Unlike many of the first generation entrepreneurs who are successful and who can’t but laud their success, Ashok Maheshwary, head of India’s leading accounting, tax and business consultancy firm, carries his achievements lightly.
In this piece we discuss the man, the milestones in his life and India’s growth prospects.
When Ashok Maheshwary started his firm Ashok Maheshwary & Associates in 1981, he only had his Chartered Accountant degree and determination to back him up. Reminiscing about his earlier struggles, he said, “The road wasn’t easy as audit was not compulsory except for the corporates, and the tax rates were also in the bracket of more than 60%. Moreover, no one wanted to assign me work as I had just started my practice. However, I never let this weaken my spirits.”
Gradually, he worked his way up and with the help of his sons, who are also practicing chartered accountants, Ashok Maheshwary diversified the business. “With time we extended our reach to international clients in addition to catering to domestic clients. Today, with 6 domestic offices and 1 in Singapore and a headcount of over 150, we are serving mostly fortune 500 and fortune 1000 companies across the globe.”
“However, I am glad to say that our focus on service quality never diluted. Our first client is still our client.”
Diversity in work
Mergers and Acquisitions
When it comes to Mergers and Acquisitions ( M & A), identifying the right target is of utmost importance to strike the right deal between two parties. Through their extensive network of relationships, Ashok’s company scouts deals that are of interest to the buyer, and help them shortlist targets keeping long-term interests in mind.
“We provide Cross border transaction advisory where we help overseas corporates to establish business in India through well trusted Indian Partners in the form of JV. We also help them in acquiring Indian companies either taking the complete stake or taking majority stake. In the recent past, we have witnessed some major deals executed in India through M & A, in which foreign companies have acquired Indian companies and vice versa. The foreign investors have also bought stakes in Indian corporates,” adds Mr. Maheshwary.
Some of the ground-breaking deals in the last year, include – ArcelorMittal & Nippon Steel acquiring Essar Steel for $5 billion, Brookfield Infrastructure Partners taking over Reliance Jio Infratel for $3.66Bn, and Schneider Electric’s & Temasek Holdings’s acquisition of L&T’s electric and automation business for $2.1Bn.
The company also supports startups by raising funds through venture capital funds or high net worth individuals. “We have experienced success in raising funds for IT, supported by new technology, Digitization, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Online Healthcare, Online Gaming, Mobility specially electric vehicles etc. We take only those assignments where the promoters are technically very sound and can deliver the results. In the recent past, we have raised funds for HR technology and also for Mobility companies,” he states.
Singapore – a hub for Indian businesses
On the latest trend of Large business groups in India setting up holding companies in Singapore to manage their Asian and international investments, Ashok said, “Registering companies outside India enables the promoters to tap the global funding as some of the overseas investors may be more comfortable investing in those jurisdictions due to several reasons like better business environment, flexibility in raising funds, better IP protection, less compliances, favorable tax regime, facilitation in easy immigration, etc. Particularly the businesses which cater mostly to overseas customers may find it attractive to incorporate companies in locations. Apart from Singapore, countries like Mauritius, Luxemburg, Netherlands, USA etc. are attractive for investment.”
Easing rules for small businesses
Recently, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs notified rules for winding up small businesses without having to go to a tribunal, under a provision in the Companies Act that offers an alternative to the commonly used liquidation procedure under India’s bankruptcy code. Speaking in this regard, Mr. Maheshwary hails this as a positive move. “In our opinion, it seems that the new rules relating to winding up of a company are introduced to lessen the burden of National Company Law Tribunals, as well as to fasten the process of winding up of companies.”
Infusion of technology enhances operations
When TBC asked him if his space had been disrupted by technology, he said,“ Technology advancements have enhanced our ability to make computation quickly, help in audit analytics, interpret data efficiently and present the same effectively. In addition to this, it has also allowed access to the most recent data. For example, Cloud computing makes e-format documents from the web easier to collect and use. Technology provides robust solutions to secure the data.”
Balance in workforce
Ashok believes in a healthy mix of all generations, including Millennials and Generation Z in his company. “Technology is what sets Generation Z apart from millennials. Also, generation Z wants skills training that provides them with digital or multi-tasking skills. They want to broaden their experience and they are ready to experiment unlike Millennials who take time to adapt to change.”
“The firm emphasises on frequent training to create an environment where employees thrive, and does their bit to keep pace with the generation gap.”
“We ensure that enough opportunities are provided to our employees so they get exposure in different fields that are important for their overall growth. We encourage casual dressing on Fridays, have flexible working hours and work from home policy.”
Ashok said about the income tax slabs announced in Budget 2020, “The new income tax slabs will benefit the taxpayers in lower tax brackets and particularly the millennials and senior citizens as they may not be committed to investing/spending their money in avenues like insurances, provident fund, schemes like PPF, tuition fees, etc.
Other class of taxpayers would be disappointed as they would be having legacy investments and would be committed to save/spend/invest their money for these expenditures and getting tax benefits as well out of these and the new scheme, if opted, would in fact increase their tax liability.”
Future of Gurgaon
Talking passionately about his hometown Ashok said, “Gurgaon is one of the most attractive places for investors followed by Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. The place has a lot of potential. However, pollution is the biggest challenge due to which foreign companies are more comfortable investing in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. In addition to this, women’s safety is a matter of concern in North India which affects the big corporates setting business in Gurgaon.
I am happy that the Haryana government is taking actions to curb the pollution and is also working towards providing safety to women. The change will take time. We are optimistic that we will see foreign investment pouring in Gurgaon.”