How against all odds this CA established a practice in Bilaspur way back in 2006 by staying persistent
- Hi! My name is Anshuman Jajodia, a practicing chartered accountant (CA) from Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh.
- Through discipline and dedication, I qualified in 2006 as a CA and declined lucrative job offers in Mumbai to start my own practice Jajodia Chaurasiya & Co in my hometown, Bilaspur.
- Initially, we could not afford office bills as we did not have enough clients. Over the years, we have grown and established our footprint in Chhattisgarh.
How I chose CA: My father changed my stream from Science to Commerce
Growing up, I was not much of a bright student until class 10. Having said this, I aspired to be a medical doctor and even took Biology in class 11.
My father thought otherwise and suggested Commerce was better suited for me as my academic performance was not enough to grant me admission to medical school.
With a heavy heart, I enrolled in the Commerce class. At that time, I had the misconception that the stream was for students who cannot understand the concept of Science & Maths. However, I learnt that this is absolutely not true.
Since my first time learning Accounting, I fell in love and never looked back.
Yet again after class 12, my father advised me to consider MBA or Chartered Accountancy. Even though I did not have sufficient knowledge, I decided to pursue CA.
Unlike most students who move to bigger cities for better articles experience, I continued my CA journey in Bilaspur and did my CA articles here. Overall, I had some great learnings.
In 2006, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant… An amazing journey, indeed.
Why I declined job offers in Mumbai to return home to Chhattisgarh
After I qualified as a chartered accountant, there were plenty of career options.
Like most CA freshers from Tier 2/3 cities, I could take up a job in a big tier 1 city and give my career a good headstart. However, my family has a history of Parkinson’s disease (a neurological movement disorder), and taking my family’s medical history into account, I thought it was better to stay closer to home to take care of them.
I also had this mindset of starting something of my own and being an entrepreneur.
Having said this, I was once told that the CA students from Bilaspur (a tier 2 city in India) would not stand a chance against the students of Mumbai as they are well-groomed and confident. I wanted to confirm if it was really true.
Out of curiosity, I decided to travel 1000 kilometers from Bilaspur to Mumbai to attend The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) campus placements.
There were over 1800 CAs sitting under one roof for campus placement and I was nervous as we were all competitive young professionals.
To my surprise, I did well such that I received 2-3 offer letters from different companies and this boosted my confidence to start believing that even small-town students can compete with students from metro cities.
As mentioned earlier, family circumstances did not permit me to shift to a new city and I decided to go back home and contemplate my next move once I get there.
In Bilaspur, I started exploring various things like a share trading terminal and my own coaching class.
During this time, I met a CA friend who was keen on starting a CA Practice. So, he came to Bilaspur and together, we started our firm, Jajodia Chaurasiya & Co.
Starting our partnership CA practice in Bilaspur was not easy
Starting a CA practice is the easy bit, but running it is not easy, especially in a tier 2 city.
Though Bilaspur is a great place, it is definitely a tricky place to start a practice. There are many industrial areas here for sure, but we do not have a lot of large businesses and this limits our scope of work.
For instance, Sirgitti, the industrial area in Bilaspur has around 300-400 industries, but only a few of them have large turnovers.
When we started our CA Practice in 2006, there were already 70-80 practicing CAs in Bilaspur. The clients had been going to them already and they were getting all the assignments.
There was no GST. Instead, VAT was prevalent. Therefore, there were mostly advocates or tax practitioners regarding the practice of VAT. So, we had to look out for something new and different.
Since I was handling two other businesses on a small scale, I had insufficient time to analyse the market.
After wasting two long years, we eventually figured out that tax, audit, and income tax returns were not the right way to go about it.
As a result, my partner and I closed the pre-school as well as the share trading terminal and consequently, we got into full-time practice.
We did lose a lot of money from our business investments, but this proved to be a turning point for our CA practice and a very important lesson on the importance of focus.
After venturing into full-time practice, we had to formulate a robust growth strategy
We struggled a lot in our initiation phase as we could not get clients, so we sat there waiting and never left the office because we believed success does not come instantly, we have to be determined.
We started to look out for work from other CAs to complete their company-related tasks and assist them with audit-related work. They could not trust us that much and we expected this since they did not know much about us, how efficiently we worked, our knowledge, and our work capacity.
Gradually, opportunities started coming by.
When seniors were going to the bank audit, we tagged along to earn a little amount of money and gain vast work experience. This way, we built connections with many professionals and seniors.
It is worth mentioning that the senior CAs of Bilaspur are approachable. In this case, we were lucky to have them as seniors. Slowly, the practice settled, even though it was difficult initially.
Nowadays, after the introduction of GST, CAs are venturing into indirect tax practice, thus, creating a new scope of professional opportunity. Moreover, access to the internet broadens the scope of international opportunities.
Slowly but surely, we learned to overcome the challenges regarding funding and office space. We managed them step-by-step and hired staff. Today, we have 10-12 employees. Slow, but appreciated progress.
The prevailing challenges of our practice
Firstly, the main struggle in the practice is high employee turnover. We work with article clerks and new ones come in every year as many are leaving, so we always have to train them from scratch.
Professional staff only work for 2-4 years and then establish their own accounting offices, especially after the introduction of GST it has increased.
Secondly, we struggle to keep up with the country’s dynamics of tax laws, labor laws, or the statutory environment. There is also a lack of competent speakers here because of time constraints and us being a smaller city.
Lastly, we struggle to recover fees from clients. Some clients do not pay us for more than two years and this undermines the fact that we have home and office bills to pay.
- Because we were already CAs, we decided to be independent and not ask our families for funding even though they were well off. But my family encouraged and supported us a lot.
- In the first five years, we could not afford our office expenses. During this time, we used our own pocket money to sustain ourselves and the office.
- In the next five years, clients recognized our firm and we started getting bank audit engagements. This is when I could save money to contribute to my family.
- I only got married in 2012, six years after establishing our practice. So, there was no pressure of running a family earlier.
- While doing income tax-related work, I started presenting the cases before the authorities and began learning a lot about them. So, five years after the establishment, we reached a new level. The firm started getting more tasks, authorities started recognizing us, and we became socially active – receiving invites to professional gatherings.
2018 to date
After a decade of practice, we can proudly say that we are among the many renowned practices in Bilaspur. The thing is that we only get the hang of things as we continue to do the work.
If I were to go back, I would take the same unconventional decision
Sometimes when I sit back and think about yesteryears, I often feel that I should have taken up an opportunity in a large accounting firm or MNC.
I could have earned more money and have a better kitty of savings. However, I have no regrets as my mindset and future plans were all aligned to becoming an entrepreneur in Bilaspur.
And somewhere deep down, I am satisfied with the decision that I took for myself.
I want to suggest to all the new CAs to not jump into starting their own practice just for the sake of it! Analyze all the options at your disposal and then decide. Right now, more options are available.
Once you take the plunge, stay persistent. At first, you might think about how everything is going to work out, but it becomes easier as you start doing your work
Lastly, CAs can be from anywhere - a big or small city, but your knowledge will always be the same. So, be confident and keep moving as well as upskilling yourself, especially your communication skills.
Now It's Your Turn...
Do you have a CA Firm? What challenges are you facing?
(Interview by Ananya Chawla)