How this second-generation CA forged his own identity by focusing on global SME’s & Start-ups.
- Hi! I am Paramnoor Singh, a Chartered Accountant and the Managing Partner of R. Arora & Associates, a legacy firm set up by my father in 1984.
- But wait, being a second-generation CA does not mean that it all came very easy to me. Yes, it did open doors but at every step, I had to prove myself.
- In 2010, I joined the firm with a clear mind that my interest lies beyond the traditional auditing and tax practice.
- With encouragement from my dad, I set up the Delhi office right from scratch, introduced a totally new line of service, and created a strong clientele.
- Here is my story of how we have grown to almost 60 team members and a global set of clients.
A look at my roots!
I grew up in Ludhiana, Punjab (India). I have a twin brother and an extended family full of cousins.
I do not know whether I was bright in my studies, but I was very disciplined.
I have always had to work harder and longer than my peers during school & college. I have always felt that my discipline is what has got me where I am.
Growing up, every young boy wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and so did I.
When in grade 3 my teacher asked me ‘what I aspired to be’, I told her, “I want to be a chartered accountant like my dad” and since then there has been no turning back.
As I grew older, I held on to the intention of becoming a CA, and finally picked myself up in class X and scored 91% in CBSE exams.
I naturally chose the Commerce stream after tenth grade.
I completed my articled training from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young.
In 2009, I achieved my childhood dream of becoming a CA, just like my dad!
(I have to add here that my parents’ encouragement and support motivated me to give my best)
Joining my dad's 25-year-old firm
Once I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, I joined a law firm where I worked for a year.
In 2010, I decided to join my dad’s firm. I think I always knew that I would join my father’s firm. Having the valuable experience that I did from my stint at PWC, EY and the law firm gave me a new direction.
My father and I discussed at length and came up with a set of ground rules. We decided that I would never service an existing client of the firm unless it was an area of my expertise.
Being a second-generation CA with an existing firm came with its own set of challenges.
While I was still working solely with my dad at the Ludhiana office, the firm was undertaking a lot of internal audits, statutory audits, tax litigation and company law litigation & consulting.
I never wanted to cater to the regular mundane auditing tasks and always welcomed a good challenge.
As soon as I joined my dad’s practice, we started focusing on international business and the Indian start-up space.
We did have some qualifications and experience but no real credentials under our belt in these areas.
Launching a new office (& vertical) all by myself in a new city
My dad soon saw the potential in me and encouraged me to open a separate office where I was ultimately responsible for everything (literally from the opening of the office to ensuring team productivity, client conversion, and service).
And of course, it would help me create an identity for myself.
I took this as an opportunity and started thinking about what I could do with my skill set.
I also felt that forging my own path in terms of new clients and setting up a separate business line altogether was the right way to go. There would never be any comparison between my father’s style of work and mine and therefore no added pressure.
All in all, it seemed like a great suggestion from my dad.
Delhi, being the national capital was the preferred destination for Foreign Direct Investment, an area I wanted to focus on. It was around mid-2011 that I decided to bring our local Punjab based firm to Delhi.
Building from scratch and launching the International business vertical
Right from the beginning, my focus has been to establish a practice that is known for its ability and skill.
I also learnt early on that specialization was the way to go on a sustainable path. This way, I could become ‘irreplaceable’ for my clients.
My credentials and the rich experience certainly assisted in attracting international business. CFOs were happy to meet us to discuss work opportunities.
When it was time to build and expand my Delhi practice, I have been fortunate that I was able to convince some of my close friends to partner with me early on.
I truly believe in the power of technology being an enabler.
At our firm, we have managed to incorporate technology in a way that enables all functions, core and non-core. There are certain tasks that cannot be undertaken using technology but can be enhanced and enabled using it.
Today after almost a decade, we pride in being associated with over 45 global MNCs & SMEs who have trusted us with their work here in India.
Also, the majority of our revenue (60% for Delhi office, 100% for Banglore & Mumbai offices) comes from such foreign entities setup in India.
Creating a new technology platform
Each assignment helps my team and I gain new skills and hone our existing competencies.
In fact, it was one of such experiences that led me to create a technology platform - CA Circuit.
This is an AI-powered platform that leverages technology to enhance the service delivery of assignments involving due diligence, survey and verification. The output is real-time hyperlocal quantitative data scalable to PAN India levels.
With the use of technology, real-time information and data of revenue leakages, asset verification assignments, due diligence reports, etc, are fed directly into the server and processed into real-time reports.
Using this technology we can execute complex assignments within days with direct reporting to the client, which would otherwise take weeks if not months.
Challenges we have been facing along the way
The brand name of the firm has helped in opening some doors, but challenges always exist.
I think as an Indian domestic practice competing with the Big4 brands, we have to prove ourselves on a daily basis.
The learning process in consulting is slow and time-consuming. To get global conglomerates to trust you with their India compliances is not easy.
As a consultant, the day you are not adding value, in most cases, you are replaced. This is something that is challenging as well as motivating at the same time. The same has now become a way of life for us and we have set up very high internal quality standards for ourselves.
People management is one of the biggest challenges that I have faced and will continue to face in the future.
I have to ensure my team utilizes the various resources we have optimally to provide quality services for our clients.
Staying humble, leaving one’s ego aside, listening to people around and keeping the firm’s best interests in mind have been the mantras for effective management.
Timeline of our growth
2011-2012: Setting up the Delhi office with a team of about 8 people by the end of the year.
2013: Started working with the first branch office of an Italian entity, foreign subsidiary and also a Permanent Establishment (PE) of a Global engineering company in India.
2014: Shifted to a bigger office space in Connaught Place; a team size of 25 people. Continued to focus on both Indian and global clients in India. Also focused on technology startups including assisting them in their fundraising.
2015-2016: By early 2015, we had in total serviced about 15 unique global clients.
2017-2019: Focused on sectors that were booming, team size grew to about 40 people.
2020: Added second office in 2020, team size is now about 60 people. Have completed assignments for more than 45 foreign entities in India.
Questions I get asked most often:
“Should CAs start their own practice?”
My one strong piece of advice for all young professionals, CAs and otherwise, is to hone their skill to a point of specialisation, something that they can be the “expert” in. This would be a great asset for them, especially if they decide to venture out on their own.
Our industry is such that there are a lot of service providers offering services that are not differentiated in consulting and audits at a fraction of the actual cost.
Unless you deliver exceptional services that differentiate you from the competition, you will be easily replaceable. The focus has to be on providing services that add value.
“What opportunities do you see young CA can tap into?"
Two areas I believe our young CAs should focus on are fintech startups and global outsourcing.
They can join a technology startup, any startup including startups in the fintech space. Working as a co-founder, core team member, and/or a finance controller could be a rewarding experience for them.
I also see a lot of technology founders trying to understand stuff like economic indicators, ratios for loan disbursals, account receivable & payables management, the unbanked rural credit sector. I truly feel that young CAs are better equipped to understand and solve such problems.
The pandemic has created conditions favorable for India and it is becoming a global financial processes outsourcing hub.
Our young professionals should work to up-skill themselves, hone their knowledge of Ind AS/IFRS and focus on taking up global outsourcing assignments.
“Challenges faced as a second-generation CA?”
As a second-generation Chartered Accountant, you do get an entry into an organization. However, servicing and retaining a client over time is totally up to the credentials and ability of the service provider.
The client will only accommodate you only if you keep adding value to their organization....else they won't!
I would say my journey has just started.
When I look back, 13 years and counting, I see how I have grown as an individual. I can also see how the firm has grown from strength to strength.
I started in 2011 with just a few employees. Now we are a team of over 60 people in Delhi and a total of more than 100 people across Delhi, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Mumbai & Bangalore.
It has been a joyful journey so far, full of experiences and challenges both amazing and bittersweet.
The one thing that I strongly believe in is the cumulative effect of consistent hard work. This mantra is what keeps me motivated and going.
Paramnoor Singh is the Managing Partner at R. Arora & Associates, a leading CAG empanelled Chartered Accountancy firm with a legacy of over 35 years. He heads the International business verticle and specializes in international and cross border tax. He also enjoys working with start-ups and is driven to help them raise funds.
Now It's Your Turn...
I think it is the best time for Chartered Accountants to start their own. Do let me know what you think? Can I be of any help feel free to get in touch with me?