Partner at a 75-year-old accounting firm in India says the biggest challenge is finding top talent. Here’s what you need to know.
- As part of our Finance: 2022 and Beyond Series powered by Qapita - CapTable & ESOP Management Platform, we spoke to CA Vikas Kumar, a Partner at one of India’s oldest accounting firms, T.R. Chadha & Co (TRC).
- With nearly three decades of experience, Vikas is a seasoned veteran in Finance. His take on transformation is the Greek philosophy, ‘Change is the only constant in the world.’
- We bring you excerpts from our interview with Vikas.
As a 75-year-old Indian accounting firm, how does the firm manage to stay relevant in this new era of technology and startups?
Transformation is not new to T.R. Chadha & Co., a company that has been operating since 1946. We have adapted and evolved alongside the growth and development of the Indian economy.
If you want to continue to grow further and evolve, it is important not to resist change. We at TRC have been changing and evolving.
Articles are equipped with the technology; we are also adapting ourselves to the technology and doing a lot of technological upgrades so that we are in a position to execute much smarter, faster and more accurately.
In fact, we are looking at investing more in technology so we can be where we are required to be.
When it comes to the firm’s group dynamic, as compared to several years ago, we have a greater number of young article clerks and CAs who give our firm a new perspective. This has proven to be very beneficial for us because many of them are tech-savvy, which helps the firm to adapt continuously to the latest relevant technologies.
But having only a young crowd will not only help. So we have an amalgamation of senior professionals with experience of 30-40 years as well as younger professionals.
You must have seen a lot of changes in the industry since you began work nearly three decades ago. What changes do you see?
The whole world now revolves around technology, and today’s employees are tech-savvy individuals.
New-generation CAs are more technologically proficient than most seasoned CAs, in fact.
About 28 years ago when I began my professional journey, the philosophy was to work hard. Now it is more along the lines of ‘Work smart, not hard’.
To be honest, this philosophy works out pretty well. Today, these article assistants and young CAs know how to direct their focus and goals smartly.
They align their entire thought process to their goal from the very beginning of their career, which undoubtedly puts them in a far better position to achieve success. The digital era is theirs.
The greatest recent challenge was the pandemic. How tough was it for your firm?
The pandemic struck a blow in March of 2020, right when the audit season was in full swing.
Needless to say, it was vastly challenging for us.
For the first two weeks, we were straight up in a state of shock, wondering: “What just happened?” Then, we quickly realized that it was an opportunity in disguise.
First, to get over the impending fuss about the audits as quickly as possible, we strengthened our infrastructure.
With our IT team, we set up a system to prevent data leakage, making sure that everything solely flowed through the official domain and not the personal domain.
At the start of the lockdown in 2020, our firm had 600 to 1,000 employees of whom only 30% had access to laptops and a stable internet connection at home.
To facilitate the situation, we ensured they got reliable net access and developed a proper work-from-home setup so that they could perform at their best.
We built the entire ecosystem in a manner that did not compromise the confidentiality of our clients. To us, this was of prime importance.
Next, we engaged with all our clients and addressed their genuine concerns about the management of their data and data confidentiality.
We made them understand that there was nothing to worry about and showed them how we were carrying out our tasks.
Even the clients gradually realized that their lives were becoming easier. Instead of sending documents physically, now they just had to send them via the internet and wait for the auditor to respond.
So your firm moved towards a hybrid work culture?
Thanks to the pandemic we started performing various tasks virtually, from home. Something I never imagined doing in my entire working life!
As a firm, we are now comfortable operating in a hybrid work format.
A number of our clients are now comfortable with us working virtually, though there are also those who demand that we work in the traditional work-from-office manner.
Fortunately, we are in a position to operate in both environments (virtual and office) seamlessly, as we have systems and processes required for such demands.
At present, our team works from home a few days of the week (30-40%) and comes to the office for the remainder of the week.
I am not so sure if this will continue in the future because at the end of the day, conducting a review on Zoom is not as effective as when you do it face-to-face.
Your predictions for 2022. What would be some of the game changers?
To be very frank, I do not know if it will be a game-changing year. But yes, things are changing.
After Covid, there is a sudden surge in work because everything came to a standstill for some time and everyone wants to make up for that time.
There is a significant increase in the opportunity for us. We are preparing ourselves to be in a position to handle the work as and when it comes.
Considering all the investment coming to India and even India investing abroad, we need a global perspective.
With the flourishing startup ecosystem and influx of money from abroad, naturally, they will look for people who are experienced in working with not only domestic but also international taxation.
This holds true for all areas, not just taxation. For example, due diligence. If someone is coming from outside and wants to invest in India, they would be interested in what the company is. They would like to understand that before they invest in it.
Many startups coming to India want to know what is there from the Indian perspective and at the same time, they want to align to their country of origin to ensure that they are complying with all the laws and regulations.
This is a huge opportunity for every sized CA firm; be it small, midsized, or large-size firms.
Right now, the biggest challenge is finding talent. It is not easy to go and get talent in the market. We are preparing to see that we have people on the bench. When we get anything significant or major, we should be able to deliver.
Secondly, we have to keep on updating ourselves. In spite of having a legacy of 75 years and being experienced, that does not mean we are where we have to be.
Understand that and prepare yourself in advance so that you are able to do it well when the time comes for you.