit/accounting/tax and after introspecting, I discovered a desire to try something new and consulting/investment banking emerged in my career.

I did not get any opportunity for the first year so I worked at another CA firm, but on the side, I consciously looked for different consulting opportunities, while reaching out to the LinkedIn community, tweaking my CV, networking with school and college seniors, and researching on job portals.

At the same time, the very first lockdown and uncertainty in the job market dampened my spirit. Even though I believed that something would come up, it did not look like that, as the rest of the world’s economy was struggling.

Just what I needed! A consulting opportunity came up at a Big 4 firm and I did not hesitate to accept the offer.

In fact, around the same time, I got other job opportunities as well!

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Rifle shooting

In India, there are three broad categories of shooting: rifle, pistol and shotgun. There is no minimum qualification, but one should ensure that musculature is strong to handle a 6kg weapon.

Moreover, the beauty of this sport is that it does not come with early retirement. People still compete at the Olympics at the age of 60, so there is no age limit.

Once one becomes a shooter, a plethora of opportunities open up right from becoming a professional athlete to being a senior coach, serving the national body or related fields.

I would request everyone to take up a sport not because you should be skilled at playing a game or you should always be good at some extracurricular. It’s for the mere reason that it allows you to step out of the four walls and interact with others. 

Because of sports at a very early age, I learned a lot of very important things like how to deal with failure, how to overcome a bad match, how to face tough situations.

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Life is not a race, but a marathon.

I strongly believe that one’s mindset is entirely an accumulation of the lessons learnt in different phases of one’s life, so here is mine:

  1. I learnt that there are absolutely no shortcuts to success. Be patient with the timing and process, you will get where you want to get. Just be a little more patient.
  2. While further assessing the college phase of my life, I can conclude that one’s network is equivalent to one’s net worth! Keep building and maintaining those good relationships. They will be handy in the future.
  3. At present, the realization that everything I need already resides within me motivates me. Humans are so divine and equipped with all the survival skills they need. You are enough, realize that and use your inner strength to find your purpose in life.

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