How this experienced CA returned to the corporate world from a stint as a founder after a gap of 3 years

The Finance Story

 

  • Hi, I am Rahul Bhan a Chartered Accountant from India, a CIA and MBA from Nyenrode University. 
  • After qualifying as a CA, I started my career in the middle east and worked in several countries thereafter. 
  • In 2010, I got bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and quit my job to start my own however a few years later I had to return to the corporate world!
  • Unlike most entrepreneurs who return to the corporate world, I was confident and proud of myself that I gave my idea a chance!
  • Here is my story of how I relaunched my corporate career after a gap of 3 years! 

Back story

I was an average student who had lots of interest in sports but still managed to do well in studies.

When I was in grade 8 at the age of 13, I decided to become a Chartered Accountant (CA). Crazy, right!

The decision was based on the praise which my uncle got from my relatives after qualifying as a CA. At that time, I had no clue of the various subjects in CA…but I was sure Chartered Accountancy is what I will pursue. 

My CA journey was not a straight road, I had passed my Intermediate exams in the first attempt but the CA Final Exams tested my intelligence and patience! You can my entire story here

I failed my CA Final Exams twice before finally clearing in 1995...in spite of the several failures becoming a CA was quite a milestone!

Moving to the middle east & first stint as an entrepreneur

Since I loved travelling and exploring the world, I was very keen on finding an opportunity out of India. It was not easy, there were days where I wondered will opportunities like that come my way…but I DID NOT GIVE UP.

Eventually, my persistence paid off when I got an opportunity in the Audit team of KPMG, Abu Dhabi.

We all have those moments where we feel that we must try and venture out on our own, the same happened to me!

I wanted to be an ‘Entrepreneur’ and so I resigned from my first job with KPMG returned to India and started my own! This was 1997 and I was quite young 26 years old!

To keep things going, I took up a job as an internal auditor with a mid-size CA firm that provided internal audit services to the BK Modi group of companies. I was involved in the internal audits of Modi Xerox, Modi Alcatel, Modi International Paper, Modi Ollivetti, Modi Rubber, etc and by now, I had a good experience in internal auditing. 

Three years later, as things did not work out as I thought, I decided to do an MBA.

After a good GMAT score, I was selected for an MBA at Nyenrode University, Netherlands and here started a new journey! 

Quit my job to be an entrepreneur

Post my MBA, I joined Deloitte, Amsterdam as a Junior Manager in Audit. Later, I had taken jobs with a Turkish Bank in Amsterdam, Moore Stephens, and Ernst & Young in Kuwait.

I was doing well professionally but the urge of being an entrepreneur did not die! 

Fast forward, in 2007, I was contacted by a like-minded Chartered Accountant Manoj Jain to start something together.

In 2010, yet again I quit my job and returned to India to start my own company and co-founded Riskpro! 

I did have responsibilities of the family including kids' education but I was eager to be an entrepreneur! Also, I had no house loans or any other liability. Fortunately, my father was an earning member so that did make it a little easy! 

Did I have a lot of savings when I decided to start on your own? Yes, there was a considerable amount of savings. Though it is always not enough. Apart from my savings, I was staying in my parents' home in Delhi and that saves cost. I did make a budget for survival where my savings would be sufficient for 3-4 years.

The transition from a fixed income to starting my own

The journey had a lot of challenges. 

Working with Riskpro helped me to create a big network but financially things were not going well for me.

For a fixed income, I did join a mid-size CA firm where I also became a partner. There was a time where the majority of my time was spent in marketing, submitting proposals and actual involvement in delivery was less than 20%.

I soon realized that in business you have 3 tasks – look for work, do the work and make efforts to get the receivables. In a job, there is just 1 task i.e. you just need to do the work.

In certain months there was no billing and even when billing was their collection was an issue as the clients delayed payments.

What now?

Returning to the corporate world after a gap of 3 years

I had learnt so much running my firm that this changed my career trajectory, I went from an external auditor to becoming a 'risk management and internal audit specialist'. 

However irregular cash flows from the business, sustainability and uncertainties concerns got me thinking to return to the corporate world.

In May'13, I started looking out for an exciting job role. I applied for jobs on job portals and social media like LinkedIn. 

I had a gap of more than 3 years. i.e. from May 2010 to September 2013 but my return was smooth and in less than 6 months, I got an interesting opportunity at a leading company in India (Jindal Steel and Power Limited) and transitioned well. 

There was no real salary cut as I had an impressive balance sheet and income statement of my startup. (For salary negotiation, I submitted the latest balance sheet and income statement of my startup.)

I did not negotiate too much as I need the job however I knew that the corrections come very soon.

People struggle to find a job as their experience in entrepreneurship is sometimes not relevant to the industry or their job profile. In my case, it was very different - Risk Management was the most sought after function in the industry and I had a similar background.

Currently, I am head of internal audit for 6 international organizations in Asia and Africa.

Wrapping Up…

Entrepreneurship was the best experience and learning I ever had.

There are different challenges in a startup and corporate job. The advantage of running a startup is that you learn a lot more as compared to your corporate job. This experience can never be attained in the classrooms. Now I am well versed to run a department, budgets, staff management, assignment planning, etc.

If you need to start your own think about irregular cash flows, sustainability, uncertainties (COVID is the best example). If you are ready to face these, go ahead. On the positive side, if you are lucky there is no limit to your success.

And, yes, I will be back into entrepreneurship sometime later in my life!

Now It's Your Turn...

Have you considered being an entrepreneur? Do you think you have to quit your job to start your own? Kindly share your thoughts.

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