“I work from home. I have an entire team which works from their homes and I haven’t even met most of them.”
In a space where ‘work from home’ isn’t taken seriously, or spoken about with skepticism over credibility, Sonia has managed to bounce back from obstructions. One from her many ideas slipped from the social boundaries set by the society and she found her seed of an inception to make it back to her happy place.
“When people hear what CA Job Portal has clocked revenues of INR 3 million with Sonia managing things from home, with a laptop in one hand and our daughter in other (metaphorically), the look on their faces is something I cannot describe”, says Anurag.
“So, how did this all begin?”, I asked Sonia.
“I got married! I was in Hyderabad working as a consultant for Deloitte. I quit my job and, embarked on a new journey of married life with Anurag in Kolkata”, she says.
Sonia was a bright kid in school, top of the class, class head, etc. Sonia decided to pursue her aspiration in numbers to become a Chartered Accountant and that is when she hit her first setback. As of this point, she drove without no speed breakers.
“I missed the rank in CA PE-II by a whisker. And in the finals, I could not clear in the first attempt. That was my first academic setback ever. I was totally taken aback, I had no precedent to this”, she says.
From working to a working mother.
Sonia kept at it and finally made it into Deloitte. A Marwari girl from Kolkata, she faced resistance finding roots in Hyderabad. She tells me how her performance was moving in a downward spiral, not just because of the culture shock, but due to the gap in manager-employee relations.
“Initially I was very nervous in the new workplace and people had very high expectations. A lot of it also depends on leadership, how they explain things, finding alternatives to shouting and yelling to make us understand technical aspects and ethics of workplace.”
Then she underwent a change in mentor and Mr. Sunil Addanki, was empathetic, understanding, and calm. She gained back her confidence and started performing better. She stored these leadership qualities inside her in form of lessons for later use.
“Then, I got married but post marriage, I wasn’t able to look for a job as I suffered a hand fracture and had to undergo rest. After a year I was expecting my first child. I tried to resume work when my daughter was 2 years old, but I realized a hiatus of 3 years made it very difficult for me to get a job in Kolkata”, she says.
Anurag Singal moved to IIM Ahmedabad with Sonia and their daughter. So a qualified CA (Sonia) picked up research projects in her free time from professors at IIM A. While Anurag pursued a 1-year full-time MBA- PGPX.
Anurag discovered the gap between candidates and finance job vacancies while he taught CA students for ICAI at GMCS classes. Even students who qualified as CA freshers in their second-third attempts, meritorious and smart enough but either lacked communication skills or right contacts and were unable to secure decent jobs.
“We started CA Job Portal as a blog specially catering to finance based jobs. Space quickly became popular. But Anurag had secured a job and wouldn’t have been able to work on a startup. With no recruitment background, I stepped in”, she says.
“We get responses on our portal. We talk to the candidates, understand them, and shortlist or select them only after talking to the clients. We aggregated all the PSU as well as multiple job vacancies in clients spanning sectors and continents, covering 50% of BSE-30 listed companies, for job seekers to have a watch. It is a profit making start-up right from the beginning, with zero cash burn.”
“I have a team who works balancing both scales of their lives. Who are they, you ask? A girl whose father is suffering from cancer. A girl in Kerala, who is stuck in a remote location tending to her family. An expecting mother. A girl studying for her CA Finals and also into this. All of them are working and fulfilling their dreams without giving up on their familial needs.”
Sonia has maintained the structure of the company. All of them log into their systems together at 9.30 AM and work until 6.30 PM.
Nearing the end of the conversation she shares how it surprises other people even on a call.
“Sometimes when I am on a call with my clients and my daughter calls out for me, of course, they hear her voice and ask me, ‘Are you working from home or have you brought your daughter to work?’ It leaves them wondering because they never realized a stay-at-home-mom was running the organization.”
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