Should You Start A Business While Still Studying For CPA / CA

The Finance Story

Have you ever considered starting your own business while studying to be a Chartered Accountant / CPA?

Or have you considered participating in various college activities while studying to be a CA/ CPA? 

In fact: In this article, Devesh Mundra shares with us his journey of how he started 3 startups while studying to be a Chartered Accountant. He also participated in various college activities and cleared his CA exams as well. 

So in this article, you will learn - How to chase your passion and NEVER WAIT for the so-called 'right time' along with prioritizing your exams.

Devesh is a Chartered Accountant from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). He is also a CFA and FRM aspirant. 

Currently, Devesh is an Equity Research Intern at SBICAP Securities.

How CA Happened

Since I scored well in class 10 I got an opportunity to join Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics.

While in class 11 and 12 I had a very different approach. Instead of just focussing on studies and classes I enrolled in various sports activities to keep myself engaged.

I learned Lawn Tennis and played at the club level.

I was also privileged to get trained for Air Pistol Shooting under Mr.Ronak Pandit (He is a Gold winner at the Common Wealth Games). Knowing him and his journey has been such an inspiration.

I was also appointed as a Joint Secretary of Planning Forum of NM College. This was indeed a great experience. It gave me an opportunity to conduct events, guest lectures, mock stock exchange simulators & a lot more.

Later on, I was also conferred as the Best Organiser in 2012 by Planning Forum of NM College for the contribution I made to make things successful.

While in class 12 a lot of my friends and classmates were studying to be Chartered Accountants.

Knowing that CA is difficult to clear and more of a distance education unlike MBA which is school-based, I was reluctant to pursue CA.

Somehow, I registered for CPT (1st level CA exam from the ICAI) but changed my mind at the last moment and jumped to give BBA entrance exams PAN India.

Luckily I got through one of the best colleges in India for my BBA. However, I decided to continue in NM College and complete my graduation from there itself.

So, I chose NM College over the other business school I got through.

By then I was through CPT and to continue with IPCC was a natural decision (IPCC is 2nd level CA exam from ICAI. IPCC has 2 groups – Group 1 and Group 2)

Journey in Degree College & IPCC

My journey in degree college (class 13, 14 and 15) was amazing.

With a background of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) at school, joining the National Service Scheme (NSS) at college was obvious.

NCC focused more on physical strength and rigorous training whereas NSS was totally opposite.

It was inclined towards hardcore social service which includes conducting Blood Donation Drives, Voter ID registration camps, Beach Cleanups, Village Adoptions and a lot more in a two-year program.

During my tenure in NSS, a sense of responsibility towards people and the environment came in. There was a force from within to undo the injustice I witnessed in the rural & other project areas we undertook.

I also got the opportunity to lead a few events. The sense of satisfaction was amazing.

I became vocal about the issues, participated in talks, debates in college and around. I took a step further and started writing on social and governance issues.

One of my articles got published in the magazine “One India, One People”.

Another contribution was to write an article in the college magazine for their Golden Jubilee Year Celebrations. I was conferred with a Special Prize for Writing that year.

Things didn’t stop there.

It was time to look within, for the problems happening in my own house i.e. my college.

There were real issues and the solution was - The Students Council.

I got elected as a Council Member of The Students Council, NM College and addressed a few problems during my tenure.

You might be wondering how was it done? By gathering information and problems at the student level, devising a variety of solutions for it, and escalating them to senior professors & the Principal. I must say it wasn’t easy!

The energy kept coming. I came across a Youth Parliament Program taking place in St.Xavier’s college that was organized by PRS Legislative Research.

Having been elected as the Minister of Law & Justice for a day, I addressed key issues taking place in India, debated over them, found solutions and got the house & the opposition in confidence.

With the on-going desire to continue sports, I got into the College Baseball Team representing NM College at Mumbai University Level.

These things surely taught me a lot but it also cost me something - my CA Studies. I could not clear my CA IPCC exams.

It was a setback, but yes, only to introspect and prioritize a few things.

I set my schedule up and decided to focus on what is important - IPCC exams. My two-year tenure at NSS also came to an end.

Luckily in my second attempt, I cleared my CA IPCC exams.

After my CA IPCC exams, I was relatively free and decided to lead my college contingent for various college fests.

I became the Asst. Contingent Leader for my college for two of the best college fests of Mumbai, Malhar i.e. the Annual Fest of St.Xavier’s College and Kshitij i.e. the Annual Fest of Mithibai College.

Making sure our team wins all the events we participate in, was our motto.

First Entrepreneurship Attempt

Can a start-up idea get conceived in a college canteen? Yes!

It happened during my final year in college when I was sitting with 2 of my friends in the canteen.

Our plan was to organize adventure tours and sports for college students & corporates. Yes, we did it.

We called it 'YouthKonnect' and we conducted activities like waterfall rappelling, scuba diving, river rafting, trekking, etc.

We were operational for a year and planned a lot of trips and events.

It was quite challenging and taught us people management skills to a great extent.

College was over by then.

Since we belonged to different courses and were no longer going be in regular touch, we decided that each one handled an independent area of that start-up.

Lessons Learned

Respecting each other

  • My first startup, YouthKonnect had 3 co-founders.
  • Since we were 3 of us working together we had to have trust and understanding amongst us.
  • The level of trust and understanding and respect you have for your co-founders makes a big difference.
  • There has to be trust to believe in a risky event in terms of break even, profitability, etc. The projections in terms of the number of people attending, cost estimates can go wrong, but you need to trust someone’s vision.
  • Respect comes in the picture when one of the plans suggested by any one of the founders fails. It is important to respect the efforts put in for making the plan, executing it even during the worst times.
  • The three of us are still on each other's speed dial, and we cherish those days.

Never Give Up

  • When we first started YouthKonnect our 1st trip was to Tarkarli (scuba diving spot of Maharashtra), was loss-making as only 50% of the expected people agreed to come.
  • So we reached a point where we thought of scrapping the entire trip, but we pushed each other and agreed to bear the loss.
  • Had we scrapped the whole thing in tough times I could have had a lot of negatives about the venture!
  • We would have lost the confidence of our first ever adventure seekers that they showed in us.

Second Entrepreneurship Attempt

Soon after YouthKonnect, I founded another venture named 'Kolad Rafters' which entirely focused on Kolad, one of the best places for River Rafting in Maharashtra.

The business was totally driven through a website that I developed.

I made good clients Hamleys and KPMG being the best ones for their corporate needs.

Rafting takes place around the year at Kolad as it is a Dam controlled river, but the best time to visit is during the monsoons when the Dam is full.

That made it a seasonal business largely and I decided to resume only during the next season.

But yes, a good deal of social media marketing & client management was something that I learned out of it.

Lessons Learned

Information Gap

  • Just to quote a very basic example which never struck my mind was when one of my clients wasn’t aware of the no pets policy at the rafting area 2 years back. My client assumed that it won't be a problem.
  • However, he later realized that pets were actually not allowed and someone had to stay back with the pet since the rafting trainers were not assuming any responsibility of the same. My client was disappointed.
  • There is no clear right or wrong, but as a customer the expectations are high and you need to fill in any information gap between what you are giving and what the customer is expecting.
  • So I kept updating my FAQ’s on the website as and when I came across such things.

Marketing

  • The best part about running my own venture early on was learning - Marketing Skills.
  • Marketing is very important. I have personally learned social media marketing for my ventures.
  • I had paid google, facebook, and other social media venues to push my product to the relevant target audience in terms of age, location, likes, dislikes, etc. that got me right inquiries and business later on.
  • Online marketing followed by traditional marketing (free samples, coupons, offers, packages, pamphlets) got me a majority of clients.
  • I would encourage Chartered Accountants and others in the Finance domain to learn about marketing. Changing with times is very important.

Third Entrepreneurship Attempt

One day I happened to visit a food outlet in Irla (busy shopping street in Mumbai) and saw something very interesting. It was a fried spiral potato on a stick with different sauces over it!

I decided to start one of this on my own.

Within a month I put up my own food outlet called “Potato Twisto” in one of the busiest shopping streets in Lokhandwala (Andheri, Mumbai).

The response was great as I was one of the first movers in this innovative food segment in Mumbai.

Soon after that, I got it listed on Zomato which attracted a lot of freelancing food bloggers to come down and cover my story. It was a hit!

I catered to individual customers as well as large scale events.

From inventory management, staff handling, quality management to advertising, everything was a challenge.

Sometimes it used to get a little difficult to manage everything since I had my articleship and CA Final classes as well to manage. But I kept going.

After almost a year of running Potato Twisto, I realized that it was time I focus on my CA Final exams.

Just 6 months before my CA Final exams I took a conscious decision to wind up everything and focus only my CA Final exams.

Why I sold my last venture?

My priority was qualifying as a Chartered Accountant (CA).

I knew I could start my venture even after my CA exams. But to study and pursue my CA the only time was NOW.

I did NOT want to be stuck in a situation where my ventures are on and I am not clearing my CA exams.

So my thought was to do the right thing at the right time.

The earlier I completed my CA studies, the more time I would have to enjoy things.

All I can say is do the right things at the right time and have faith. Nothing is going to run away.

CA Final Journey

Finally, I got study leave from my CA firm in the last week of December.

With about 4 months of study leave in hand, I put in everything I had with one single aim - Passing CA Final in the first attempt.

Four months were difficult I must say. It tests a lot and everything that you are capable of.

Also, a lot of classes were missed due to my past activities, but I somehow managed.

Hard work paid off when the results were declared - I cleared in my CA Final exams in the 1st attempt in May'18!

The feeling was amazing.

So far the journey has been amazing, with the most supportive family and super talented friends.

So what now? I will make my career in Capital Markets- Research, Advisory & Wealth.

I am also a CFA and FRM aspirant.

My Advice

From studies point of view, I was very sure of clearing CA Final exams in the 1st attempt.  So I prioritized things that way.

Kept following a lot of faculties and got continuous motivation from them.

I didn’t go for a full-fledged mock exam because I don’t like that approach, but yes to test my self I wrote mock papers for 2-3 subjects.

Yes, you have to make notes otherwise it is not possible to revise the entire portion on the last day. It is literally impossible!

Having the correct mind frame, staying healthy, and being focused. This can surely help to clear.

MY ADVICE

  • I encourage students pursuing CA and other professional exams to participate in various activities, sports, and events.
  • So all I want to say is - Personally, you don’t have to regret not doing something that you actually wanted to do and this is something you have to answer yourself.
  • So if you have thought of doing something, and it is sensible, you strongly feel to do it, go for it. What’s the max to lose? I suppose nothing or may be negligible, then what’s the fear about?
  • Maybe if you fail, you gain nothing but you surely learn and gain some experience which might help you anytime in life. And if you succeed the upside is unlimited.
  • I did not make millions through my startups but I did recover all the money I invested in all my startups. And more than money at the age of 21 I had so much practical knowledge and a strong network!
  • More than the money the learnings is unmatched.

In Conclusion...

I am always proactive and I see failure, genuinely, only when I have failed in my own eyes and not how others term failure as. This is because everyone has different plans, dreams, vision, interests.

You are not going to get praises from everyone for everything you do.

If you feel like doing something and its sensible, consult 1-2 close people and go for it - he concluded.

Now it is your turn!!!

Do you know anyone who has started their own venture while pursuing CA / CS or any professional exam?

Do you have any questions for Devesh?

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