How this millenial husband-wife duo of CAs left their promising Big 4 jobs and chose the highs and lows of CA practice
- Hi! I am Varun Valecha, a qualified chartered accountant (CA) and founder of V Valecha and Co.
- My wife and co-founder, Snigdha Kumar and I followed the CA path because it offered financial independence and various career opportunities
- After years of demanding deadlines and a lack of work-life balance at the Big 4, we finally developed the courage to quit and establish our own firm, V Valecha & Co in 2017.
- It has been a rollercoaster of new experiences, challenges, and emotions since we started, but we would not have it any other way.
Starting our careers at Big Accounting firms
Growing up, I was an average student until Grade 10, but I became one of the top students in Grade 11.
It was during this academic turnaround that I got to know about the CA profession.
While my wife, Snigdha was a phenomenal student, she never found CA as a befitting option for her at that point because she wanted to enjoy college without stress or worries.
Eventually, she realised that the CA course offered lifelong job security. So, we started our CA journey in 2008 & ’09, respectively.
Despite all difficulties, we both cleared all exams on the first attempt in 2014.
As we were in our early 20s when we became CAs, we had the luxury to figure out what we wanted to do in our careers, without stressing about settling down instantly.
Going for a Big 4 firm was a no-brainer because it promised us high-paying jobs and comfortable life.
Thus, I started my career at Grant Thornton while Snigdha joined KPMG.
A business that arose from a personal need
Everything was going according to plan until the truth about working in a Big accounting firm hit me.
The late nights, frequent outstation flights and crazy deadlines became a little overwhelming for me. This was not just because it was stressful, but also because I started missing out on a lot of things happening in my life.
After some self-reflection, I realised that a job that takes a toll on my mental health without work-life balance is not what I signed up for and therefore took the decision to quit.
Honestly, I left my job without any plan other than the assurance that I would join my father’s business.
My father supported my decision, but also encouraged me to start my own practice, reminding me that I had earned the CA designation through hard work and that must not go to waste.
Thankfully, my friend (who is now our partner) wanted to jump into practice at that time as well.
In 2017, I finally took the leap of faith knowing that I always have the option of joining a business in case it did not work out.
Eventually, my friend and I decided to set up our firm. Snigdha also left her job in April of 2017 and joined the firm hoping to find flexibility and excitement on this one.
Bootstrapping and starting from scratch
With the introduction of GST and demonetisation in 2017, it was probably the best year for any CA to start its own practice.
We had the advantage of being young, adaptive and tech-savvy, thereby wanting to prove ourselves.
We rented a small office in Delhi to start our journey officially with my savings. However, it was not easy.
The first and foremost challenge was approaching clients and offering our service. We had been in the profession for quite some time and we knew many big clients from our previous job. When we approached them and presented ourselves as founders of “V Valecha & Co”, it was not easy convincing them.
They had high expectations which made us question our ability to provide. The biggest challenge was to use our minimal experience to prove our worth to clients.
During my time at the Big 4, I learnt useful skills such as attention to detail and a positive attitude. Although we were providing services that were on par with the Big 4’s, our fees were meager compared to them.
The second biggest challenge was the establishment of the office. Unlike big firms, we had limited staff and office equipment. Therefore, we were in charge of all little duties.
Although the journey was full of obstacles and doubts, we believed in ourselves, built our confidence and navigated through all the hurdles.
Growing the firm and working together as a couple
Our team consists of professionals, interns, and semi-qualified staff.
Our strategy has always been a step-by-step process starting with gaining an understanding of deliverables and making our team understand them before we dive into any kind of action plan.
Snigdha and I divide work and allocate our responsibilities to achieve results efficiently while using our resources effectively.
With prior experience in consulting, Snigdha usually handles the research part. She allocates resources to tasks as strategized initially and guides them to achieve their personal learning goals with that of assignment. A motivated team member is usually more effective.
And as I am well versed with assurance and taxation, I make sure our work and deliverables meet the standards of the profession and the quality of our work is our personal best.
An imperative lesson we learnt along the way is to build lasting relationships than to focus on monetary growth.
A CA firm is as strong as the network the partners build along their way.
A promising vision, the quality of services and long-lasting relationships help with not just gaining clients, but also with sharing knowledge in our vast environment of complex business problems.
Our growth timeline
- Lasting 7-8 months with no company earnings.
- Around August, we luckily found some clients who requested basic tasks such as filing tax returns. Although the payment was meager, we were occupied.
- By November, we had landed a stable client through another partner. Finally, we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
- It had been one whole year since the firm’s inception and we garnered various experiences in our practice.
- We created a profile of our firm with testimonials about the work we had done and various experiences we have accumulated.
- We also started performing small tasks for various organisations and by doing so, we received references and eventually got ourselves a major client. This was certainly a turnaround for us.
- 2018 was essentially the year where we really discovered the kind of work we could potentially offer.
- This was a year of unstoppable grinding. We worked for at least 12 hours a day without taking a day off, thereby securing a new set of clients and experiences.
- With the firm prospering and us getting married, 2019 was unquestionably the best year that we could ask for.
- Due to nationwide lockdown and pandemic, most government departments suddenly went digital giving us an advantage of tackling many cases at a time.
- Also, the new changes introduced by the govt in form of simplified law and easing of procedures gave us opportunities of another kind.
- Today, we take all our failures as learnings and have a concrete vision of the future. Although unpredictable circumstances still exist, we have unshakeable will to continue to strive.
- Our clients keep increasing due to referrals. All because of our consistent hard work and dedication.
In the end, I just wanted to add that for everyone who is willing to make it on their own - a good network of professionals, a consistent approach to pick quality over quantity and a will to succeed in all adversities will go a long way.
Our biggest advantage is that we can start our own by owning just a laptop and start has never been this easy. However, due to competition, the only way to sustain is by building your own niche.
Change is the only constant thing in life. This statement holds true for our profession. With changing macro conditions, it is apparent that laws will change even more dynamically, so be ready to embrace it and be a lifelong learner.