Strategy Consulting in India: How to Break in?

Rakesh NarediI get a lot of questions about this one, but I'm relatively clueless when it comes to strategy consulting.

Luckily, that’s not the case with our readers – many of whom work in the field or are planning to in the near future.

This interview comes to you from a reader, Rakesh Naredi, who landed a Lead-Accounting Design position at a global MNC.

Read on to learn all about accounting design and corporate finance, how it’s different from internal audit, and how you can break in.

Strategy Consulting in India: How to Break in?

Background

Q: Can you tell us about your background? 

Hello!! I am a multi-professions qualified (CA & CS) and experienced finance executive working with global MNC for more than 10 years.

I have grown up in a middle-class family based out of Jaipur but settled in Kolkata since one generation.

I am married to Sneha and have a cute 30 months old daughter (Jelly).

My education journey started from Hindmotor High School, moved to St. Xavier’s Kolkata for Graduation in Commerce (B.Com Hons. 2004).

I completed Chartered Accountancy in 2005 and Company Secretary in 2006.

I am also certified Lead Auditor for ISO 9001: 2008 by BVQI (Bureau Veritas India.

I have worked in few cities in India (Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, and Kolkata) and also have official visit (short stint) experience at Malaysia, Poland, Houston, Palo Alto and Atlanta.

Breaking into Strategy Consulting

Q: In your current role, describe some of your overall responsibilities?

Currently I am based out of city Bangalore and serving a leading world-class IT company having fortune ranking within 20.

My current role at Senior Manager level involves individual contributions to one of the most critical accounting process of the organization, which involves more than 3000 people across the globe.

This role also comes with authority to make organization-wide various critical decision on process, tool and policy.

My role is defined as Global Design Lead for the Accounting Process. It also has high level of interaction with C-Suite level management and frequent interaction with other finance team across the organization (Internal Audit, Controllership, EFR team).

In short, the role demands huge collaboration with top management and exposed to high visibility projects and initiatives which helps you to escalate in your career for positive move. 

Q: What were the key challenges you faced in breaking into corporate finance?

Every role has its own merits and demerits.

To change from one role to other must have at least one connection to move forward.

It was not that tough movement from internal audit to corporate finance, since internal audit is such a team that gives exposure to accounting process end to end which has great linkage to corporate finance.

Corporate finance also requires end to end knowledge and application of processes.

Exciting thing about switching over from internal audit to corporate finance is to move from one side of the table to other side of the table, from Auditor to Auditee, hence you understand the auditor aspect and can manage auditee aspect easily.

Q: What about the recruiting process in India? How is that different from other regions like Europe, North America, and East Asia?

As such recruitment process is same across all regions except the local legal requirement which could differ from country to country and region to region.

Q: So you already had the odds stacked against you, and you were in an extremely competitive market with a lot of chartered accountants trying to make the switch into profile like yours. How did you set yourself apart from everyone else?

Job market depends upon economy and demand supply of profession; and every profession has competition be it a Doctor, Engineer or Chartered Accountant.

My current profile has great amount of visibility in top level management, requires decision making authority and provides the space of being individual contributor. This attracts many to explore the opportunity.

Every organization has similar role requirement but must be housed in different finance team due to difference in organization structure from company to company.

In my current organization, it is ranked as separate team called Accounting Design, which gives the uniqueness and specific importance to the role.

The key to remain success in this type of role is continuous evaluation of process improvement and collaboration with top management to remind the importance of this role.

This role is very exhaustive in nature and hence carries potential of huge opportunity of improvement in nature of process improvement, efficiency, effectiveness & innovation.

Q: Can you identify a way in which being a CA qualified is an asset to you in your current role?

Chartered Accountant is very reputed and well-known brand in corporate world and I strongly believe that every organization, be it small or large, should have a CA working for them.

Though anyone can perform any job but CA provides that confidence level to perform the activity in best way.

CA comes with enormous learning in accounting, costing, law, auditing and basic IT subject knowledge  and hence a best fit in any role for corporate team.

Since my current role requires better understanding of accounting system from posting Journal Entry to Balance Sheet Review, it could fit best with subject expertise from CA curriculum.

Q: Maybe you can walk us through your networking process. I get a lot of questions on how to find names and contact information in the first place – how did you do this? 

I am a very social person and always like to meet people and learn from them.

Network helps professional in achieving goals.

Networking shouldn’t be restricted to your field of profession, but must be extended to out of office.

Building network within your own profession is easy task.

We talk to our own team within our professional network but that is not networking but just a group.

Networking should be outside office and meeting people from different profession to understand their way of living life and make use of best practice.

Networking can be started from various social networking site. It also depends upon how outgoing person you are when it comes to attending seminars, parties and other social gatherings.

When you talk to a stranger for the first time, make sure you ask or discuss that one such key point which leaves the mark to recall you in future and connect you.

Just meeting once, or sending request on social networking site doesn’t help, but continuous involvement does.

Q: Of those methods, which were most effective in getting you interviews? 

First couple of jobs require academic and professional background, later on networking and your experience come into the picture.

If you have a strong network, interview is just a formality, provided you are rightly mapped to the job requirement.

Your one footprint in past in one of the meeting with that network could bring you luck anytime. Thus it is very critical to build network with continuous effort.

Moreover, your experience speaks louder than network to get though the interview.

You can continue building relation with your network with frequent meetings over social site or in person and must discuss your present and co-relate with network business to align yourself with their requirement.

I strongly believe in networking.

Once you reach middle to top management, only networking helps not job searching portals. 

Suggested: Read more about Financial Firms

Q: I get a lot of questions on the usefulness of Chartered Accountant courses. How much did it help you?

Every profession has evolved through the requirement, hence CA evolution was due to many corporate governance issues and regulatory requirement.

CA from India is widely accepted profession across the globe and considered to be among top accounting institutes which provide subject expertise knowledge which is easily salable across the globe.

Getting through the course is definitely not easy and requires huge dedication for around 4-5 years which also includes 3 years of internship with Chartered Accountant practicing firm and industrial trainee in any corporate.

10 years back, when I achieved this degree, finding a job for CA was just like choosing an option among many.

Due to depression in economy, demand supply mismatch in the market, I have seen CA waiting for 9-12 months to find a job.

It is very renowned, reputed and required profession and an aspirant in finance field must go for it, as it is considered to be highest qualification for any professional in finance field.

Q: How do salaries and bonuses in India compare to what you would earn in North America / Europe? Is everything based on local rates, or are you paid the equivalent Dollar / Euro salary?

I am based in Bangalore, India and travel to various countries in APJ, EMEA and AMS.

Though I can not comment much but definitely the salaries and bonuses totally depend upon economy and standard of living of each country.

The bonus and salaries are totally different in all regions at each level. Especially in APJ people seek growth and promotions faster in comparison to EMEA and AMS, hence the grade system is also different.

You will notice different grading system for India than other countries, something like Global Job Code and Exceptional Job Code.

Global Job Code is universal, but Exceptional is region / country based to meet specific requirement for that particular country or region.

Q: What advice would you give to FinanceWalk readers thinking about a career in strategy consulting and corporate finance? 

Strategy Consulting sounds very impressive and have open-oriented job profile.

Make sure Strategy roles offered to you have that independence and authority to make decisions and are not just the name sake. To succeed in consulting role, one need to be subject matter expert and innovative as well.

Corporate finance role primarily requires professional certification and also demands end-to-end accounting process knowledge.

To succeed in corporate finance, you must understand how to analyze the balance sheet of the company and typically hold the key position in financial statement reporting to stock exchange.

Extensive knowledge of financial planning analysis and reporting is also required.

Note: You can connect with Rakesh on LinkedIn.

Strategy Consulting in India: How to Break in? 1
Strategy Consulting in India: How to Break in? 2
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3 thoughts on “Strategy Consulting in India: How to Break in?”

    • Hi Joel D,

      Strategy Consulting is a specific function of management consulting services firms. Go to McKinsey’s website, and look under “Functions”. You’ll see one category labeled “Strategy”. However, you’ll also see functions such as: corporate finance,Marketing,Operations,Risk etc.

      • Hi Avadhut,

        While I agree with you, Whenever ‘Strategy Consulting’ is mentioned, these companies are mostly talked about. They deal with CXOs and the Board level execution. Then, there are those who consult in niche sectors (specialists)

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