by Vishal Suhag 27 August 2020

CA after Failing IIT Entrance exams now runs a successful CA Practice with large corporates as clients

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 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 bio coal 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 favourite subject. I was handling both Direct and Indirect taxes. What about my bio coal 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.

2018: Game-changer
 Most of the Retainership the 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.

Wrapping Up…

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).