How I Did It: From an average student to Industrial Training at P&G and CA Ranker

The Finance Story

  • Hi! I am Aawesh Agarwal, a qualified Chartered Accountant from India now living and working in China. I cleared my CA exams from ICAI all in the first attempt.
  • I also did my Industrial Training at Proctor & Gamble (P&G) which opened a lot of opportunities for me. 
  • But this was not always my story. I had my own challenges in life and worked on them to reach here.
  • Here is my journey so far.

From a Very Average Student to a Chartered Accountant Ranker

In school, I was a very average student. The continuous guidance from my brother helped me create my own path and approach life in a different way.

The way I have approached life is: 1) To design goals and gradually proceed towards them through step by step efforts. 2) Backed by two principles I inherited from my family -“hard work” and “never give up”.

Emerging from an average student till Class X to scoring great marks in Class XII was a part of these step-by-step efforts. My level one goal was to get through a prestigious commerce institution Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi, away from my hometown in Kolkata.

I knew living by myself would be my first step to learn virtues and be independent which no book can teach. I toiled myself to score great marks and get through admission in SRCC.

Once I got through SRCC, I also focused on co-curricular and not just a typical school/college study curriculum. I actively participated in: Case study competitions, organizing & managing business/ cultural events, etc. This helped me inculcate analytical, leadership & managerial skills which I would have lacked in the regular CA curriculum.

At the same time, I enrolled for the CA course from ICAI and started appearing for examinations.

I appeared for CA Level -1 (CPT) and CA Level-2 (IPCC) during my college days and joined BMR Advisors, Delhi for articleship in taxation.

During my first year of articleship, I realized core taxation/auditing and working in a CA firm culture/ environment for a lifetime is not my cup of tea.  I wanted to work on the business side – more on business analysis & planning.

Industrial training was one such opportunity area where I could enter this world. During my 2nd year of articles, I started reaching out for industrial training through the company’s website, ICAI enrolled companies, etc.

I got through Proctor & Gamble (P&G) and joined industrial training with P&G, Mumbai. 

Luckily I also cleared CA Final Exams in the first attempt. I was not a qualified CA.

Getting an Opportunity to Work in Different Cities and Countries

I cleared CA in May 2016 and joined Procter & Gamble as a full-time employee.

In fact, my industrial training with P&G helped me to secure a permanent position and join them directly. I started my first role as a Plant Finance Manager, in P&G Goa. I have always been open to relocating which helps in rich diversified experience across roles, culture, people, etc.

Owing to amazing results, good knowledge in one of the business units & wide visibility to Global/ Regional Leadership, I was offered a role in Guangzhou, China in August 2018.

This is my 5th location: Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa & now Guangzhou (China).

"I was Rejected by Big 4s Even After Getting a Rank in IPCC. Here's Why."

On a simple reading, the journey looks like a smooth ride but that’s never the case. Everyone faces and will continue to face challenges in each phase. It’s how you prepare for those situations and overcome them.

I appeared for IPCC (CA Level 2) during my graduation days. I secured All-India Rank (AIR) 50 in the exams. I had Rank plus I was good with analysis & communication. This made me pretty confident to get articles into the Big 4. However, the very first application was turned down by one Big 4.

I applied to another Big 4 Accounting firm and was opted out after the first round of Group Discussion. The other two big 4 firms rejected my application after the first round itself. This was a nightmare as I was left with no articles position in hand even after securing a rank.

What went wrong! I realized what did – it was over-confident and that let me down and did not prepare well for the interviews thinking I would easily pass through.

Once I realized the mistake I made, I gave my best and prepared for the other interviews lined up. I went through all HR questions & technical stuff and prepared myself. It was then just a matter of time. This helped me bag an opportunity in BMR taxation, Delhi. 

The lesson I learned – “Practice, preparation & performance supersedes everything”

"How I Cleared CA Exams with Industrial Training?"

Three tips I followed which helped me succeed:

1.Well-organized preparation schedule:

  • How to overcome the fear of failure in CA exams is by making a proper schedule or timetable.
  • I made a clear schedule for CA Final exams preparation subject-wise & topic-wise right from Year 1 to Year 3.
  • Strictly following that schedule pulled entire pressure off my shoulder and I could finish preparation right before the exam leaves.
  • The leaves were only for revision/ mock exams/ learning amendments (if any).
  • You must have a study plan for CA Final.

2. Easy revision mode:

  • It is easier to cover 100% subjects/ topics over 3 years but the most difficult portion is to cover 100% revision during exam leave or 1 day before the exam.
  • To overcome this, I made my own notebook for all subjects over 3 years of preparation time.
  • The notebook covered key points on each topic. I just read those notebooks one day before the exam. The key points were jotted in such a manner that could help me recall the entire content.  Thereby, I could cover 100% topics revision.
  • How can you pass the CA Final exams? By making notes or maintaining a notebook of the important points which you have to revise the day before the exams.

3. Well-structured & simple writing:

  • Well, if given an opportunity what would interest you – reading a verbose jam-packed New York Times or simple well-structured pointed e-news bulletin? Obviously the latter is easy to read, understand & less time-consuming. So does any examiner prefer!
  • In any examination, the examiner does score basis the content you write vs answer guidelines he has. It is always difficult for any person to find those key points in long paragraphs or story-writing. Eventually, he/she might not read the entire content. Hence, simple writing with bulletins, highlighting key points, answering to the point helps to score better.
  • Try & build a structure for the answer you write.
  • For eg: if a question relates to a case study where you need to evaluate: always mention (a) your one-liner opinion, (b) related laws/ guidelines, (c) relate the situation to law/ guidelines & justify the conclusion.
  • Communication is taking one person from one point to another through a bridge. Your answers need to be like that bridge with well-connected pillars.

"Should students take Industrial Training & how to proceed?"

To answer this question, one needs to be clear on their aspiration and interest.

When is CA Firm the preferable option:

  • If you aspire to be specialized in core auditing/ taxation facing clients side
  • If it motivates you to be in the role of CA Firm director or partner one day in the long-run

When is industrial training a preferable option:

  • If you aspire to work beyond hardcore auditing/ taxation (such as corporate finance, management consulting, financial planning & analysis)
  • experience a more dynamic front-end business environment
  • on average you get paid higher in industry vs CA Firm

"How to apply for Industrial Training?"

To the best of my knowledge, all companies offering industrial training need to register with ICAI. The list of such companies (zone-wise) is available on ICAI website.

You can choose the companies from that list or make your own list of companies you are interested in.

You can apply through openings in the ‘career section’ on their website. Also, better to stay connected with folks on online CA platforms, LinkedIn, etc. This is how I applied for

"One cannot clear CA exams in one attempt during Industrial Training is a myth."

I always heard multiple feedbacks that students don’t get appropriate exam leaves to prepare during industrial training. But I was ready for such a situation.

I started CA Final preparation right from my first year of articles so that I can cover 100% syllabus before going on exam leaves.

The intent was not to clear CA exams as soon as possible but to perform well in Industrial training, bag PPO & clear exams appropriately to enter the world I wanted to.

In fact, even if I had to drop an attempt for Industrial Training I did not mind.

Eventually, the two principles “hard work” and “never give up” helped me achieve my goals along with clearing CA Final in the first attempt.

In Conclusion...

CA as a profession is great, it can help provide the best technical finance, audit & tax skills vs other sources. However, by virtue of the curriculum format, it is a time-consuming platform to learn key values such as analytical, leadership, communication, managerial skills.  Mostly these are on-the-job learnings in the long run.

Well, I personally believe Chartered Accountants need to be much more than technical experts.

Technical skills can be acquired with time but the key aspects are Analytical skills and clear communication.

Lack of communication skills tends to result in a misunderstanding of information with clients.

A quality finance professional is more than an accounting master, an audit expert and a law interpreter. They need to be business leaders guiding their company or clients to meet their goals.

Even though technical or hard skills will always be a priority for accountants, soft

skills should be considered important to survive and compete in the dynamic and complex

business world.

Now It's Your Turn...

Are you a CA/CPA wanting to move to China?

Or are you already in China?

I have also always been interested in teaching, sharing knowledge or my experience/ learning with others. Do comment below and let me know if you have any questions for me.

I could be reached on LinkedIn at - Aawesh Agarwal.

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