From a science grad to a CA: Meet this mother of two who established a Audit & Consulting Firm in 2003 & is still going strong
- Hi! I am Rajambal Madabushi, a Chartered Accountant and partner with M.S. Rajambal& Co. Chartered Accountants.
- I have never been wooed about securing a “job” and even when I started working at a firm, my entrepreneurial instincts were so strong that I left to start my own practice.
- However, a few years into the business, I had to face the biggest challenge in my life − separation, and divorce…But I turned around in life and didn’t let it affect me.
- Here’s my story of how I established a thriving practice in Hyderabad, India as a working mother and still going strong even after 15 years.
From a science graduate to a CA
You will be surprised to know that I am a graduate in life sciences. In fact, post my graduation I knew I was done studying sciences and wanted to continue with something else but I was not sure of what to do.
Influenced by my uncle who was a Chartered Accountant, I thought of giving CA a try!
Being a science graduate, everyone around me told me not to take it seriously since most people don’t pass CA that easily! Moreover, me being from B.Sc didn’t even stand a serious chance.
I always believe in paving my own path so irrespective of the naysayers, I enrolled for the CA course from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).
For the first year, I articled with my Uncle; for the rest of the two years, I articled with Mr. Narendar since my uncle had expired prematurely and suddenly.
Inspite of all the challenges, at that time, CA was the only thing on my mind. I worked hard and eventually qualified as a CA in 2002.
When I think of it now CA happened to me more than I planned to pursue it. But I found my passion here.
Chose to be a practicing CA
I never really thought about what I wanted to do next but when I qualified as a CA realization struck that I was not prepared to get into a “job”.
During the 3 years of my articleship, I helped various businesses and wanted to continue to do so. So, after I qualified as a CA, instead of joining large MNCs or Big 4 firms I continued working at a well-known CA Firm in Hyderabad, India.
Over a period of time, I knew I needed my own firm and that is all I had in mind. Hence, when the time came, my decision was clear: I would set up my own practice.
However, before I could jump into my own business, I had to learn a few more things from the firm I was working at.
I informed my boss regarding my interest in starting my own practice, he offered me a revised salary to continue working at the firm. He also advised me to apply for a Certificate of Practice and we both mutually agreed that I would use his office space for 12 months.
Soon after 12 months of work, I left that firm and finally started my own office.
Starting my own CA Firm…one step at a time
Fast forward, a year later, in 2004, I decided to start my own firm. So I left the firm and took an entrepreneurial leap. It all started at a snail’s pace. I had to really work hard to make people aware of the kind of work I can do for my clients. (Even today, I think that I have a long way to go.!) Once that was established, it became easier eventually.
I had gathered a few small clients by then, rented a small place, and bought a used Desktop and a Dot Matrix printer to start the business.
For a while, I was the only one running the whole firm but then I realized that I need to hire help. So, I hired one lady who was a fresher. I had to train her in everything but it was all worth it as she continued working with me for almost 5 years.
When you start out, acquiring clients is not an easy feat so I also ventured into teaching in the mornings and evenings as it would keep the bank account ticking. It actually helped in a larger way than I thought. The parents of my students eventually became my clients and one after another, the clientele kept growing up.
Once our clientele started growing, I consciously decided to have only women partners for my firm. Although I can’t pinpoint the exact reason for my decision, it all felt natural and secured in a way.
All in all, everything turned out for the best.
Balancing Motherhood and the growing business simultaneously
When we start a business, we need to have a plan. In the first few years of my career, when things were a bit slow, I planned for motherhood.
Kids and work both grew together. The thing is, kids will need attention irrespective of age. So, I developed a mechanism where a part was outsourced and a part of it was brought into my workspace.
My own office gave me that flexibility as I had an extra room where kids were entertained. I also outsourced their homework part to someone I trusted at my office location. So monitoring was made easier.
On the business front, I started with few clients and then shifted to Bank audits and other areas. Once it was stable, we went on exploring newer areas.
Even today I keep thinking about new services which can be offered to clients, and new qualifications and certifications that need to be obtained for the same. We are in a continuous mode of planning and preparing for the future.
Facing challenges as a working mother
My life had always put me through challenges but I never gave up. The important question that we have to answer in our life is, What do we want?
I realized that I wanted a little bit of everything − Money, Fame, Goodness, and lots of things. So then I made a plan to achieve what I wanted.
The biggest challenge for me was when I went through separation and divorce. But I was too strong to be broken down and always turned to tougher battles so that my problems would seem minuscule to me.
The next biggest challenge occurred in our growth phase − charging clients a premium fee for value-added services. We were doing additional work as reporting had gone up. The business environment had changed, but convincing the clients to pay extra was difficult.
We even had to let go of a few clients since they didn’t want to pay up more than what they were paying previously. But at the same time, we also found new clients who believed in our quality of work. However, the decision to bring up the value of service at that price was the toughest one we had to do.
Timeline of our Firm’s journey: 2004 to date
2004 - 2007
- These were the early years. Most of the work came from other senior CA’s on an assignment basis which saved our pockets from becoming empty and kept us occupied. Lots of Value in terms of learning as well.
2008 - 2012
- This phase was the toughest in terms of hiring as we struggled a lot in terms of training and retaining the trained staff.
- Work started coming in by referral from clients. The execution was difficult at this time. Most days, we had to put in extra hours.
2012 - 2015
- This was the stage where things were in total chaos. My greatest learning in this stage was to stay calm and find answers to the issues.
- Soon partners started coming in and we started providing new value-added services and more people joined as consultants.
2016 - 2018
- After 10 years in standing nothing surprises us. This period was a new learning phase in terms of getting back to books since a lot of enactments had changed including the work front.
2018, 2020, 2021
- A whole new chapter started in our life. When the pandemic started, every business suffered including ours. So, we had to downsize very fast and make quick cuts in the cost. We are still are waiting to bounce back, which we would do very soon.
My message to people wanting to start their own practice would be to start at the earliest. According to me - Next time means Never.
Chartered Accountants’ job is a very specified one. Since a lot of us just think and don’t do anything about it, people from other professions are overlapping with our area of operations.
Although we are trained people, we have to undergo Continuous Professional Education to upgrade our skills so that we can keep putting forth the best.
To all women out there - I think that being a woman helped me a lot rather than putting me down. People trust women with responsibilities and they believe that we deliver better than men. So, do not underestimate yourself and take the entrepreneurial route.
M.S.Rajambal & Co. Chartered Accountants is a firm of qualified Chartered Accountants established in 2003 and have grown to three partners over the years. They also have a Foundation in the name and style of Rajambal Foundation, which thrives for the upliftment of MSME and Students.
Now It's your turn....
Do you want to start your own firm? Let us know in the comments.