CA Akshay Kenkre is the Founder of TransPrice Tax Advisors, a Mumbai-based firm focused on transfer pricing and cross-border transactions.
From entering a nascent space in 2013 to building a client base from scratch, they had a humble beginning.
Within 10 years, they expanded to Dubai, UAE, now serving renowned MNCs and several Unicorns.
He shares what opportunities he spotted in the transfer pricing space in the UAE and how he planned TransPrice’s expansion.
Akshay, can you briefly introduce TransPrice and explain how you ventured into the Transfer Pricing field?
In 2011, I noticed that apart from the Big 4 there weren’t many specialized firms offering Transfer Pricing and International Tax focussed services, at least in India.
I always wanted to build an outbound firm.
My vision came to life in 2013 with the establishment of TransPrice Tax Advisors, a firm focused on Transfer Pricing and International Taxation.
By 2022, we had carved out a strong position in the Indian market. TransPrice India became a team of 25 professionals with offices in Mumbai, and Pune.
You recently expanded into the UAE. What opportunities did you observe?
In May 2023, we successfully established our Dubai office with a team of 12 and 2 Partners.
Here is why we decided to expand our operations to the UAE.
On 31st January 2022, Corporate Tax was introduced in the UAE for the first time. In a tax professional’s life; very rarely do you witness the birth of a new tax law.
When we consider the UAE, and specifically Dubai, clients were actively seeking a certain level of expertise and knowledge from India.
Looking to capitalize on our Indian experience and contribute to more clients, we saw immense potential.
Cater to the UAE market:
Our expansion isn’t driven by a desire for expansion for its own sake.
In India too we work closely with numerous Chartered Accountants on aspects like benchmarking and advisory services, extending our support to their clients.
We collaborate with the Chartered Accountants in Dubai, providing support in benchmarking and advisory services for their clients.
This commitment to adding value has always been the guiding principle of TransPrice Tax.
There are over 100 or 200 Practising Chartered Accountants in the UAE. Our goal is to assist them in the realm of transfer pricing or vice versa or help them with cross-border transactions.
Competitiveness is prevalent everywhere, even in India. But instead of competing, we chose to collaborate in the UAE market.
Expand our global footprint:
We always aimed to become a leading transfer pricing and international tax firm on a global scale; UAE is a step in that direction.
Over the last 11 years, we have maintained a partnership with Quantera Global, a Dutch firm with a vast global network, spanning over 50 jurisdictions. Through this partnership, we have established offices in various locations in India.
Our focus is on mastering the areas where we excel – Transfer pricing, international tax, and now Corporate Tax in the UAE. We don’t seek to compete in fields like accounting or VAT.
It has been a good run so far.
What factors/risks did you foresee when expanding into the new territory?
It’s not just about considering the risks; it’s about managing the risk.
If you’ve already considered what could go wrong in a particular market, you’ve likely established mechanisms to counter it.
We identified two main risks;
Risk of the unknown
We were concerned the new team in the UAE may be too localized and that we wouldn’t understand their language.
Or we wouldn’t be able to trust them so easily due to a lack of past working relationships.
To counter this risk, our approach was to have individuals on the ground who possess technical competence and a deep understanding of the UAE market.
In terms of experience, we only needed to share specific transfer pricing experiences to ultimately serve our clients.
This was the first step in mitigating the risk, particularly the risk associated with the unknown.
I believe that the risk associated with the market is not a significant concern for us.
Not to sound overconfident, but we have been testing the waters for the last six to seven months, and I believe there is a substantial demand for quality advice in this particular field.
While corporations may not necessarily require advice on VAT or simple accounting matters, they are increasingly seeking guidance on complex issues like IFRS, which have significant taxation implications.
Could you walk us through the process of building your team in the UAE?
Expanding the team in the UAE was a challenge but we navigated the process, eventually.
We had a few ground rules for this operation.
- When building a team, knowledge isn’t the only factor; it’s about attitude, shared vision, and matching culture. If you prioritize these aspects, your team will stay with you for the long term.
- Assembling a team in a new location, such as the UAE, requires an exchange of knowledge. We opted to bring in individuals with strong technical capabilities who were well-acquainted with the UAE market. We only needed to share our transfer pricing expertise to help them gain experience in building client relationships.
- Fortunately, I was acquainted with our UAE Partners for a long time. We never imagined that we’d become partners. But when the time was right, our visions aligned and we joined hands.
It has been nearly a year now, and things are going fantastically well.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to expand their practice in the UAE?
First of all, you need a vision, and secondly, you need a team that aligns with your vision and shares the same values.
I would suggest that anyone looking to expand to the UAE consider two approaches. You can either take your Indian team members to the UAE and then train them about the UAE’s culture and start building relationships.
Alternatively, you can find individuals who are already well-versed in the UAE landscape. This is ideal but can be expensive!
The UAE has its unique characteristics, and they appreciate working with local firms more. So try to blend in and operate as a UAE-originated firm rather than a firm that has additional offices in the UAE.
What do you think about expanding to the UAE? Would love to know your thoughts.