It is believed by some that achievements begin before one is born – one’s genetic makeup and the society in which one will be raised are the building blocks – and continues beyond one’s demise – with thinkers continuing to analyse works that one leaves behind in the form of poetry, painting or a simple will that causes family members agony. And many a successful career is oft defined by the wealth accumulated, and the power one wields may be measured, felt, compared. But, an achievement need not be defined by what one has retained of what was made, but what could be spread out instead. NRI Achievers features here one of the most laid back NRIs, Dhawal G Nandedkar, a resident of the only Northern Emirate, Fujairah, on the East Coast of the United Arab Emirates. A dainty town with a never-ending shoreline on the East and the Hajhar Mountain Range on the West; “when is the best time to visit Fujairah”, someone asked, “everyday”, he replied. We present you, Dhawal Nandedkar’s Story:
Born to businessman parents, both post graduates from the 1960s, Nandedkar attributes his father’s thorough command over English and wonderful singing skills as having been an important aspect that formed his learning base. He learned singing by age 5, the harmonium at 8, the flute at 12, the harmonica/mouthorgan at 14, and the guitar at 18. He planned to take a 2 month break on leaving his first job to learn the piano, but never took up a job and the desire he says is still in hibernation. With total disregard to gender stereotypes, he learnt origami at age 10, could weave by 11, and made artificial flowers by 14.
He was tinkering with a carpenter’s tools by 11, making his own toys, managed complex domestic electrical circuits at 15, could operate the lathe and several tool-room machines by 20 and could dismantle and assemble, to repair an entire automobile including timing its engine by 22. He had 8 perfectly running vintage vehicles by the time he married at 27. He learnt cycling on the open roads at 7, horse riding at school at 13, swimming at 14 and skating at 15. Yet, he is a total loser at any kind of sport. Not even table games like carom.
An average student at school, just before the SSC (grade 10) exams, his father improved his basics for grade 7 to 9. Practically, he almost never had to study again. He topped school with 94% and 95% in maths & science. On the realisation that studying hard (or for that matter doing anything consistently) was not his forte, his father prompted him to study commerce instead. He did MBA in finance and could finally clear his CA after his daughter was born. Took 8 attempts just to clear 1 paper – told you before, he’s just an average student.
Practiced for 4 years in India, at Nashik & Mumbai, first as a financial consultant and then as a chartered accountant. Took up a project to turn around a loss making mining-transporting-shipping company within a year and expanded it from 20K tons per month to 16K tons per shift. CEO at 29 for an investment exceeding USD 80 million and a team of 235 people and a fleet of 150 heavy hearth moving equipments. As agreed before joining, resigned from the job and commenced practice as a chartered accountant in UAE at 34. Growing in practice at a steady pace since then.
Though a voracious reader, he rarely reads the news. He has always been a late riser. Except at school or when otherwise forced to wake up at dawn, he prefers to sleep late. During articleship (training under a CA) he used to reach office late and stay in office after everyone left. The solitude, he said, let him work better, faster & more creatively. Creativity in accounting? Oh well, quite early in the learning phase, he started preparing feasibility reports, that require one to place himself in the shoes of the promoter and imagine all the resources he’ll need and the impediments that will be encountered and give them a financial perspective. Creative approaches are also essential for designing accounting systems, developing audit strategies and identifying areas that will give more information during forensic audits and due-diligence. Using executive bond paper and inkjet printers for filing income-tax records in India, 18 years ago, to submitting feasibility reports entirely in soft copy to overseas bankers, he kept on innovating in the simplest day-to-day tasks too. Use of superior skills, language, equipment and presentation is promoted by him in all spheres of work and leisure. Throughout the two decades of his work experience, he has consistently followed some of the ethics he developed as a child.
Genuineness simplified – says the tagline of his audit firm, Prudential Auditing. Recognised through Prudential Auditing for the role of Compliance Auditor among the first batch of internal controls implemented by the regulatory authority for stock brokers in the country, in 2007, and through Verico Auditing, in 2014, as one of only two auditors (and the only full-fledged audit firm) to be recognised as a Compliance Auditor (besides the Big 4) for responsible sourcing of precious metals by the regulatory authority, his audit firms have thrived on the simple concept of following professional ethics. The audit practice carries the rare distinction of being among those with the highest ratio of professionally qualified staff for audit and implementation, which, to the detriment of the clients results in much higher fees, but translates into a very high quality of service. Besides compliance, the audit firms are into a few niche services like supply chain cost verification and turnaround management. One of their clients humorously remarked, “you also audit”, which they treat as a compliment. Mining, land and ocean logistics are of special importance in the region and a large clientele is from this segment, including cement.
Improving working methods to reduce costs and effort has been a permanent philosophy. Even if it trains clients to do things themselves, as they return to do more complicated stuff.
In one of the personality contests at college where he was declared a winner, he listed truthfulness as his weaknesses. The surprised judge agreed to his response that he always gets into trouble because of that. The Late Dr Shrikant Jichkar told him at 12 to avoid being a civil services officer. Dr Mrs Asha Verulkar, the Director of his Institute, told him that he won’t last more than 2 months here – that the honest people she knew had returned before that. At school, when the entire class had done something naughty, Maj P B Kulkarni Sir said, “ask Dhawal, he tells the truth” to which, Subedar More Sir said, “it’s no use, he doesn’t speak against his friends.” He was 14.
At 30, as CEO of the Company, Engr Essam Abdul Salam said, “Mr Dhawal, just say yes, don’t give me your word. Your word, I’ll need only if it’s a question of my life or your’s.” At 38, as one more client entrusted him as a signing authority for all his assets, he asked for the logic and received the following reply: “I know my money is safe as long as you are alive.” “And what if I die?” he quipped. “That’s a chance I’m willing to take,” said the client. The client was 66. An old man can see sitting, what a young man can’t see standing. As is obvious, his audit firm is not chosen as auditor where managers carry out dubious practices and where owners indulge in prohibited or doubtful business transactions. A wealthy client once remarked, “I’m wondering whether I should start a new business – I already have plenty”, to which he said, “do it for those for whom you’ll create jobs.”
In his own practice, he has always recruited people who are below 30 or above 50. Each auditor is bound by a moral responsibility to train at least one fresher to be a good accountant every year. Each senior is told to teach the accountants of the clients to improve their accounting skills. “You are killing your own business”, said a peer in 2001. “I’d rather do something else and make money”, he said. The entire team follows ethical practices. They live life at their own pace with flexible working hours and several comfortable practices at office.
No one can grow without the support of family. Ethical work methods cast an ominous financial burden on colleagues, friends and family. It is sometimes strenuous, often embarrassing and very rarely rewarding. He could not have held on to these eccentric work practices without the support of parents and spouse. His advice to everyone who wants to follow his heart is to seek the consent of his life partner. And his advice to anyone leaving a cushy job and starting a business is to bear in mind that the comfort of having a commanding position and a fleet of personnel to carry out commands is difficult to relinquish. The decision-making capability while working in a large organisation itself contributes to higher earning while the same role in a small organisation is not rewarding. He strongly promotes ethical business practices. And affection to the country where you earn a living.