From selling newspapers to becoming a company secretary: How this boy created a promising future for himself

  • Coming from a family of farmers that coped with financial struggles it was a luxury for CS Umesh Pratap Singh to even get an education. 
  • Despite the constant monetary struggle, he took a gamble to pursue the CS course while having no proper guidance.
  • And shows us how one little step can make a positive impact on the future generation. 

The hardships of growing up in a small village

‘A farmer boy who planted the seeds of his dreams’, this line pretty much sums up my entire 26-year journey consisting of hardships, learnings, perseverance, and ultimately success.

I grew up in Balkaran Purwa, a very small village located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. It goes without saying that growing up in a village came with its own set of inconveniences especially back in the ‘90s and early 2000s.

As a farmer’s son, my childhood revolved around working in sugarcane and paddy fields apart from attending school. To add to that, I had to travel ~3km by foot to school since there was no transportation system available. 

For a boy living a below-average life, I did not even learn how to dream. Our visions were limited to either agriculture or quitting school and moving to a bigger city in search of a livelihood.

Agriculture could be a decent source of income, but with our few acres of agricultural land for a family comprising of ~15 members and outdated farming equipment, this option was out of the question.  

My father was in Delhi who was working in a minimum wage construction-related job and then in 2008, my entire family moved to Delhi.  

Delhi was such a big city and I was fascinated by the tall buildings, well-dressed professionals, and the lifestyle they led. I even had better access to education here.

We lived in a small 225 square feet rental house and our financial condition did not improve as yet, but somewhere inside of me knew I could improve our way of life.

I knew education was the only way out.

Pursuing a professional qualification despite financial challenges

For a family who struggled with basic necessities, education was never a priority but money was. In spite of that my parents encouraged us to study.

After pursuing the commerce stream in 12th grade, I enrolled in Indira Gandhi National Open University for my B.Com.

Since I had made education my biggest priority, there were three professional courses namely  Chartered Accountancy, Company Secretary, and Cost and Management Accountancy that could bring about change.

With no one in my family to guide me, I came across a path of utter confusion.

Just when I was about to reconsider my choices, I read a well-written article in the newspaper about the importance and recognition of company secretaries in the corporate world. This took all my confusion away.

But the biggest challenge was convincing my parents how as a company secretary I could change their course of life. After all, I had to invest more than 3 years just studying.

At first, my father hesitated as I had expected. But when I explained how economical it is and what value add it could bring he agreed, although reluctantly.

Now that the plan was in motion the biggest question arose “how would my father arrange the fund?”.

Right then came the knight in shining armor; a Committee consisting of the locals offered to lend me the money in an informal loan agreement. Their only condition was that I use the fund strictly for coaching expenses.

I could not have been more grateful for them as their contribution took me a little further toward my objective.

Consequently, I went on to enroll myself in the CS Foundation program in 2013.

To pay for my brother’s and my education fee and build our own small home, our mother began working in a clothing factory.

I too decided to contribute to the family income and bear my own day-to-day personal expenses.

I took up a newspaper selling job in 2015 and made INR 800 per month… even with this meager amount I came to my family’s aid and it was a great joy. Later, my brother also joined me in selling newspapers door to door. 

Dealing with academic failure

Going through the CS Foundation and the Executive Programs was a breeze. I cleared both of them in the first attempt with flying colors.

I, unfortunately, let this achievement get to my head and as a consequence ended up failing 3 times in the CS final exam by just a few marks.

My father was not having it anymore. After pouring his blood, sweat, and tears into fulfilling my dreams, it was only reasonable for him to call it quits because of my failure. Better yet he was not in a position to support me anymore.

Nevertheless, I could not give up on myself. Soon my CS internship began in 2017 and I was able to manage my travel and other expenses with the stipend.

After many sleepless nights of studying and living below my means for years, I finally qualified as a Company Secretary in February 2019.

A journey filled with struggle and adventure, then again nothing great ever came that easy.

Achieving professional milestones

After qualifying as a CS, I joined a boutique firm in Delhi but craved a corporate job. 

I then got an opportunity with a bank in Bangalore as an intern.

For a fresher like me, it was overwhelming at the beginning but with time everything started to fall in place. It was not just the experience that was exceptional also it was my boss (Mr. Chanchal Kumar) who made me feel welcome in the new office and guided me throughout.

I did not hold back and gave my 100% in whatever I did.

When the IPO of the Bank took place, I remember going to the office at 9’o clock in the morning and returning home at midnight. The efforts did not go unnoticed and much to my surprise I even got the opportunity to attend the listing ceremony in the Mumbai NSE office.

In the blink of an eye, my internship period came to an end. The hard work eventually paid off and I managed to secure the position of Assistant Company Secretary in the Bank.

My long-awaited dreams were becoming a reality such as the convening of the Board Committees meeting independently, interacting with Board Members, Senior RBI Officials during Annual Financial inspection, leadership team, and founders of various startup unicorns.

Needless to say, these achievements gave me a massive confidence boost, which I needed the most.

Wrapping up…

To quote the disciple of Socrates, Plato “If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life".

It is no doubt that education is a necessity and it always has been.

Because of my patience and the inclination to pave the way for the next generation I pulled through. 

And look at me now; I am in a relatively better position to pay my family back for all the sacrifices they had made for my future.

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