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How CA Vandana Dodhia established her own firm in the 1990s and pivoted her career with no funds

  • Meet Vandana Dodhia, a Practicing Chartered Accountant from India.
  • Hailing from a financially poor background, she was not blessed with a silver spoon.
  • From completing her studies with a scholarship to working as an accountant in several firms, Vandana beat the odds with sheer determination.  
  • As part of the CA Chronicles Series Powered by Tally, we spoke to Vandana to understand her journey building a career as a practicing CA back in the 1990s.

Money was a concern, so I decided to pursue my career in CA

I have always been a rank holder in my school and envisioned great things before my time in spite of the financial challenges. 

Coming from a financially poor background, I started working while still pursuing B.Com. This was 1987.

Around the same time, one of my friends from college approached me with an offer of working as an Accountant. I got selected for the job and I excelled as an accountant. It was here that I acquired experience in bookkeeping and taxation.

In 1990, I lost my dad and our financial conditions worsened. Those were tough days where earning money was a priority but my principal encouraged me to continue my studies and extended financial support as well.

A few years into this role, I decided to widen my horizons and explore further options as having only a B.com degree did not make sense to me.

In those years, the Internet was yet to be the next big thing in the world and I was keen to be a part of it! Since I was tech-savvy, I had even done a diploma in computer programming to understand the various coding languages.

So now I had two options to enhance my career: I could either study an advanced course in Computer Engineering or Chartered Accountancy. 

It was a very difficult choice, but I opted to do CA from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) since the fees was a reasonable amount and affordable.

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Taking an entrepreneurial leap before qualifying as a CA

Even though my CA journey started in the mid-1990’s I was working as an Accountant since 1987. 

By 1996, I had acquired a lot of experience, completed my articles, and was waiting to clear my CA Final Exams. I knew it was the right time to put my experience to use and take an entrepreneurial leap. 

While waiting for my CA degree in 1996 I decided to establish Vandana Consultancy Services.

Since I had been working predominantly in the Accountancy field for the last ten years, I started with Account Writing and soon expanded to filing tax returns.

I was also engaged in teaching Tally software to the in-house staff of other companies. I was also an internal auditor for several companies on a retainership basis.

When I think of it now this move of starting out even before qualifying as a CA made all the difference as it gave me an opportunity to market my services and be out there. 

Upgrading to a CA Firm and expanding my network

In 1998 I qualified as a Chartered Accountant and decided to take the next step forward and start my CA firm. My brother encouraged me to take the leap and by April 1998 my firm was established.

Since we were from a frugal background, we did not have adequate funds to rent an office. Today with COVID WFH is very normal however back then if you are a CA having your own office was the norm. However, I believed that an office did not matter as long as the quality of my work was up to the mark. So I had a home setup office and continued my practice. 

Luckily as I started out, my client whom I was providing bookkeeping services on Tally, contacted me and appointed me as their first auditor. This proved to be a turning point and from there was no looking back.

After getting my first client, I made up my mind that I had to prove myself within the stipulated time and I did. 

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Networking is key to grow your practice 

The only way to get noticed is by networking. So I joined a small group of Chartered Accountants where we would exchange knowledge and help each other and develop our skills. Networking made all the difference to my career and I started getting noticed.

After developing the network, I stepped out of my comfort zone and connected with other experienced CA’s.

Other CAs started referring work and slowly one step at a time I carved a name for myself.

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Challenges on the way

Yes, being a female chartered accountant, I did face roadblocks while acquiring clients as many would assume that I would get married and leave the practice. People started formulating their own predisposed opinions which were beyond my control but I kept moving ahead. 

Overall, running a CA firm whether a male or female entails a lot of hard work. Challenges are bound to come your way and setbacks are part of the journey.  

With the evolving times, laws are undergoing a constant change and so as CAs, we have to update ourselves all the time. At times, these changes also impact our clients and indirectly us.  You have to be alert and keep abreast of everything along with working hard.

There are days when I would get frustrated and tempted to quit the practice but I was lucky as I was always bestowed with a new assignment every time I felt things were not working out.

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Wrapping up…

Being proactive is key for evolving with the changing times.

Self-learning is very important. One should have the passion to learn and adapt.

Planning your day increases your productivity and increases your chances to achieve them. Time management is the ultimate key to success.

Everyone has the same 24 hours–how one utilizes that time and invests it is extremely crucial for going ahead.

Do not forget your passions as well. If you do not have passion in life, you are just a machine in this world. If you want to live your life, remember to enjoy your life to the fullest.

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