This CA quit a cushy job, faced failures, became a GST Expert and now runs a successful CA Practice with large corporates as clients
- Hi, I am Ranjan Mehta, a Chartered Accountant, an entrepreneur and a GST Expert based in India.
- I started my career with a well-paid job in the public sector and was doing really well in the corporate world. But then the entrepreneurial bug bit me and I quit my job to start a business with my friends!
- When that did not bring me the success I thought it would, I worked in a few audit firms in my hometown Jaipur (India) as a Partner before starting my own.
- It was a tough time for me...but with hard work and passion, I was able to succeed.
- Here is my story of how I ventured through different career options and finally ended up making it big in my GST practice.
The decision to do CA after Failing IIT Entrance exams
Growing up, I was a topper in class. I had always dreamt of getting into one of the IITs (a prestigious group of engineering schools in India) and becoming a Scientist.
Like most students in India, even before my grade 10 results, I started my preparation for the entrance exams. I attended coaching classes and worked hard. However, the high expectations of everyone made me stressed. I succumbed to the pressure and failed miserably!
This failure created self-doubt. I decided to leave the science stream altogether and continue my studies in the commerce stream.
What next now?
Once I chose to pursue the Commerce stream, I was goaded by everyone to do the CA course. What tipped the scales was the fact that I heard that CA was one of the most challenging courses and I love challenges! It was yet another opportunity for me to prove that I was brilliant.
As a matter of fact, my mother always wanted me to be a Chartered Accountant.
I have to mention something here that I had studied in a Hindi medium school and barely knew to speak English! So, I made the bold decision to study CA in the English medium.
Yes, so now I had two challenges to overcome – clearing the CA exams, that too in a language not so familiar to me!
Everything said and done, my CA journey was smooth enough. I gave it my best and qualified as a Chartered Accountant at the age of 21.
Going the corporate route
Once I became a Chartered Accountant, all I dreamt of was to earn big money. I wanted to get a job with a handsome pay package and be a successful corporate leader someday.
Luckily, I got recruited in Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (Indian government-owned oil and gas company headquartered in New Delhi)....a dream job for many. I was soon posted at IOCL’s flagship Paradip Refinery Project, Odisha.
I was earlier assigned a payment processing profile. However, I managed to persuade my boss to give me a challenging profile and was eventually assigned to the Main Accounts profile (of course, I did have assistance!).
Here my team was responsible for major accounting tasks including preparing the balance sheet and getting the statutory and internal audits done for the mighty Rs. 30,000 Crore grassroots refinery project! It was a tough task but slowly and gradually I excelled at it and eventually single-handled doing all the tasks that were required of the profile.
It was a journey to remember with great lessons and learnings.
What next now?
Getting bit by the entrepreneurial bug
After a few years at the company (IOL), I felt that I was not doing anything that was challenging enough. I felt that my tasks were repetitive.
I knew I was meant for something big, something in which I can excel. I wanted to be an entrepreneur!
I decided to make my dream a reality and started a business of trading Biocoal Briquettes with my friends Saurabh Gupta, Neeraj Jhanwar while still working.
Quitting my corporate job to become a Partner at a CA Firm
After a short while, I decided to quit my job and return to my hometown i.e. Jaipur (Rajasthan).
Needless to say, this decision of mine was vetoed by my mother and my wife (I was married by then)...they were not happy about me leaving a secure cushy job with the Government.
I did find my father supportive of my decision and quit my corporate job in August 2014.
Since my Biocoal business was not generating enough revenue and I needed to support the expenses, 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) at a CA firm in Jaipur! (Since the 3 years of employment in the corporate world doesn’t count much when it comes to CA practice, I started as a fresher!).
Needless to say, it was the most challenging phase of my life.
I continued with my biocoal business and we decided to vertically integrate into the manufacturing sector...together, we built up the manufacturing facility with an investment of approx. One Crore!
I had invested every bit of my savings. This was a big risk for me.
Fast forward, after almost 2 years, I joined a leading local firm Jain Shrimal & Co. to work as a Partner in their Taxation department. The only reason to join this firm was that I had to handle only taxation, my favorite subject. I was handling both Direct and Indirect taxes.
What about my biocoal business? That manufacturing entity was continued by my friends and later they paid me back my capital. In the sense that I lost interest but not money!
Building my reputation as a GST & Taxation expert
The day I joined Jain Shrimal & Co., the First Model GST Law was released by the Government of India.
GST was a new law...I wanted to grab this opportunity and become an expert in GST law!
I read the law, appeared for the faculty identification program for GST conducted the ICAI and thereafter started taking sessions of GST at various levels, at various forums.
I was not earning big but I slowly started gaining a reputation for my expertise in GST!
Finally, starting my own CA firm Ranjan Mehta & Associates
When things were going well in terms of speaking at seminars, I was given a reality check by my father in March 2017.
He came to me and said “Ranjan, it has been almost 3 years since you are back in Jaipur and I am not seeing you grow! You are now a father. Either you start your own firm or else quit the practice and take up some MNC job. The current situation is not working for you.”
Another challenge posed! I too knew it was time to either go big or home!
In early 2017, with the blessings of CA. N K Shrimal, I started my own firm, Ranjan Mehta & Associates, with just 2 corporate clients.
The start was not easy…. in fact, there was a time when one of my friends visited my office and asked me about my earnings! My response made him say that he felt sorry about me and he told me to rethink my decision.
Though I felt a little low, I knew that I was not cut out to be in employment. I stayed patient and I am so glad I did. Shortly clients started coming in and I have to say, starting my own firm was the best decision I had ever made!
Growing the business: The complete timeline
2017: The year of inception and initial roadblocks
- It was a bit of struggle and achievement.
- I conducted more than 100 seminars on GST in 2017. It was majorly in front of Chartered Accountants...this really helped me get noticed.
- Opportunities started pouring. I started getting good work. I received tremendous support from other Chartered Accountants…many went out of their way to support me!
- Clients were adding up but I was working alone. I did all the work, starting from registration to the filing of returns to refunds processing to department handling by myself.
- Hiring new team members was a luxury for me as I had to manage office expenses and self-expenses. So, I continued with patience and passion.
- Most of the Retainership clientele were gained this year.
- Just in the month of January 2018 alone, my revenues quadrupled.
- I started getting references from clients and by the end of the year, I was handling almost 30% of a particular sector in the state of Rajasthan. The association of that sector made me their consultant. So, the year brought forth a lot of achievements.
- I also hired new employees. Team strength grew from one man to 7 personnel in a single year.
- We were on a growth spree and we set new targets for the year 2019 to attract more corporate clients
2019: Consultant for big corporates and working on efficiency
- This year I focused on serving big corporate clients. 2019 was the year of GST Audits and we had 12 big corporates in our kitty of audits.
- I soon decided that I wouldn’t handle the compliance work myself instead would allocate the task to my team while supervising the entire process...helping me to add more strategic value to my clients. I implemented this by Feb – March. This made me very efficient.
- Simultaneously, I focused completely on litigation work and charted a new growth path for my firm.
- I also hired a few members for the litigation team and worked in that area....the team strength grew further.
- We launched our Newsletter “Do You Know GST?”, which had a very good response.
2020: More opportunities
- A large Indian conglomerate approached us to do the complete Process Audit of their entire group. This was one of the flagship assignments which we were pitching for some time.
- In February, we started our new office. However, after the lockdown started, we are completely focusing on team learning and building the strength of the team in terms of technical knowledge of GST Law.
All of the above took several years, lots of patience and lots of persistence. If I can do it so can you.
Questions I get asked most often.
“Starting your own CA Firm and getting clients."
When you decide to start your own CA practice, the biggest challenge you face is “From where will I get clients?” I faced the same challenge!
I was becoming a known face in the field of GST in Rajasthan slowly and gradually…but it was still not getting me enough work!
I reached out to my professional colleagues for support and luckily, one of my seniors, CA Gautam Sharma took me to pitch to some of his clients for GST implementations! It worked. We got some clients.
Another friend of mine helped me. His father CA B.C. Jain sir took me to his prestigious retail sector client. I started getting work through references from colleagues, seniors, and friends.
When I started in 2017, almost 100% of my clientele were from referrals of other Chartered Accountants. It is often said that CAs do not help one another…I have broken this myth since the fellow CAs of my city helped me a lot.
Tip: It is important you should be an expert in a field that is not their core field. Thus, they do not fear you taking their client. Since I work only in Indirect taxes, I got work. That was my starting.
“Renting an office space on a cost-sharing model.”
When you start your business completely bootstrapped, you consider what options you have. That’s what I did too.
Two of my friends who had their own practice were looking for a new office. I approached and asked them if we could rent a big office with a cost-sharing model.
That was a win-win strategy for the three of us as a bigger office looks good to the clients coming to the office and at the same time, it is cost-effective. So, this arrangement worked out for me.
“A new practice does not require a lot of money."
I had invested all my savings in my previous business venture, which was doing okay but not generating enough cash. So, I did not have much money when I started off on my own!
A new practice does not require a lot of money...what it requires is a lot of patience and passion. If you lose any of the two, you fail.
I started my own practice because I was passionate about taxation. Also, I was able to wait for the practice to pick up with patience because I was not required to contribute to my household expenses. (My father took care of that. I had to earn enough for my own expenses alone.)
A very good thing about a CA practice is that it is a profession where you get paid for doing a certification. Thus, earning is guaranteed if you keep up the path. You just need to ponder yourself for working towards excellence, the work will flow automatically.
“Tips to acquire new clients?”
Getting clients is not an easy task especially when you are not from a business background.
There are two types of clients in India:
- Corporate clients who listen to your pitch and then consider whether they can give you the opportunity to work for them.
- On the other hand, the other business clients (non-corporate) give you a chance only when they need your assistance and/or some of his known friends/colleagues have referred you.
So, you have to depend on your friends, colleagues, seniors in profession and acquaintances for referrals. With good networking skills, you can get ahead faster.
Sometimes, I did make the mistake of reaching out to the clients directly. One should have a very careful approach while reaching out to the client.
Now I am ready to take on my next dream/challenge – Establishing a law firm for handling the litigations in the High Court and Supreme Court. We have started taking up cases and filing to the courts with some advocate friends.
To all the professionals who would like to enter into practice, I would advise you:
- To have 'Patience' and 'Passion' for the profession.
- Develop expertise in a particular field as it helps to get new clients.
- Develop your network from day one. I feel the most important asset for any professional is his network. If the network is good then surely the practice will be good. It helps you reach out within the boundaries of professional ethics.
- Keep learning
- Dream, Dream, Dream. You are alive as long as you dream. Every dream is a challenge and accomplishing a challenge makes you feel fulfilled.
The Mantra to survive and grow in the profession is गतिं ज्ञानं तर्कः (i.e. progress, knowledge, logic).
CA Ranjan Mehta is a recognized expert in the field of Indirect Taxes; earlier VAT, Excise and Service Tax and now GST. He has great expertise in handling the entire gamut of professional services including consultancy, compliance, advisory and litigation. Currently, working on various GST Audit projects and also handling initial GST litigation matters such as Eway Bill, Refunds deemed assessment u/s 62, etc.
Now It's Your Turn...
Do you have a similar story? Or did you face any challenges when starting your own? Comment below and let us know.
(Article edited by CA Uma Krishnan and image by Ankit Lodhi)
The Finance Story is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and get updates with latest stories of finance professionals.