Neeraj Bhagat of Neeraj Bhagat & Co. tells us about helping foreign companies set up a business in India.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Neeraj Bhagat: Well, my family and I are keeping safe, healthy, and happy. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to try to maintain a work-family balance with few supports, technology being the major one. With schools closed, parents are solely responsible for childcare and perhaps even schooling from home, however at the same time, I have always pushed myself to make the most of my family time during Covid. Spending time with my family members, which my work never allowed me earlier, making the most of digital devices, being kind to ourselves, playing with my kids, and strengthening relationships by more talking added to the support.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Neeraj Bhagat & Co.
Neeraj Bhagat: It’s been 23 years since I founded Neeraj Bhagat & Co. I help foreign companies set up a business in India and get them the necessary statutory approvals from various authorities. As a Strategic Business Advisor, I’m able to seamlessly integrate my hard-won, strategic industry knowledge and extensive experience to ensure my clients achieve their goals. I help foreign companies set up business in India and get them the necessary statutory approvals from various authorities. I partner with Domestic and International Entities of various sizes from different industries and help them set up Subsidiaries, Liaison offices, Project Offices, and Branch Offices in India.
I am a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) since 1997, helped many individuals and organizations to establish businesses in India. I have worked with professionally managed corporate houses as a consultant. My experience talks about handling corporate affairs in different areas, helping many organizations set up business in India and successfully operate it. But it was never this simple as it sounds. I always wanted to become a Chartered Accountant, always dreamt of having my own set up when I was a kid. So, I would not be wrong in saying that I always had an Entrepreneur in me.
I started with a clear vision that I have to add value to my client’s businesses through my work. Following this vision, after becoming a certified Chartered Accountant, I decided to open my own company. I took that major step all alone; however, I was anxious and fearful, but that’s justified too, especially when you’re starting a new business. I started with a small office and 5 employees. I always had one aim in my mind, “I have to grow and spread my wings” Today, I take pride in saying that I have 4 Branch Offices with more than 110 employees in total.
How does Neeraj Bhagat & Co. innovate?
Neeraj Bhagat: Since its inception in July 1997, Neeraj Bhagat & Co has been serving its clients successfully with a commitment towards adding value and optimizing their business goals. As an integrated team of financial analysts, payroll specialists, and certified business accountants, the Company shares skills, insight, and resources and is well known for providing top-notch accounting support to industry clients based on a deep understanding of business. Neeraj Bhagat & Co is proud to proclaim a “Turnaround Time” of approximately 6 hours- 24 hours based upon complexity—a key aspect of our digital communication success.
- We provide a high-level assessment with extensive research; we provide a professional recommendation for the best next steps you should take now to TURN your business to A BALANCED LEGAL COMPLIANT BUSINESS.
- We won’t let our clients miss unique insights that can bring consistent value to your business.
- We don’t let our clients face any repercussions of non-communication of involved risks that can lead to unpleasant surprises requiring costly fixes to their businesses.
Our working model is based on Proactive Thought Leadership and Delivering strategic leadership.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Neeraj Bhagat: I would say that we haven’t got the hit on our Business Finances. Whilst this pandemic, when the entire world came to a standstill putting a halt to the economy, we all faced new challenges in our respective businesses. During Lockdown, I kept my team motivated by interacting with them almost on a daily basis, checking their and their families’ health.
Being Chartered Accountants, our financial year’s work starts somewhere in August and stretches till November, computing Balance Sheets, Financial Statements, and Tax Calculations for all our clients. Lockdown in India started at the end of March when my team and I started working from home.
I closely worked with my team, my respective department heads, and I decided to utilize this time for completing all the computation work beforehand. Thanks to the technology and digital world, which allowed me and my team to work on Year-End Finalizations and Financial Statements for our clients remotely. It was vital that all work related to Accountancy was completed in this lockdown period.
I used my judgment and critical thinking approach, reasons why I considered completing this work while we had enough bandwidth in terms of deadlines are:
- I wanted my team to be given as an example of “Flex Pioneers”
- I didn’t want to wait for the office to open and then overburden my team with the pending work
- To be hot to trot for the new projects, consultation, strategy building activities for our clients to capitalize the new opportunities
- To structure my actions more towards growing and upscaling my business to the new world of good fortune.
My extensive planning approach demonstrated my consideration to prioritize year-end finalizations before the Indian Economy reopened in the most effective manner. It helped us to be ready and welcome the new business projects coming our way. It proved to provide a much more energetic and motivated work environment for my team, which was geared up to strengthen their expertise when they re-joined the office.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Neeraj Bhagat: No, we have not made any hard choices related to our workforce.
But yes, the major lesson we learned which has made us ready to manage our risks is that “Remote work is doable” While employees look for the opportunity to work from home, many organizations were hesitant thinking how to maintain productivity and manage staff remotely? The answer is that it’s very much doable provided we all follow some practices which boost up the morale of the employees.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Neeraj Bhagat: I thank my entire team who stood by me during this tough time, who worked around the clock to give the stakeholders the right solutions. We have been tech-savvy for 8-9 years now. As and when there is an invention of new technology, we don’t wait to adopt it. For 9 years now, we follow the practice of giving laptops to all new hires. We have no desktops in our office. We have a digital knowledge bank, online subscriptions, and we keep adding them on a regular basis to keep it updated and useful for all. We have a drop box for all documents to be in the shared mode for years now. Be it zoom conferencing, skype video calls, or WhatsApp Groups; we have it all.
Digital Practices that we follow
- Effective Communication through technology– Real-time communication is very pertinent for the daily routine of any business. Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp have helped us transforming in-person meetings into dynamic video conference calls. We ensure that that our interaction with the team does not stop and should increase than normal. We ensured that Managers talk to their team members on a daily basis.
- Collaborative Working– All Article Assistants, Managers, Senior Managers are working in collaboration on WhatsApp Groups, be it their respective teams, inter teams, escalations, resolutions, guidance, solutions. All documents are being shared on Dropbox to facilitate remote document sharing.
- Automation- We have a streamlined, automated work structure backed up by Technology.
- Confidentiality: We maintain all standards of Data Privacy.
- Implement a monitoring strategy: We constantly monitor Social Media and the Identification of Critical Threats.
Sharing some insights on how I efficiently managed my team: –
- Leadership and Self Awareness
- Communication through technology– We engaged our team by communicating with them.
- Cloud Accounting and 24*7 IT Backup and support–
- Remote HR-
- Diversity: We create an environment that offers a multi-disciplinary approach
- Adaptability: We plan, strategize and operate–
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Neeraj Bhagat: None which particularly relates to CA Industry.
Your final thoughts?
Neeraj Bhagat: We have been able to take this added challenge and yet produce desirable outcomes. Communication has been and always be the key to our organization’s success amidst COVID-19 and beyond.
On that note, Neeraj Bhagat & Co. opens up to opportunities in the market, and it is the opportune time for the industry to share their best practices in these times.
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