Vijaydeep Singh

How it all began…

It all began on 24 September 1990. A nervous science graduate, I stepped into the modest office of the firm at Rajendra Place, Delhi, for my first-ever job interview. My target was to meet my interviewer, Deepak Kapoor.

I did not know the ‘ABC’ of accounting, but I was well prepared for one question – why I wanted to become a CA. Before the interview began, I gave a straight disclaimer to my interviewer saying, “Sir. I know nothing about accounting, but I am confident that I will be able to come up to speed in no time.” The next question was what I was well prepared for – I aspired to be a Chartered Accountant and I presume I was able to impress him with my answer.

A few days later, the phone rang – I was shortlisted. That's how I, along with 24 other articled clerks, became part of the 1990 cohort.

For me, the eighth floor of Vandana building will always hold a special place in my memories. The elevator's temperament was, shall we say, unpredictable? This meant frequent treks down to the basement photocopy shop, which also doubled up as our daily ‘taking the stairs” workout! Looking back, my Vandana building memories wouldn't be complete without the trials and tribulations of "casting" and "comparing" in my first year. These meticulous tasks, along with the (perhaps slightly too frequent) half-day leave applications submitted to Sherine Singh, our article manager at that time for mistakes committed while executing the most important tasks, were all part of the learning curve.

My baptism by fire came at a client site situated in Nehru Place, with Ian Nissar as my guide. Two years my senior, Ian became my first mentor. Knowing I was a complete accounting novice, he assigned a seemingly straightforward task: verifying the opening balances for the financial statements. The balance sheet was easy, but the P&L? I wrestled with it for two whole days, searching for elusive opening balances. Thankfully, Ian enlightened me with his trademark kindness – that the P&L unlike the balance sheet doesn't have them! It was a hilarious (in hindsight) lesson that solidified the core concepts of financial statements in my mind. 

My journey was enriched by exceptional mentors – Atul Seghal, Vikram Agarwal, Joy Jain, Amitava Dasgupta and Deepak Kapoor. Their guidance was invaluable. These remarkable individuals, alongside fantastic colleagues like Sanjeev Krishan, Sumit Makhija, Rajan Wadhawan, Dinesh Arora, Varun Gupta, Mohit Chopra, and Shashank Jain (and many more!), became lifelong friends and an extended family to cherish. 

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My +15 years at the firm were a whirlwind of positive change and personal growth

Witnessing the historic merger that formed PricewaterhouseCoopers was a true privilege. The elevation of Deepak Kapoor to chairperson marked a significant milestone for the firm. The Delhi office mirrored the firm's incredible growth, transforming from a team of 125 in 1990 to a powerhouse of over 4,500 employees by the time I said goodbye in 2005.  

Leaving the firm, my first professional home, was a difficult decision. However, as they say, there comes a time to pursue new horizons and propel your career forward. These transformative years not only shaped me into a well-rounded accountant, but also provided invaluable insights into the advisory world. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the exceptional mentors who guided me along the way. The well-rounded skills and perspective I gained at the firm continue to be a tremendous asset. This experience significantly bolstered my ability to think critically and strategically, which I value highly. 

What are the challenges you’re seeing businesses face in the race to become agile, and how can they effectively respond?

Traditional hierarchical structures with rigid departments can slow down decision-making and hinder collaboration. Foster cross-functional teams with representatives from different departments. Encourage open communication and information sharing. Delegate decision-making authority to lower levels, allowing teams to respond quickly to changes. Utilise technology that facilitates communication and knowledge sharing across teams. 

Employees accustomed to a specific way of working may resist adopting new agile methodologies. Clearly communicate the reasons why adopting agile practices is critical and how it will benefit both the company and employees. Providing comprehensive training on agile principles and tools. Involving employees in the change process, soliciting feedback, and addressing concerns goes a long way in addressing challenges. 

Embrace a "learn and adapt" mentality. Regularly assess your agile practices and make adjustments as needed. 

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Is there a trend or movement in your industry that you see as a game changer?

The M&A (Mergers & Acquisitions) advisory landscape in India is undergoing some exciting changes, with a few trends emerging as potential game changers: 

  • Rise of domestic deals: Traditionally, a large portion of M&A activity in India involved foreign companies acquiring Indian assets. However, the trend is shifting towards a surge in domestic deals, driven by strong domestic demand, healthy cash reserves of Indian corporates, and consolidation within industries. This trend is likely to continue, creating a larger playing field for domestic M&A advisors. 
  • Focus on niche sectors: M&A advisors are increasingly specialising in specific sectors like EdTech, Fintech, HealthTech, and CleanTech. As these sectors experience rapid growth and consolidation, advisors with deep industry knowledge and networks will be in high demand. 
  • Integration of technology: Technology is playing a bigger role in M&A transactions. Virtual data rooms, AI-powered due diligence tools, and blockchain for secure data sharing are streamlining the deal process. Advisors who can leverage these technologies effectively will gain a competitive edge. 
  • Emphasis on post-merger integration: M&A success hinges not just on the deal itself, but also on the smooth integration of the merging entities. Advisors are expanding their services to include post-merger integration planning and execution, ensuring long-term value creation for clients. 
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What advice would you give young people on taking career risks?

Don't shy away from calculated risks in your early career! Embrace them – they'll propel you forward. Step outside your comfort zone. These challenges will equip you with new skills and invaluable experience. Taking risks can also reveal your true passions and make you a standout candidate for future opportunities by showcasing your initiative and willingness to learn. 

Any parting words of wisdom to your fellow PwC India alumni?

The world of business is constantly evolving. Stay curious, keep learning new skills, and don't be afraid to adapt. The connections you forged at the firm are valuable assets. Stay in touch with colleagues and mentors and leverage your network to open doors to new opportunities. The values of honesty, respect, and collaboration that you learned here will serve you well throughout your career. Always strive to act with integrity and high ethical standards. 

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