The cost advantage
The ICAI is a choice of thousands of students looking for a specialised professional qualification
If you are looking for a basic college degree along with a professional credential, what do you do? One of the choices of many students with this question on their mind is a programme like cost accountancy, offered by the Institute of Cost Accountants of India.
Rajeev Mehrotra was able to do the institute’s intermediate course while pursuing a BCom (hons). Later he continued with the final part of the cost accountancy course while doing a job which enabled him to self-finance his studies. In the end, he got a professional qualification which is well regarded in the market.
It has been “more than satisfying” to have taken this qualification, says Mehrotra, now chairman and managing director of RITES Ltd, a government of India enterprise which offers engineering, consultancy and project management services in the transport infrastructure sector.
Talking about the cost and management accounting (CMA) course, Mehrotra says, “The diversity of papers and depth of subjects is very good to help you face many challenges in finance and general management.”
RS Sharma, another ICAI member, says he found the course “more comprehensive” than certain other professional courses. “Apart from accounting, taxation and finance, there were papers on law, quantitative techniques and a lot of specialisation in cost management and I could see that any commercial enterprise, business entity, any institution or any organisation has to take care of cost optimisation. There’s a difference between cost savings and cost optimisation which means value for money,” says Sharma, who started his career in banking and went on become chairman and managing director of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. He is currently chairperson of the Quality Review Board of ICAI and chairman of Lloyd’s Register (south-west Asia), which provides independent assurance to companies operating highrisk, capital-intensive assets in the energy and transportation sectors.
USP: The institute offers a professional course for a particular profession. “The course provides a comprehensive understanding of management function with specialised understanding of cost optimisation, that is, getting best value out of money (for your organisation),” says Sharma.
Programmes: ICAI’s flagship offering is the cost and management accountancy programme, which has three stages, foundation, intermediate and final. Students who have passed Class 10 or its equivalent are eligible to apply for the foundation course. However, they are allowed to take the foundation examination only after passing Class 12 or its equivalent. Those who finish the foundation course from ICAI or graduation from any recognised university can apply for the intermediate course. Those who pass all the six papers in the intermediate course can apply for the final course, after completing which they can become CMAs.
The institute also offers a one-year accounting technician certificate. In addition to this, the institute’s Advance Studies Directorate offers courses in business valuation and corporate restructuring; treasury and financial risk management and enterprise performance management and appraisal system. Under a 2008 memorandum of understanding with ICAI, Indira Gandhi National Open University has been running two special courses BCom with major in financial and cost accounting and MCom in management accounting and financial strategies exclusively for CMA students.
Faculty: The CMA course is conducted mostly through correspondence. For oral
Anita Malhotra is a molecular ecologist involved in research on snake venom at the School of Biological Sciences, Bangor University, Wales in the UK. To date, she’s dealt with over 500 snakes. Her department interacts directly with the anti-venom manufacturers and hospitals to ensure that knowledge of the different types of venom actually reach the end users. It is also collaborating (there are no formal tie-ups through) with a few institutes in India such as the SASTRA university in Tamil Nadu and the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore.
Malhotra studied at the Loreto House in Calcutta up to secondary level, did her Alevels at Trinity Catholic High School, Woodford Green, Essex. She pursued her undergraduate degree at Jesus College, Oxford, where she secured a first class honours degree in zoology during which she undertook an undergraduate expedition to south India, carrying out a faunal survey of Srivilliputtur Reserve Forest. She did her doctorate at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where she worked on Caribbean island lizards. She finally started work on snakes in 1992. coaching classes, the institute engages teachers – most of them practising CMAs, says an official.
Infrastructure: Headquartered at Kolkata, ICAI has regional councils in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, and 95 chapters in important cities in India, plus seven centres abroad. The contact classes are held at the institute’s premises (regional and chapters).
Information technology is used to provide virtual classes and various services to the students, currently numbering around five lakh. Student registration is done online and so is the delivery of some classes. To reach students (and members) across the country, there is a webinar (online seminar) facility.
The institute’s placement directorate links up with the
So, what made her so passionate about snakes? It was in her teens that she first saw a snake at close quarters, when Dipak Mitra of the Calcutta Snake Park got it to her school. “Most of the class stampeded to the other end of the room when asked if they wanted to touch one, which made me wonder why such a harmless and very beautiful animal could produce such an extreme reaction and sparked off my interest in snakes,” she recollects.
Those who inspired her to take up venom research included dedicated Indian herpetologists whom she encountered in her early years, such as Dipak Mitra (of course), Romulus Whitaker, JC Daniel and others. Later, her PhD supervisor Roger Thorpe and fellow PhD students, “some of whom I still work with,” were major influences
Malhotra also took to the field because she liked being outdoors in the natural environment and chose to do field-based projects whenever possible. “In the case of the Asian pitviper, field work was a necessity as the identification of museum specimens was often inaccurate and there were huge gaps in the distribution of available specimens,” she says. industry. Placement camps are organised in different parts of the country. In 2012, ICAI registered 70% placements with an average salary offered of about R6.5 lakh a year. The employers include a large number of public sector companies, including mini and maha ratnas and multinational companies from the private sector such as ONGC, Coal India, Nestle, Tata Consultancy Services, HCL, TVS, Wipro and Jindal Steel, among others.
During placements, one of the qualified CMAs from the June 2012 batch got a job offer with an annual pay package of R11.2 lakh from the Securities and Exchange
Board of India.
And has she ever been bitten by a snake? “I have never been bitten by a dangerous snake, although I have been by back-fanged snakes which are now known to be venomous such as Indian green vine snakes. However, these did not produce any kind of reaction and served to teach me to be more careful in the future,” she says.
But was she ever scared of them? Not at all, she says. “Since I grew up in a city where we did not encounter snakes, I don’t think I ever picked up the innate fear that more rural people have of snakes (quite rightly given how dangerous many of them can be). However, that does not mean I was especially brave, quite the contrary! I tend to view large mammals as more dangerous on the whole, and my family tease me about being scared of cows,” she adds.
And how are dangerous snakes handle? How does one feel touching them? “We actually tend to avoid handling venomous snakes unless absolutely necessary, using hooks, tongs and tubes to make it possible to do it safely when it is necessary. While working in the field, I have come across cobras, king cobras, Russell’s viper (which is considered by many to be the most dangerous snake in the world), coral snakes, and plenty of pit vipers. In my experience, they leave you alone if you do not bother them, and I would only do so if there was a good scientific reason.”
And what were the challenges she faced in her field? Snakes do not respect country borders which meant that for the study of a single species, it would be necessary to go through a huge amount of bureaucracy to apply for permits to work in three or four different countries. Having done all that, there was no guarantee of success as pit vipers can be very difficult to find and keep unsociable hours, being mostly nocturnal.
And her advice to youngsters who wish to get into this field? “Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, get practical experience by volunteering, follow your dream and accept that sometimes this matters more than making a lot of money,” says Malhotra.
snapshot of the institute’s Delhi office