10 Chartered Accountants share how they built their CA Practice. Courage and persistence being two key drivers.

Indian Chartered Accountants starting CA Firm Practice

One of the most difficult questions we come across as Chartered Accountants (CA) is, “Should I join the corporate world, a Big 4 firm, or start my own CA practice?”

The first and second seem more secure, because of an attractive salary package.

While the third option is relatively risky, requires persistence, and has a lower probability of success.

But are you one of those people who is brimming with confidence and hungry to create something of your own?

We have listed 10 chartered accountants that have built their CA practice from scratch. They show us how persistence and hard work are key if you want to realize your entrepreneurial dream. 

Haribhakti & Co, from a 20 to 1000-member team

CA Shailesh Haribhakti can be best described as a go-getter, ambitious, driven, and most of all forward-thinking. 

"While still in college, at the age of 18, I started my articles at my dad’s firm. (Along with CA, I also pursued cost accountancy.)

My CA journey was not easy, but I gave it my best at every step. I also got married to my lovely wife Amita in 1977 while pursuing my career - Yes, I was only 21!

In 1978, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant. Fast forward, I joined my Dad's firm. The team size of the firm must have been below 20 and a small turnover, about INR 5 lakhs per annum (approx USD 10K). 

My dad was a ‘hands-off’ inspirer and always led by example.

In the first five years of practice, we set out to diversify into a full-service firm through aggressive hiring. We provided an array of new services and reached our first significant milestone in terms of the revenue size of our practice INR 1 crore per annum (approx USD 136K).

Our clients grew significantly, and our team went from 50 to 150.

Scaling the firm was not easy and we faced several challenges.

For instance, we lost a major client and the large overheads made it very tough. Rather than moping around, we decided to adopt the policy of non-dependence on a single client beyond 5%."

You can read his entire journey here.

From a small shared space to a 250+ member firm

Madhukar N Hiregange is a Chartered Accountant and Entrepreneur from India. After several challenges, he qualified as a CA in 1988 and soon started his own firm specializing in “Central Excise”.

He says,

"I decided that I would not ask my friends and relatives for work! So the entire process of starting my firm and running it was not easy. 

I also decided early on that I would always be “honest” in every dealing. However, I went in for a rude shock when none of my Central Excise registrations (for my clients’ premises) were getting done in spite of repeated follow-ups as they wanted a bribe! (This was in the early 1990s, times were different!)

I was losing clients and started to have doubts if I would be able to take care of the family in time to come. 

Against all odds, we built a good practice with a team of almost 250+ plus members.

To all reading this: Be Patient. It takes 3 years to build sustainability and a decent name. Read every day for 1 hour. Every Saturday is an academic day, no clients work other than in the peak periods. Start and continue with service in mind, money follows automatically. Stick to ethical practice – it may take time but then you have pride in the profession."

From no clients for a year to tapping on Digital First clients

Coming from a Hindi medium school Mukesh Goel thought that the Big 4 was beyond his reach (only to realize later that it is not true). But he was always filled with the confidence to start his practice, ever since he qualified as a Chartered Accountant (CA). 

He says, 

“Initially, my friend joined me as a partner and we started a full-fledged practice in a 12x10 sq. ft rented office.

It wasn't easy starting on my own, and that too as a fresher. We had no team members for almost a year.

I didn’t get any clients for months. At times I used to eat only once a day to save money. 

To make the situation worse my Partner left the practice. 

Luckily, one day Dinesh Agarwal, founder of Indiamart.com walked in and requested me to take care of the taxation and accounts of his newly set up startup.

Because of Indiamart I realized the power of the internet and being online.

I got to establish my firm’s online presence which brought me lots of new clients from around the world."

Quit Big 4 to establish a CA firm...and many challenges

Varun Valecha and his wife Snigdha Kumar wanted to join the Big 4 to gain financial independence and comfortable life. But after seeing the demanding deadlines and a lack of work-life balance, they started having second thoughts.

The late nights, frequent outstation flights and crazy deadlines became a little overwhelming for me. 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.

Completely clueless about what to do next, on my dad’s advice we started our CA firm, V Valecha & Co in 2017. 

I have to be honest, my father’s business was a backup plan in case things did not work out!

The first and foremost challenge was approaching clients and offering our service. It was not easy convincing them, let me tell you. 

The second biggest challenge was the establishment of the office. We had limited staff and office equipment. Therefore, we were in charge of all little duties.

Although the journey was full of obstacles we navigated through all the hurdles.”

After three failed startups this millennial CA started his own CA firm

With an entrepreneurial spirit, CA Anuj Daftery quit the Big 4 to begin his startup journey. Unfortunately, it did not work out. However, starting a practice was his destiny.

He says,

“My journey as a Practising Chartered Accountant started with a single chair (not even a desk) provided rent-free by my father in his small transport office. And of course, I was the only employee!

Despite the knowledge developed during my articleship in the fields of M&A, ESOPS, FEMA, International Tax, Fundraising, and other boutique areas, I struggled to get assignments.

As work picked up, I rented our first small office, got our first employee, our first article, and kept growing our clientele base.

In 2017, after three years of running the CA Practice as a Sole proprietorship firm, I persuaded and cajoled Sneha Daftery, my wife to join the Firm as a Partner. 

By the 4th year, all the hard work started paying off. Yes, it takes time.”

Starting my CA practice.. when I was pregnant

Poonam Pathak didn’t come from a financially sound background. Growing up in a small city, many told her that she was only fit to be a wife and mom.

Did that stop her?

Poonam explains,

I launched my CA Firm, Poonam Pathak & Associates when I was 3 months pregnant. I was new to Mumbai and didn’t have many connections, so it was challenging to get clients.

Initially, I got to work on an assignment basis from relatives and friends, and gradually started getting independent tasks. I soon realized how important it is to network and so I started to attend various seminars and joined various groups on social media.

I had analytical knowledge, but meeting people was not easy.

They asked how I will work while pregnant. I lost one client because I couldn’t travel so frequently to their place.

My lack of communication skills and management skills also stretched my 10-day assignment to one month. 

All these mistakes and challenges made me stronger and wiser.” 

Focussing on a niche Indirect Taxation practice paid off

CA Atul Gupta went from having no money to buy books to becoming the President of ICAI. He is a Partner at APRA & Associates.

He shares,

“I never thought of joining the Big 4 or any other company, as my elder brother had his own CA practice. 

In fact, I had been assisting him in his firm for almost 8 years prior to becoming a CA. 

I did look at becoming an IAS officer, but could not clear the interviews. 

It did not bother me as I realised that I was drawn to Indirect Taxation. I decided to join my brother and focused exclusively on Service Tax (Indirect Taxation). It was quite a bold move because back then (from 1999 to 2001), it was a small subject.

We had a small office with big dreams.

Today we have a very fulfilling practice in the area of indirect taxation and it is directly linked to how the Indian economy has grown.” 

From gaining corporate work experience to starting my own CA Firm 

Hitendra Ranka, decided early on that he wanted to have his own CA Practice. However, just starting out as a CA fresher wouldn’t make sense so he decided to build his skills by working at MNCs or Big-4 Firms first.

He says,

“After 4 years in the corporate world, I knew it was time to make the move and start my own practice.

The thought of starting from zero with no recurring money added to the difficulty...but I knew it was now or never.

So in 2017, I started my CA Practice in partnership with my brother who is an ex-EY in Risk consulting practice. 

From day one, the objective was to develop a specialized practice in Accounting Advisory Services

Fetching and pitching for clients for specialized work where Big-4 dominates, was in itself a big challenge.

Even though the gestation period was  full of challenges, our hard work paid off and the CAGR YoY turned out to be impressive.”

From 0 to 500 clients in 3 years: Building a CA Firm in her 20s

After a short corporate stint, CA Nikitha Agarwal took the entrepreneurial route. She went on to establish her firm, Nikitha & Associates in 2016. But starting out at the age of 24, without any prior practice background, was not going to be hassle-free.   

“While still working, I focused on my line of specialization, chalked out a plan to launch my own firm, and started expanding my network.

With this vision, Nikitha & Associates was founded on 14th February 2016 as a proprietary concern.

When I just started out, I had a handful of prospects and decided to hire 3 associates to help me out.

I used my savings to run the firm for the first few months and even rented office space in the prime location of Kukatpally, Hyderabad.

I started my journey without any strong network of clients. 

The biggest challenge for me was to establish long-term trustful working relationships with the clients.

Many of them were reluctant to engage with us as they had preconceived notions that being women, we would get married soon and their work would suffer in the process.

In a short span of 5 years, we acquired a clientele base of 500+ in different industry domains.”

CA quit a cushy job, faced failures then became a GST Expert

Qualified Chartered Accountant, Ranjan Mehta, started his career with a well-paid job in the public sector. Soon the entrepreneurial bug bit him and the rest is history!

After a few years at the company (IOL), I felt like I wanted to be an entrepreneur.

I started a business trading Biocoal Briquettes with my friends while still working.

I quit my corporate job in August 2014.

Since my Biocoal business was not generating enough revenue I returned to my hometown (Jaipur) and was given an opportunity to join a reputed CA firm C. R. Mehta & Co. as a Partner.

My earnings were now downsized from Rs.1 Lakhs per month (approx $1500) at IOCL to just Rs. 20000 per month (approx $300).

I too knew it was time to go big or go home!

In early 2017, with the blessings of CA. N K Shrimal, I started my firm, Ranjan Mehta & Associates, with just 2 corporate clients. 

The start was not easy…. But I stayed patient. Shortly clients started coming and I have to say, starting my own firm was the best decision I had ever made!”

Closing…

In 2017 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked CAs to partake in the growth of the Indian economy…encouraging them to have India's very own Big 4 firm.

With India poised to become a USD 10 trillion economy, now is one of the best times to roll up your sleeves and make your dreams come true.

Are you thinking about starting your practice too?  

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you'd like to share?
Contact chantelle@thefinancestory.com in the first instance.

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