01 December 2021 07:17:56 IST

‘Learning to communicate and network is key’

R Venkatakrishnan, Partner, RVKS and Associates

Reading business newspapers can help you keep abreast with the happenings of the commercial world.

R Venkatakrishnan is Partner of the RVKS and Associates firm. He is a chartered accountant and has over 38 years of experience in auditing, financial and management consultancy. He specialises in corporate advisory services, turnaround and project funding with expertise in the areas of consultancy to corporates.

On your educational background?

I did my Bachelors in Commerce from the University of Madras, but I think my strong school education laid the foundation. I studied at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Picket, Secunderabad. The system, particularly that school, really went beyond academics and that has stood me in good stead over the years. I did my articleship in a mid-sized Chennai firm Esgeeaar Associates, where I got an initial professional grounding with comprehensive exposure and qualified in the year 1982, mercifully in my first attempt.

How has your CA helped you in your corporate life if at all?

I was particularly lucky to have worked for close to 10 years in the corporate world before embarking on my professional journey in practice and consulting. The first 10 years of my professional was marked by having worked with excellent colleagues and being mentored by individuals of extraordinary capabilities who accepted my mistakes and taught me to go through various challenges with a solution in mind.

I have had the opportunity to work in the service sector, manufacturing including project and contract management, lending and financial services including treasury management. I could not have asked more because it gave me a complete and comprehensive understanding of the corporate requirements. I got an opportunity to work with senior professionals and entrepreneurs giving me a ringside view of different leadership perspectives and spotlighting the importance of good processes and systems.

The icing really was being a member of the team that managed an IPO that included getting approvals under the erstwhile Controller of Capital Issues, dealing with merchant bankers, handling media and brokers’ meets, all of which were lessons on project management they don’t teach you at Harvard. The experience gained in these ten years was worth its weight in gold as it had a significant impact on the next 30 years of my professional journey.

What have been the key learnings from your CA? 

First, I don’t think learnings have stopped nor it should. Learning has become even more necessary considering the changes that are constantly taking place. Having said that, my personal belief from having been a chartered accountant is that any financial statements, particularly numbers, if closely analysed will have a huge story behind it.

One needs to develop an inquisitive mindset that understands the process behind the generation of numbers. Without that basic anchoring, one would never understand business and financial statements the way it should be read and understood. It is critical to understand what the core product or service of the enterprise is and who are the principal customers, both primary and secondary. That help understand the revenue and business models, and their attendant risks.

If you had to re-visit your CA, what would you have liked to have been part of your course? 

Business dynamics have changed dramatically over the last four decades that I don’t think we can set the clock back to examine what would have been desirable. Having said that, it is critical that we prepare ourselves for the next decades as the profession is not going to be the same.

We need to prepare ourselves for greater disruption driven by convergence and technology, especially artificial intelligence. One aspect of the professional curriculum that warrants revisit is entrepreneurship, business strategies, especially marketing and branding, project management, and most importantly — communication. Communication, or rather the lack of it, has been one of the weakest areas of the profession.

What have been the chief ingredients in your success or road to the top? 

It may be early for anyone to say they are anywhere near the top. Warren Buffet is a good example of how most of his money was made after the age of 50! The biggest influence in my life was my parents, especially my father, who was in revenue service, who ingrained in me values and ethics in addition to the opportunities of the profession.

That apart, I was particularly lucky to have been in midst of great people be it friends, colleagues, partners, mentors, clients or even students from whom I have learnt quite a few things. All my interactions had led me to the inevitable conclusion that every professional has to be constantly updating and upskilling to stay relevant.

What have been your best and worst moments in your CA practice?

Every success has been enjoyable and unique in its own way. Even when a student trained qualifies it has been extremely satisfying. Helping clients to negotiate difficult times and being present for them to see them through the tunnel has been very gratifying. Failures or mistakes are an integral part of the learning process and I would not categorise any of them as being bad or worse! My only regret in life is that my father was not there when there were enough occasions to celebrate.

What would be your advice to young CAs who join the corporate sector OR start a CA practice? 

A singular lesson for any professional — learning starts after qualifying! Passing the exam is the easier part, but continuing to be relevant and contemporary is the most difficult. I would have probably sat for learning a lot more than I have done in preparing for exams. The key issue is learning about things that are not necessarily part of the curriculum. The ability to unlearn and relearn has to be high on the list.

Networking, both physical and digital, and communication, are an integral part of the growth of professionals, and that is not being given the importance that it deserves. Working in a collaborative manner, both vertically and across disciplines, is critical for the future. All professionals need to do more in problem identification and definition with a focus on solutions. Every practising professional should aim to offer at least one new service line every year.

It is extremely critical to move out of your comfort zone. Even those who missed the bus should not lose hope as there are enough and more opportunities coming. Like they say, you can never drive a car looking at the rearview mirror. Invest in getting yourself a coach or a mentor. There are many who will do it pro bono. I will never regret that investment.

Are you happy with the way the CA is structured/taught today? 

One of the biggest strengths of the profession has been the on-the-job training as distinctly different from pure academics. Every curriculum, professional courses being no exception, must be constantly reviewed to not only check for its current relevance but to prepare students for emerging areas. To that extent, we need to be a more proactive.

With the convergence of technology and functional knowledge, there is more scope than the limited programmes being conducted before a student appears for exams. Making professionals more entrepreneurial is warrants looking at, especially when the whole world is speaking about fintech.

What would you advice young CAs to read? 

Functional subject renewal is a constant process, be it in legal pronouncements or changes to law and regulation. I am a great fan of business or professional biographies. I read or hear a lot of audiobooks and podcasts on strategies, leadership, and communication. Following business news and articles are a must. Even today, I read or scan through a minimum of four business newspapers to keep abreast of the happenings in the commercial world.

I feel that all professionals should learn minimum one foreign language not to speak working knowledge on regional and national link languages.