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Get To Know Your #KTNAFA Speaker - Sanjeev Agarwala

In conversation with Sanjeev Agarwala

Q1) Your views on digital transformation in finance?

The finance and accounting functions in companies were historically called bookkeeping. Today, it has evolved into a more digitalized platform because businesses are growing across borders, regionally and locally. Digital transformation is the need of the hour, and while the financial sector adapted it many years ago, it will continue to evolve as we make progress in this field. Back when we started digitalizing our finance and accounting processes, even Tier 1 software like Oracle and Sap were looked upon with awe and many companies were slow to adopt such digital functions. Today, these platforms are a basic necessity for any enterprise.

Q2) How has technology enabled to minimize financial risks in your firm?

Firstly, technology is built-in with a lot of due diligence, in order to cater to a particular event or transaction to be recorded. When that due diligence is done, there are multiple levels of checks and balances carried out, which prohibits the transaction moving forward unless those parameters are ticked off. So, although it’s not the most bulletproof of processes, it does away with human errors in missing the checks and balances required for any particular transaction.Strictly speaking, technology does not really help in preventing financial fraud or crimes, as humans always find ingenious ways to circumvent that. So, it’s a never-ending battle between creating technology processes and functions to prevent fraud and the human mind which finds loopholes within them.

Q3) How is your firm managing the financial functions in disruptive times?

Contrary to current sentiment, I would say the market circumstances caused by the pandemic is not an isolated instance. Historically, we’ve faced SARS, MERS, the global and financial downturns and many wars. This time, there were early warning signs of Covid-19 spreading from China, which gave us some amount of headway to plan things. We had signs of this particular disruption arriving at our doorstep weeks in advance.This time around, we followed a new paradigm by managing the ‘work from home’ process efficiently. Certain functions and planning were undertaken as we had sufficient time to prepare for the lockdown. Our finance and accounting staff and processes were managed remotely, and we carried on in a calm manner and came out of it smoothly.

Q4) During this Covid 19 situation, what shall firms do to manage their financial decisions efficiently?

There’s two ways of looking at it — tactical and strategic. The former requires immediate action and has short-term impact but may not be sustainable for long periods of time. At the same time, firms need to keep strategic decisions in view, which have a longer-term impact. Firms need to be open minded and vigilant enough to not ignore strategic decisions which require planning and implementation management. A lot of firms do panic and end up focusing on the short term, which points to a dire lack of foresight and strategic planning for the long haul.

Q5) What are some of the noticeable achievements accomplished by your firm in the finance and accounting division?

We are a multi-division group, an integrated multi-diversified conglomerate having very varied businesses — automotive, real estate, education, vehicle leasing. Having a consolidated financial and accounting system implemented effectively at the holding level is definitely the most notable achievement of our finance department. As a group, I’m quite proud that we managed to implement this decades ago and in a very efficient manner, when we didn’t have access to the kind of technologies available today.

Q6) What are the top trends to watch out for in the accounting and finance industry of the region?

In terms of digitalisation, having a common accounting platform might be a trend that could come out sooner than later, as the government is getting more diligent on the auditing and bookkeeping of private firms present in this region. The previously tax-free and laissez-faire economy has become more fastidious after the introduction of VAT. Soon, the government may put in place universal accounting formats, which may be derived only through digital platforms and efficient ERP systems. This is just a possible prediction.

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