An inspirational CA story where Santanu K Ganguli, FCA, Ph.D. shares his life journey of failing 11 times in CA Exams to becoming a Professor at one of the Top B Schools Xavier Institute of Management – Bhubaneswar (XIMB). Before XIMB – he was a full-time professor of finance at the Institute of Management Technology- Ghaziabad (IMT) for nearly 6 years.
“I was born in a highly educated Bengali joint family in the suburb of Kolkata. My grandfather was a professor of Mathematics at the University of Calcutta. He was instrumental in establishing a number of schools and colleges and a legendary figure in his time. High school Algebra book was written by him in 1936 ( first edition) is still considered as a reference book by the students who aspire to become toppers. My father was an economist. He was a class one Gazetted Officer of a Central Government department specializing in the Economics of Jute Cultivation and Production. My uncles were engineers, doctors and so on,” says CA Santanu K Ganguli from Kolkata.
“In a family like this expectation so far as academic excellence was concerned ran very high. Thus right from the very beginning, being the junior most male member of my generation I was subjected to ‘intense comparison’ in the backdrop of the brilliant academic performance of my uncle’s sons who were much senior to me. While my first cousins got an opportunity to study in top class schools, I was sent to a local Bengali medium school. The icing on the cake was my own mediocrity, but at the same time I was ambitious and used to daydream that things would work out my way some day.
In grade 12 I took pure science. My private tutor of Mathematics told my father (in my presence) – Your son is not sharp enough – reinforcing my family’s assessment of me. Though I managed to secure just 60% ensuring a first class ( remember that in those days only around 3% students used to get First Class), I failed miserably in the state joint entrance examination of engineering, IIT entrance examination and so on. I appeared in those examinations without any special tuition and no guidance at all. I was broken, dejected and miserable. I considered myself as a real ‘good for nothing’ ( a term ascribed to me by an English teacher when I was in my primary class, and subconsciously I carry the stamp even today )
In the backdrop, B.Com was considered a right choice for me. The only silver lining was- I could secure entry in one of the top two commerce colleges in Calcutta as I had performed very well in the college interview. Being essentially a student from a science background I hated commerce subjects, I found accounting too mechanical, law too boring and so on. In a different setting and good company in college, I witnessed my new found friends talking about Chartered Accountancy (CA), Cost Accountancy, and Company Secretary (CS).
Many of my friends started preparing for CA Entrance exam (now known as CPT) after a few months into B.Com. But my own low self-esteem and inferiority complex caused hesitation in starting preparation for CA entrance. In the 2nd year when I found some of my friends clearing the exam, I also started preparing for it. At the same time, B.Com Part I examination became due and was held a couple of months ahead of my CA entrance. That was a real shocker. I worked many times harder for CA entrance examination and failed B.Com Part 1 but cleared CA Entrance.
Because of my horrible performance in B.Com Part I examination, I didn’t dare to go for articleship immediately. In Part II B.com, performance was just okay to enable me to get a second-class honors degree in B. Com.
I started my articleship in a big audit firm of Kolkata. I got into that firm through an interview process. Though it was big a firm having a variety of clients, but its specialty was in internal and management audit of tea gardens. I had to spend long hours in the office, I had to go to outstation tea garden audit in North Bengal and Assam. Though I got a lot of work exposure my studies suffered. Just for a few marks in aggregate, I failed to clear CA Intermediate (2nd level CA exam consisting of 2 groups, Group 1 and Group 2. Now it is known as IPCC) in my 1st attempt with an exemption in Accounting paper.
In my CA Intermediate 2nd attempt I cleared Group 1 and then my real struggle started. It took me 5 years and 11 attempts to clear CA Intermediate Group 2. In between, I finished my article ship, remained unemployed for quite some time and through some connection landed a job with one of the group companies of Birlas. It was the job of a despatch clerk of a share department (nothing fancy).
Dealing with Personal Issues:
My personal life was in turbulence as my parents fell terribly sick. My father had a massive heart attack just prior to one of my many attempts of Group 2, nevertheless, I didn’t miss appearing for the exams. Just to add to these problems my father got entangled in a series of court cases, all were basically property disputes involving tenants. As my father was sick, I used to appear in the courts for him. My studies suffered enormously but at the same time, I got a first-hand exposure as to how the law and legal system worked.
CA Final Journey:
For my CA Final, I got a tutor ( Professor Asim Sengupta) who was a retired CEO of a big MNC. He himself was a rank holder in CA and CMA. After retirement, he settled in Kolkata and started imparting tuition. He was moody and short-tempered if somebody faltered or failed to meet his expectations- he just ridiculed so much that one felt like running away from the scene. One day he just casually put his hand around me and said–Do you know that in quant papers – you are as good as some of the rank holders I have taught? If you don’t believe yourself, just have some faith in me’. This statement made all the positive difference in my life. Finally, I had someone who believed in me and considered me worthwhile!
Life Post CA Qualification:
CA Final was not smooth sailing, but at the same time, it was not as painful as CA Intermediate (now known as IPCC). One fine morning I discovered that I did reach the destination, I was a qualified CA. Post that I left my job at the Birla company and got a job as a works accountant in Hazaribag (then Bihar), but I couldn’t take it up because of problems of the preoccupation of handling the court cases and acting as a caregiver of my ailing parents.
It was then that I decided to start my own CA practice. I started operating from my home that was neither in an office district nor in a decent locality. Somehow I started getting some small clients who used to come to me for income tax matters. At that point in time, real estate boom started taking place in my locality. Some of the developers came to me for tax purposes initially, and then they started consulting me all the other ancillary legal matters. The practical exposure in my personal property matters and the kind of disputes I had to deal with, came handy in those consultations. I started getting some cases in company law matters that called for appearance before the Company Law Board.
I also prepared a dossier containing details of accounting treatment to be followed in real estate development business. My friend late Rahul Roy ( later on to become the youngest president of the ICAI and a partner of Ernst & Young before leaving for the heavenly abode at 47 ! ), seeing the dossier suggested to me to write an article on the topic and send the same for publication. First I didn’t give much importance to the suggestion but after a few months, in some spare time I made an article from the voluminous dossier and sent to the Hindu Business Line (HBL) and the same got published in 2 installments. I got paid for writing! Then I regularly started writing for HBL. One led to other and I was called upon to deliver a lecture at the training institute for the revenue service officers in Kolkata many times on accounting and accounting standards.
Based on the feedback, I was invited to talk on accounting standard at the nodal academy for training IRS officers at Nagpur. Then a call came from IIM- Calcutta to teach the financial accounting course. Before long I took a serious plunge in teaching and training. I was advised to do Ph.D. if I wanted to take up teaching full time. And yes, I started my Ph.D. taking a finance topic. Here, mathematics and statistics I learned hard way at our time at CA Intermediate came very handy. Nothing in life is a waste.
After completing Ph.D. I switched over to academics full time. My journey is as follows:
- I started my stint with the Institute of Management Technology (IMT)- Nagpur
- Then moved on to IMT- Ghaziabad for 6 years as a full-time professor of Finance
- Then joined Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar (XIMB) as a Professor
- In between, I went abroad ( Warsaw, Poland) and Dubai as a visiting professor.
- I presented academic papers in numerous international conferences that, among others included conferences at the University of Cambridge (UK), University of London, finance and economics conference of Miami, Florida (USA) ( awarded best presenter certificate) and so on.
- My papers mainly on finance and corporate governance have been published in tiered academic journals in India and abroad.
- At the moment he is also writing a book on Financial Management as per the new syllabus of CA and doing a lot more.
On a serious note, I say that years of struggle and unending failures have taught me the below 4 principles:
- Failures happen for a reason. Failure can either change you or shape you.
- All are not lucky. But please understand you are luckier than lot many. If you have to struggle – please don’t run away. Despite the struggle, you may never succeed. But some way would emerge. The struggle may take you to a different direction altogether. Nothing in life goes in vain – failures in particular.
- Everything happens for a reason. From extreme bad, extraordinary good can emerge beyond your comprehension.
- Hope is the – Biggest Thing, Never Lose It
And a Big Thank You to my wife who supported me through all of it. Without her support life would not be the same,” he concluded.
P:S: Dr. Santanu is someone we could learn a lot from. You can reach him at email@example.com. He is most active on his Linkedin account.