This CA reveals how he started a CA Firm in a small city (Siliguri) and believes diversification is the way forward
- "Being an entrepreneur is harder than studying to become a Chartered Accountant or a CPA."
- Hi, I am Lekh Nyoliwala a Chartered Accountant, Practising CA and an Entrepreneur.
- I grew up in a small city in India Siliguri (India).
- Today I take you on my journey from growing up in a small city to qualifying as a Chartered Accountant to starting my own CA Firm in Siliguri and becoming an Edupreneur.
Let’s take a tour of my life
I am Lekh Ram Nyoliwala a qualified Chartered Accountant.
I was born and brought up in beautiful Siliguri,(India) a small town near Darjeeling which is famous for the 3Ts - Tea, Tourism & Timber.
My dad had a multi-brand retail outlet of cell phones which was doing very well. Life was good and we lived a life filled with luxuries and comfort. Unfortunately in 2004, the cell phone outlet was robbed and the business suffered. For the next 3-4 years, it was a real struggle financially and emotionally.
Academically I was a very average student until grade 12, who would just pass.
I clearly remember in grade 12, I was bullied by one of the so-called toppers in school. There are some instances in life which sparks your sleepy conscious and this was my wake up call...that year I topped my class!
All of these experiences made me strong and gave me a sense of responsibility early on in life.
From an MBA Aspirant to a Chartered Accountant
When it was time to decide what career should I pursue, I was clear on doing an MBA and settling in a bigger city outside of my hometown (Siliguri) with a good job in a big corporate or MNC.
In 2006, for my further education, I moved to Kolkata (a big metro city in India) where I joined St. Xavier's College for my graduation.
One day in college, I got to know that many of my peers were appearing for the entrance examination for the Chartered Accountant course from ICAI.
And coincidentally after a few days, my Dad sends me the same form requesting me to pursue CA.
I was in a dilemma as I was clear of graduating and then doing my MBA. However, I realized that my coaching for CAT (MBA entrance exams in India) would start only after a year and in the meanwhile, I could give CA a try.
And voila! That’s how I started my CA journey.
I would say that my CA journey was a roller coaster ride. The major challenge which I guess every CA aspirant faces during their journey is to accept the gap in the reality vis a vis one's expectations and move ahead with the "I Can Do" attitude.
Apart from this, managing time for one’s self during the entire course is very important. I had my share of ups and downs, failures and challenges. But the toughest part was losing my Dad just after my CA Final Exams.
In August 2011, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Woohoo!
Timeline from becoming a CA to starting my CA Firm
2011: Qualifying as a CA and working at a CA Firm in my hometown
- I qualified as a Chartered Accountant.
- Like I said earlier, I wanted to settle down in a big city outside my hometown (Siliguri) with a good job in any of the good corporates/MNCs. However, sometimes things don't go as planned.
- I lost my father immediately after my CA Final exams due to a cardiac arrest.
- Since I am the eldest child in the family I had the responsibility to take care of my entire family and even our family’s business (Cell Phone shop).
- Left with no option, I moved back to my hometown and started working at a CA firm.
- I was also managing the cell phone shop.
- It was a very tough year emotionally and mentally.
2012: Still working
- I quit my job at the CA firm and joined a big Corporate House based out of Siliguri as a Consultant.
- I was also managing my family business (cell phone shop).
2013: Quitting my job and starting my own CA Firm
- Barely after working for a few months as a Consultant, I realized that I was being underpaid for my services.
- I left the Corporate House in Aug 2013.
- Honestly, I did not think of setting up my own practice until Nov 2013 and started my own CA Firm with two of my childhood friends.
- I set up my office in a small cabin at the same premises as the Cell Phone Shop so that I could easily manage the shop as well as my CA firm.
- Also cleared the examination for Diploma in Information System Audit (DISA) which is conducted by ICAI in June 2013.
2014: Moving into a bigger office
- Luckily my younger brother who studying graduated. I handed over the operations of the shop to him and started looking for a bigger premise for my CA Firm office.
- In April 2014, I set up my independent practice in my own premises which still happens to be our Head Office. My mother supported me financially in purchasing the office premises, the furniture, computers, etc.
- We got our first assignment in June-July 2014 from the corporate firm I was a consultant in.
- I was appointed as the Internal Auditor for the group entities.
- I also got married this year. Ruchi my wife is my lucky charm. Life got better.
2015: Challenges in CA Practice
- Cleared the Certificate Course on Concurrent Auditor conducted by ICAI.
- The revenues from my CA Firm were ok but not that great. One of my Partners' decided to quit CA practice and venture into something more remunerative.
- I stayed patient and continued the practice.
2016: Road Blocks
- Granted Fellow Membership of ICAI.
- One more partner decided to quit citing non-remunerative compared to other available options as the reason.
- I decided to focus only on Indirect Taxation & Internal Audit because not many CAs were focusing on these types of services.
- I kept myself calm and waited for good days to come.
2017: Expanding the CA Firm
- With the introduction of GST, the idea of providing specialized services in Indirect Taxation clicked like magic.
- The firm entered the growth phase by adding new clients almost on a regular basis.
- The team size increased from 3 to 5.
- The focus on Quality & not on Quantity reaped in results for the firm.
- Existing clients started recommending us for GST & Audit Services to their friends & family.
- Also, associated with a reputed firm in Kolkata as an Associate/Network Partner for mutual sharing of work depending on the location of the client.
2018: Focus on SMEs
- The focus was now on SMEs, I intended to provide All-in-One package for their Accounting & Compliance Needs.
- The idea again clicked & the growth phase continued. The team size increased from 5 to 8.
- Got associated with a reputed firm in Gangtok as an Associate/Network Partner for mutual sharing of work depending on the location of the client.
The focus this year is to provide quality services to the existing clients Target the growth in business in 2020.
Diversification and the way forward
In 2015, money was tight and I needed to find other sources of income...apart from my CA Firm!
I was having a casual discussion with my brother-in-law and that is when the idea of starting a Pre-School came up. We knew with rapid urbanization there would be a demand for good preschools.
Apart from this, the idea of having an additional source of income also motivated us to execute our plans.
Since we both were new to the industry, we chose to opt for a Franchisee of a homegrown brand - Bright Academy Our first batch had only 7 students.
- There are lots of expectations that ought to be fulfilled especially at the family front. The primary expectation is to be able to run the family from the very first day.
- Although I had an alternate income source (my dad's business) it was easier but not earning well in my job & subsequently from CA practice was really a challenge to handle.
Starting and Running a CA Firm in a smaller city
- Initially, I started the CA Firm in partnership with two of my childhood friends who somehow did not find the profession remunerative in the initial years of practice and quit.
- However, when times were tough and both my Partners left the CA practice it was not easy. But having patience helped.
- The primary challenge of CA practice is to match revenue with expenses. This challenge usually exists until the 3rd year of practice unless one is very lucky.
- For me, with every year passing by, the receipts had an increasing trend which was a motivating factor but still, there were very hard days.
Looking at your batchmates move ahead in life
- The major challenge I faced was comparing myself with my batch mates/fellow CAs who were better off with their jobs.
- For example, I had his friend who cleared his CA along with me and was earning a package of INR 10 Lac per annum way back in 2012. And I was earning nothing even close to it.
- So, in this self-comparison, I actually doubted my decision whether I did the right thing by working in a small city.
- These thoughts frustrated me from within. However, the key is to "Be Patient".
Balancing Work and Family Life
This is the most important aspect of anybody’s life. I personally feel that balancing work and balancing time is the same.
I start my day early and I usually reach the office by 8.15 AM. It gives me sufficient time for my school as well as office.
I visit the school on a daily basis and stay there for around 2 hours depending on the need of the day.
I leave for my office around 10:00-10.30 am and work there till 6.00-6.30 pm. This is the usual routine that I generally follow.
I feel that getting up early & reaching office early helps increase efficiency because of negligible distractions due to phone calls and/or unwarranted forwarded messages.
Key Takeaways from my Journey
The advice(s) which I would like to give to other professionals based on my experiences can be summarized as under:
- Be patient: It will take time to get your CA practice in shape. Don't expect overnight success.
- Specialization: Be the master of what you do. This is what will you give an edge over others.
- Knowledge about Client Business: Gain as much knowledge as possible about the client's business before taking up assignments & raising the first invoice.
- Think Big: Believe in yourself & consider the planet as your potential market. Technology surely plays a pivotal role both in our client's business & in our practice.
- Understand Technology: Technology surely plays a pivotal role both in our client's business as well as in our practice. With technology coming into play, there are no barriers to providing services.
- Think Beyond Traditional Role of a CA: As CAs we not just expected to do compliance/ accounting for our clients but also to add value to their processes. With most of the business houses opting for ERPs, one should observe and suggest changes in the same so as to make the processes smoother and easier.
- Struggle, stress, and support: You have to learn to manage your stress and overcome your struggles. Finding a support system is very important. I found that support in my wife - Ruchi.
"Do not quit before you give your best."
Firstly, do not listen to those who say that there is not much scope for CA practice in smaller cities because I feel there is always a market to explore. All you need is correct guidance and the right networking.
It might be possible that one may not get work for some time or maybe no new additions over a period of time but things will surely fall in place in the long run.
Lekh is a Chartered Accountant from ICAI (India) and a Practicing Chartered Accountant in the field of GST & Internal Audit in Siliguri (India). He is also a Franchisee Partner of North Bengals' No.1 Pre School Chain - "Bright Academy".
Now It's Your Turn
Are you facing challenges in your CA firm? Is there any way I could guide you. Comment below and let me know.
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