S T A R T U P C A
Quitting My Job To Pursue An MBAI did my articles and qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2015. Soon after, I started working with CEAT Tyres, Mumbai. Initially, I got an opportunity in the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) wing. This gave me the opportunity to interact with many business heads, product managers, and plant people and it also allowed me to be familiar with the business side of the company. I loved my work. But later, I was moved to the Accounts department. There, I felt I wasn’t doing justice to my capabilities as my role was restricted to the desk and it was all about working in Excel and ERP – which, to be honest, wasn’t as exciting. That’s when I realized that I want to be on the front end of any business and be the face of it. So, I quit my job at CEAT to pursue an MBA degree. I started studying for my MBA entrance exams. But, things didn’t turn out the way I wanted to. So, I started looking for a job thinking that I would work and study for my MBA simultaneously. But, as they say: “If it happens according to your wish, it is good. If it doesn’t, it’s even better. Because it is God’s wish.” And… I got a call from GVK (Mumbai International Airport) for an interview and luckily, I cracked it. The job profile was unique where I got the opportunity to work with senior Supreme Court lawyers (Delhi). I took the job. I loved it all and it dawned on me that marketing was the field that I wanted to be in. I could see my career in this field. So, initially, the plan was to do an MBA in marketing from a reputed college – and that meant taking hefty loans to pay my fees, do the course, and then labor another 2 years to pay it back. Nope. That’s wasn’t aligning with my Marwari mindset. So, the MBA idea was dropped. Quitting My Job (Again) To Start An Outdoor Advertising Co What next? I continued working at my current job and soon realized that I wanted to be the one running my own business. The business was on my mind. Marketing was on my mind. So, I started following the marketing trends. I discovered – Out-of-home (OOH) Advertising (which comprises billboards, ads at bus stands, etc) which was fading and on the other hand Digital marketing was expanding. But, digital marketing too was limited to just mobile screens. There had to be something else. What MORE could I do? What could I do differently? And one day, when traveling by local train to my office, an idea struck – ‘On the go’ Marketing. And the medium that came to my mind was cabs. With the advent of mobile apps, cabs were everywhere and everyone used them regularly. As I reached the office, I started searching more about it and discussed it with my brother and friends. According to Statista, the out-of-home advertising industry across India had a market size of around 33.6 billion Indian rupees in the financial year 2019, up from about 22.3 billion Indian rupees in the financial year 2015. This was projected to go up to 52.4 billion rupees by the financial year 2024. Exciting right! I decided to research more on OOH advertising. In the next month, I did all the research and studied as much as I could. But, it was getting really difficult to balance the work and also do the research for my BIG idea. So, I quit my job. Building the Business – One Step At A Time After quitting my job, for the next 4-5 months, I studied the market and did a lot of groundwork about the number of cabs, frequency of trips for each cab, distance traveled, localities covered, finances, operations, viability and other aspects of ‘on-the-go’ marketing. To understand the basics, I was required to meet drivers, printing houses, RTO offices, agents, etc. My friends and I also visited airports, petrol pumps, taxi stands, and any other place where we could find those cabs and drivers. We also educated the cab drivers of how they could make money from Car Wrapping or Advertising on their cab! The biggest personal challenge for me was – to keep aside the fact that I am a CA – a White Collar Professional and go out to interact with everyone with due respect and understand what they had to share. Despite everything, we made it. On 7th September 2018, my friends and I started 360 ADVENTURE MEDIA – to help brands advertise on cars that act as moving billboards. Fast-forward to the present: Just within a year since inception, we have built 4 different marketing verticals, with each one of us leading a vertical. Design Partner is Harshit Thareja, Tech Partners are Vinav Bhanavat and Arpit Saboo (who is also my elder brother!) and I am in the planning, expansion, and finance. So our media company is a new-age start-up dealing in: Marketing: Our motto is – ‘Making Brands Drive the Distance’. Web & Mobile Application Development: Some of the websites we designed Vipul Shah Bags, Agro Nutritionals, etc Branding Designing Since day one, we have received a really good response. Some of our top clients include – Dream11, Samsung, etc. And Yes, we are making profits and the decision is definitely paying off. Currently, we have a team of 10 people located throughout the country. “Can Accountants Become Successful Entrepreneurs?” For me, any business is about a sound revenue model and strong numbers. The most difficult part is to work out the numbers and study them thoroughly – which most of the start-ups miss on. So, being a CA, I laid the foundation of my business with a sound revenue model. Everything was worked out on paper. This helped us make money since the beginning. Also running a business and CA, both are a process. In both cases, you can reach the ultimate goal only when you pass through the funnel of patience, sacrifice, and commitment. So, for me, as a Chartered Accountant, starting a venture was relatively easy as I had already lived the process of CA – which taught me all the functionalities of business beforehand. Being a CA was a blessing for me. And we, Accountants, can sure be a successful businessperson. “I don’t have funds for my business. How should I start?” A business is driven by the conviction, passion, and hard work of the people, not just funds. I don’t know how many people will support my thinking but what I feel is that no idea or a business plan should die a death before even actualizing – just because it doesn’t have sufficient funds. So, if someone says, “I don’t have funds, that is why I am compromising on my business,” – THIS IS NOT JUSTIFIED. I feel if you are sure of the idea, then you should procure the funds from anywhere – be it through family, relatives, friends or even from the external market. I am not asking you to take favor; instead, take it as a loan and pay interest, if need be. But, just begin your entrepreneurial journey. Just start somewhere. But, don’t start recklessly. Plan ahead. When I decided to quit, I had sufficient money for the next 6 months to sustain in a big city like Mumbai. It was more of a gut feeling that helped me drive my decision. When I was out of money after 6 months, my friends (with whom I have been sharing an apartment in Mumbai) started taking care of my basic expenses per month. This has been one of the biggest backings I could have asked for. Getting this support allowed me to think louder and explore the possibilities for my venture. “What Lessons I Learned Along The Way?” 1. Always provide cost-effective marketing to your clients Our company came up with a plan of working for start-ups and new-age entrepreneurs who wish to expose themselves to neighborhoods, suburbs, and cities to market their brand but without spending heaps of money.
2. Deliver value to acquire more clients We face multiple challenges every day. But the biggest challenge is the acquisition of clients. Sometimes, we get so busy delivering and providing services that we miss getting new clients on board. There are days or weeks when we don’t get a single lead and that becomes really frustrating. Still, we don’t give up. Instead, we constantly keep looking for clients whom we can serve. And we do our best work for them. It takes time but eventually through our previous work, our networks, and our commitment towards the work, we added new clients to our portfolio.
3. Market yourself really well and ask for feedback We have extensively used LinkedIn and other social media and networking channels to promote our work and tap the clients. 65% of our service deliverables are to people or brands who are renowned. We ask for feedback, and client testimonials have helped us bag some of the other clients too. “Don’t get stuck. Learn to think beyond accounting.” As Finance Professionals, our curriculum tells us about being the backbone of the business. But, we understand it as only a backbone and nothing beyond accounting. We fail to look beyond. I want to tell everyone that “yes, we are the backbone of business” and it is difficult to run a business without us. But, if we take the front seat and drive the business ourselves, we can be leading as well as supporting the business. I feel this is the best time when more and more CAs and finance professionals should become entrepreneurs. We need to create employment rather than seek employment.