How this CA & co-founder of a Consulting firm leveraged tech, building TAGIS Analytics to help CEOs take data-driven decisions
- Hi! I am Ashutosh Zawar, a chartered accountant and entrepreneur from India.
- Alongside other CA co-founders, in 2010, I quit my cushy investment banking job and launched the Academy of Financial Training, and eventually pivoted to Ruby Consulting providing Financial Analysis, Modelling support & investment banking (fund-raising).
- In 2015 we were witnessing an era of Indian tech platforms taking shape and so we decided to leverage technology to assist CEOs to make data-driven decisions in various industries. This gave birth to TAGIS Analytics.
- It was not an easy journey but we have come a long way since then and have grown to over 50 team members across various business units.
Backstory – exploring the corporate sector
I belong to a family of CAs and my father has co-founded and leads one of the largest CA firms in Nashik.
Early in life, I realized the wide scope the CA course offered and so CA was pretty much an obvious career choice for me. However, I was a bit unconventional and wanted to go beyond the typical mandate of an auditor/tax planner.
Fast forward, I qualified as a CA in 2005, and now came the big question was, “What next?”
Among many intriguing activities, I used to read about the economy, analyze annual reports, track results, and assess the organic/inorganic growth of businesses. For this reason, I wanted to work in the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) advisory domain.
Fortunately, I got an offer from Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division, where I started with about 10 other CAs from all over India.
We spread our wings and soared like eagles and after a few years, each of us moved to more focused, front-end investment banking and equity research roles.
In April of 2007, I moved to IDFC Ltd, a leading infrastructure financing company at that time.
Business ideas and an entrepreneurship leap
In 2010, after 5 years of exploring the corporate world, I discovered that, in spite of the 2008 depression, many start-ups were recovering from the crisis.
I always wanted to do something of my own and the timing seemed perfect. By early 2010, after making good earning and learning great lessons, I took the leap of faith – entrepreneurship!
Over a snack table, my CA friends Mithil Pawar, Chetan Mantri, and I leaving our cushy jobs behind, co-founded Academy of Financial Training - a job-training start-up, focused on accounting and banking training in Kalyan, a suburb in Mumbai.
Over a period of time, we also launched training courses for aspiring analysts looking for roles in the investment banking and equity research industry. We also took up corporate training and worked with some of the top multinational companies.
Simultaneously, to survive the entrepreneurial world, we had picked up projects in Financial Analysis, Modelling support & investment banking (fund-raising). We named the firm Ruby Capital.
For the initial 4-5 years, we were successfully juggling both businesses i.e. training and consulting. However, training was a personalized and individual-driven activity. On the other hand, consulting demanded more time and seemed to be more scalable. So, we decided to only focus on analytics and consulting going forward. We also rebranded Ruby Capital as Ruby Consulting.
Since fully focusing on Ruby Consulting, we have grown to over 50 team members across various business units.
Pivoting our business model and launching TAGIS Analytics
Between 2010 and 2015, I was witnessing an era of Indian tech platforms taking shape again.
Homegrown technology ventures were thriving. As a banker, I was advising and guiding various tech start-ups to shape pitches to potential investors, and also understanding the huge transformation and scale-up potential technology offers for any business.
We were mulling a product/solution idea that was within our domain of expertise but more scalable compared to consulting.
In 2015, I participated in KumbhaThon, an innovation event where over 20 start-ups work for a year to present various proofs of concept (PoCs) / prototype level ideas aimed at providing various tech solutions for Kumbh Mela. It was at this event, where I was introduced to the current buzzwords such as the Internet of Things (IoT), data science, big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
As a part of consulting, we had been providing standard monthly MIS Excel reporting for our clients. Every month, this reporting was growing deeper and wider. We were facing bottlenecks like time consumed for manually updating the files, difficulties of exchanging large file sizes, lack of visual reporting, etc.
Here, I knew I had to pivot in our own business and decided to leverage technology for providing decision support to clients.
We conceptualized Ruby’s TAGIS Business Analytics as a deep and robust platform that would offer management reporting and reporting analytics solutions across various industries.
Journey building TAGIS Business Analytics
While enterprises have always had MIS reports, they have been prepared by multiple departments in silos. While this approach provides function-level reporting, it doesn’t help the decision-maker at the helm.
Further, the Accounting MIS (In the form of P&L) is just one of the aspects. What has been conspicuously missing is a holistic approach for analyzing and harnessing data for the entire enterprise, particularly the Small & Medium Businesses.
With our strength in Excel, we manually developed the wireframe of the entire solution using available tools like spreadsheets, just more efficiently. Our approach is to define, run and refine the processes manually first and then, one by one, automate the critical pieces with technology.
Having worked heavily as a consultant in the startups' incubation and funding ecosystem has certainly helped us in creating a comprehensive and robust offering. We leveraged this strong network for the onboarding experienced team and technology partners.
It took us about 1.5 years to roll out our first standard TAGIS Accounting & Finance dashboard.
Over years, our humble MIS offering has evolved to live, online, analytical dashboards and some of the clients where we had helped raise funds or led the strategic advice became our first clients for the PoC/beta versions. Our key USP has been a deeper understanding of the business coupled with technology & tools to build, develop the analytical data models.
Challenges faced when building the dashboard
Our challenges ranged from lack of experience with technology to a lack of awareness of data analytics in entrepreneurs and client management teams.
To build the platform, we needed a variety of skills across business and financial analysis, process mapping, and technology. We recruited and trained CA interns, IT graduates completing MBA, and Econometrics & Data Science graduates. The strategy has worked extremely well for us.
Similarly, we created multiple POCs and prototype reports for our existing clients across sectors to understand the CEO’s psyche and challenges in data-driven decision-making in our platform.
Having been an entrepreneur now for over a decade, I do see these challenges as a regular part of the journey!
As an avid marathon runner, I keep reminding myself that this is just one of those uphill climbs…And there would soon be a full-paced breezy run, rolling down the hill and breezing us through to the next target.
TAGIS Business Analytics is here for a long marathon.
Who we serve
Any business that understands the pivotal role data analytics can play in growing organically.
The business may have a dynamic revenue model and operating (non-financial) data points important for decisions. It can be a multi-location operation.
Any business enterprise with revenues of Rs.10 – 1,000 crores. The business may be using function-specific software, ERP, or spreadsheets for tracking non-accounting data (e.g., Operations, HR, Timesheets, Marketing, etc.)
We have a very sticky customer relationship, and always witnessed a strong referral and word of mouth from our existing clients.
Over 80% of our new clients come from references provided by the existing clientele. Additionally, we use our website, and professional networks like LinkedIn to reach out to potential clients.
It has been very famously said by Peter Sondergaard, “Data / Information is the oil of the 21st Century and Analytics as the Combustion Engine!”
With on-cloud, SaaS solutions, even small & medium businesses now create huge datasets that go unanalyzed, unharnessed. The traditional businesses, family-run businesses, and SMBs are just waking up to this huge potential of data!
Our vision is to finally create a genie-like “Siri” or “Alexa” for the top decision-makers at a mid-sized company! So that the entire data necessary for decision-making is complete with quick drill-downs, reason analysis is available to them just with a command!
Now it's Your Turn...
Do you think CAs should pivot and use technology to solve various business-related problems? Comment below and let us know.