CA. Charanjit Attra currently Partner at S.R. Batliboi & Co has had an illustrious career, donning multiple mantles such as Executive Director and Global CFO at 3i Infotech, CFO & Head-Structured Finance Group at ICICI Securities and General Manager & Chief Accountant at ICICI Bank
His interaction with Sonia Singal from #mycastory
1. What prompted you to get admitted into the CA course? What were the things you considered when you took that decision?
Frankly during my teens, I never even dreamt of pursuing CA. I was a sports person and always wanted to be a cricketer. Till school, I was good in my studies and in college was quite average.
Just the end of TY B.Com it became clear to me that my dream of being a cricketer could not be fulfilled as I was not selected at the Mumbai levels. I took up a job at Blue Dart Couriers and worked there for a month. I got my first cheque of INR 1,315/- which I handed over to my father. He was happy but also reminded me that such salary couldn’t run a house. That was a reality check for me. My maternal uncle was pursuing CA at that time and was trying to clear it. One of my friends (who himself managed to get 45% in TY) mentioned that I am good in studies and I should pursue CA. As even if I manage to clear the Intermediate Level, I could easily earn about INR. 4000/- a month. Coincidentally, on the same day my mother mentioned the same thing in some conversation.
All the above taken together, I decided to take the plunge and puruse CA
2. Tell us about your articleship life and the learnings, be it technical/non-technical/any interesting happenings?
Well my articleship days were more fun than college. In college when others were enjoying, I was busy preparing myself as a cricketer and working hard on the grounds. The day used to start early at 4 am and I would be at bed by 9 pm.
I really had very few friends or actually no friends as such, although I knew a lot of people. But I was surprised to know recently that all of them knew me because of an incident which happened in college.
After I decided to pursue CA, my parents (like all parents) were very happy. I need to mention here that I feel really blessed to have parents who have always been positive about life. They always had the confidence that their children would be successful in life and everything can be achieved. My father was a well-known violinist and a music director in the film industry and there was immense pressure on him from family (particularly my grandfather) and friends to make me a violinist. Though he taught me how to read the music notation and play the basics of violin but never encouraged me to take the same as a profession. I also did play violin on the radio at the age of 12 (which only I heard). It was his confidence and my mother’s belief that had made me what I am today.
My parents had no clue about what CA was. My father knew his CA and was impressed by the way the film industry respected him. My mother knew someone from our society who had done CA and spoke to her and finally I ended doing my articleship at a firm which was like on one end of Mumbai (Fort Area) and we lived at least 25 km away (Andheri). I was told I would be given INR 225/- as stipend. I started working there.
There were hardly 2-3 staff there. In the first week itself, someone stole cash from the main partner’s cash box and it was terrible. It was my first week at work and this happened. I was not comfortable working in such circumstances. During the same time, I met a friend who was doing his CA with the firm which was like 15 minutes walk from my house and the stipend was INR 600 and had Saturday as q holiday. The firm was called M/s Mukund M Chitale & Co; Chartered Accountants. I don’t know why but the stipend and the holiday thing just made me too happy and I decided I wanted to work there. A couple of days later , my friend met me and told me that I was called for the interview .
My interview at Mukund M Chitale & Co (MMC)
I have appeared for many interviews in my life, but I just cannot forget this one. Since I wanted to work here, I needed to get well dressed for this interviews. Given my maturity at that time, I wore a clean yellow colored T-Shirt and a blue jeans. And wasn’t very conscious that there were some coins in the top left pocket of the shirt. I had long hair touching up to my shoulders. I still think as to how and why was I got selected but it happened.
The interview began by asking about me and my background. Being a sportsman, I wasn’t nervous and due to maybe my school, my communication was quite good.
By the time I was getting up from the interview, something happened and all the coins in my pocket fell on the table and the floor. For the next five minutes I was collecting the same.
Starting of the worst batch of articles MMC could have dreamt off
Well, Mr. Mukund M Chitale or Chitale Sir as we called him, was the head of the firm. He had started the firm from scratch and brought it to this level. He was also a well-respected professor and also got elected as the President of the ICAI. He was disciplined, honest and strict. I am sure he would have repented recruiting me and some others as we did unimaginable things which am sure would have disturbed him a lot.
On my first day I met a character who had joined just around the same time I had but acted as if he was much senior to me, for two days he completing ragged me into doing his work. Soon I realized that he was from the same batch and he should be doing the same work.
However, we became good friends later and created ruckus in office.
Very soon, because of both of us, a large group was formed in the office who played and had fun in office in spite of the watchful eyes of Chitale Sir. Even the seniors joined the group. We needed a place (canteen) to hang our after office. So we chose a place in the bus stop outside a restaurant to meet every evening. I was like mandatory for all to meet up at the bus stop.
People who didn’t come were supposed to be close to Chitale Sir and termed as ‘chamchas’. Then started the year where treks and picnics were organized on weekends. We had clients complaining to Chitale Sir that the auditors were singing while working (actually we were playing Antakshari). Then one year Chitale Sir arranged for a picnic to Alibag and Murud Janjira. This was the first and the last picnic that we had in our times. First because Sir was a nice person and wanted the team to gel and last because, we were a group of hooligans who spoiled everything.
The Murud Janjira trip
In fact we had a friend who had a car rental business and he was a part of our bus stop meetings. He couldn’t digest the fact that we were going out for a picnic and he couldn’t join as he wasn’t a part of the firm. So he decided to follow our bus on his motor bike. But a gruesome drive of about 5 hours or so. He booked a hotel and in the evening all of us reached his room and were partying till late night. When we returned to our office colleagues Chitale Sir looked quite upset (which was obvious) but didn’t say a word. But we anticipated a storm after that.
What happened when we returned was history, and cannot be stated in words. Chitale Sir had to call my parents and tell them what I did. But at the time he also mentioned that I had the qualities of a good leader and if I wanted I could achieve anything in life.
Actually the best part in the articleship days was that though we had a lot of fun, we worked also honestly. There was a very healthy competition and wherein all of us always wanted to complete their work before anyone else. Since we had to meet in the evenings, we had to complete our work on time.
We never knew what work-life balance was and we never thought we should have one, we worked hard and enjoyed also. Am sure all of us at MMC still remember those days.
I in particular learnt the basics of banking there and am still reaping the benefits of the same.
3. Which courses from CA have been the most useful?
I think all of them as I have worked on both the sides , as an auditor as well as an accountant and whatever I have learnt have applied it fully.
4. In retrospect, what has been your expected/unexpected and most cherished gain from your CA journey?
I think I don’t repent doing CA. I cherish my articleship period in particular and of course my learnings at ICICI Bank Ltd. Whatever I am or will be; a large part of that would be due to the learnings I had there . I had the best people to work with . Have made friends for a lifetime .
5. Post the course completion, is there any key personal/professional experience which you have been immensely proud of and would like to share with readers?
Well there is a long list of things which I have done. I think an accountant’s life is always under stress and one can never be proud of any achievement as the achievement stays only till the time an error is found and whether you are a preparer or an auditor you are always scared of missing something . But some of my achievements I want to be remember :
a) Getting the Best Presented Accounts Trophy for ICICI Bank .
b) Being a part of the team which handled the FPO of ICICI Bank and various bond issues
c) Winning the Best CFO award for three years and being included in the league of finance by the CFO institute
d) Being recognized by ICAI for my contributions in finance.
e) Being invited as a special invitee on the National Advisory Committee on Accounting Standards set up by ICAI.
f) Leading the advisory team to advise more than 15 banks on IndAS conversion
6. Any words of advice for future CA aspirants?
Have fun. Work hard. Ignore gossip and rumors. A lot is possible after the CA course. Be patient. If you clear CA exams professionally you will be assured that the future is good.
You can connect me with on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/charanjit-attra-185aba14/detail/photo/