Puneet Bansal graduated in B. Com. from Hansraj College, Delhi University in 1998 and thereafter he acquired an LL.B degree in 2007 by eking out time for the evening classes of Campus Law Centre of Delhi University. Over the course of his highly successful career he has worked as a Partner at Lakshmi Kumaran & Sridharan as well as BMR Associates. He is at present a Managing Partner at Nitya Tax Associates.
In this interview he tells us about:
- Chartered Accountancy – his time in college, the contours of the course and tips to ace the entrance exam.
- The work in an advisory practice, his law degree and experiences as a Partner at two firms.
- The importance and convergence of law and taxation, advice for Tax Law enthusiasts, his views on the GST and setting up Nitya Tax Associates.
How would you introduce yourself to our readers? Please tell us about your family and childhood.
I was born and brought-up in a middle class family. My father is a business man and mother is a house maker. Being in a middle class household, my upbringing was normal. I was a pretty average student till Class X.
Were you always clear about your career plans considering you pursued commerce in senior secondary and went on to graduate from Hansraj College, Delhi University in B.Com?
Never. I choose Commerce in Class XI as I was not interested in Science and Arts. It was in Class XI that I developed an interest in studies and started doing well. Since my marks in Class XII were good, I joined Hansraj College. I didn’t have any career plan till then.
How did you manage college with your CA preparations?
One of my uncles filled the Chartered Accountancy form and that’s how I started doing CA. Indeed, CA used to be a tough course earlier as well. I used to go to college in the first half and come back to the CA firm in the second half when I was interning. It was a tough 3 years of managing both studies and internships.
Please tell us about your CA Articleship. What was the application procedure? How competitive was it to secure an Articleship? What was the work assigned to you?
I did an internship in a medium-size CA firm. My senior in the CA firm was a family friend so I got the internship with ease. I did accounting, company law and Income tax related work during the internship. Importantly, I was not at all exposed to indirect taxes during my internship which is my area of profession now. The period of my internship was a thorough enjoyment and was my first chance to peek into the professional services space.
You graduated from Hansraj College in 1998 and finished your CA course in 1999 with an All India Rank. Please enlighten our readers with some valuable tips to ace the CA examinations.
I cleared all CA exams in the first go and was the All India 27th rank holder in the CA final. I have followed one rule for preparation for CA exams, and in fact, now as well when I am practicing on my own I abide by it and that is ‘whatever you do, do with passion and then everything will fall in place. Otherwise do not do it’. I was always interested in understanding concepts rather than clearing exams. The conceptual clarity in all the CA final subjects only helped me in clearing the exams.
Our readers would like to know about your initial days as a CA professional. Could you share with us any interesting anecdotes?
When I became a CA, I thought that life henceforth would be easy. But I was confronted with reality soon and realized clearing CA is the start of struggles in one’s professional career. Clearing the CA exam only opens the gates to the professional world. At each stage of our professional lives, we need to prove ourselves with hard work and competence.
Was it difficult for you to shift to a new place of work, which was primarily a law firm? Please tell us about your work experience at L&S.
(Puneet joined Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan in 2003 as a Chartered Accountant in their indirect tax litigation practice.)
Indeed. I was working in Maruti Udyog and suddenly decided to shift to L&S. My family was stunned and couldn’t understand my decision. Also, the decision to shift from an Industry to a Law firm was a big change in my career. Working at L&S was a great experience. It was a close knit family environment comprised of competent professionals. Initially I did litigation, and later, set up their advisory practice. It was 9 years well spent in my career.
In 2004, you joined Delhi University to pursue law. What was the driving force behind this decision?
As I was working in L&S and wanted to make a career in litigation, I decided to do law. The admission procedure at the Delhi University required clearance of an entrance test. Clearing the entrance test was not tough.
Please tell us about your law school days. Did you participate in any student activities? How active were you in other college activities?
I did law from the Campus Law Centre, Delhi University evening batch, so I used to attend the classes and write the exams. As I was working full time in L&S, I didn’t participate in student or college activities during my law school days.
How helpful was your law degree in terms of the added legal perspective to your existing knowledge? What career advantages did it bring?
(Puneet qualified in Law in 2007, after that he continued with L&S.)
The law degree really helped in giving me perspectives on the Indian Constitution and various other Commercial laws. I would recommend it as a “must do” if one needs to practice tax. Further, the law degree opens an opportunity for you to appear in the High Court and Supreme Court.
What work does advisory practice include? What were the added responsibilities as a partner of one of the leading firm in indirect taxes?
(After establishing the advisory practice of L&S, Puneet headed this team as a partner from 2010 to 2012.)
The advisory practice involved advising clients on Indirect Tax issues involving legal interpretation, structuring business models etc. As a Partner of a large law firm, I was responsible for advising leading corporates of India. I also had the responsibility of managing a team of 10 – 12 professionals.
Please share with us your work experience at BMR.
(In 2012, Puneet joined BMR & Associates LLP as a partner.)
My professional journey wouldn’t have been complete without joining BMR. It was a totally different way of practicing when compared to a law firm. The advisory practice was more focused on bringing legal, practical and implementable solution for clients. Furthermore, I really liked the professional practices in BMR. Overall, it was a great experience.
How important is taxation as a subject for law students? What advice would you give our readers to consider taxation as an area of practice?
Taxation is a very important subject for law students especially if one is focused on commercial laws. Taxation plays a key role in business transactions and has the effect of making and breaking the business. The current times are most exciting times for tax professionals with so many things coming up or growing up, be it GST, Transfer Pricing, International Taxation etc. This is right time to be in the taxation field.
What issues did you face while setting up Nitya Tax Associate? Our readers would love to know about the significance of “Nitya” in the firm’s name.
(Puneet recently founded an independent indirect tax boutique “Nitya Tax Associates” at New Delhi.)
The decision to start Nitya was an attempt to create something on our known outside a framework of large firm. In professional services firm, only two things are important – clients and people. Some of the leading corporates have reposed faith in us and the going has been good till now. There were initial challenges on getting good people but now, we have a good team.
The name ‘Nitya’ has its origination in the Sanskrit word and stands for ‘continuity’ / ‘eternity’. The name is a reflection of our belief and commitment to be available to our clients.
Please introduce us to your team. What plans do you have to take forward Nitya Tax Associates, in terms of workforce as well as setting up branches in other major cities of India?
We have a good team with some members with experience ranging from five to eight years. Kulraj Ashpnani, Deepak Suneja and Gaurav Narula have worked in large and reputed professional services firms. As of today, we are twelve professionals -a mix of Accountants and Lawyers. As of now, our focus is on NCR though we continue to cater to clients in other parts of India. For the next one, two, years, we plan to operate from Delhi and to strengthen our foothold first.
What are your views about the upcoming GST regime?
The GST will significantly simplify the indirect tax regime. During the first few years, it will open a floodgate of opportunities for professionals be it accountants or lawyers.
What are the preferred legal issues you like to work on? Do you have any hobbies that help you unwind after a long day at work?
Working on complex Indirect Tax issues for large manufacturing clients is my favorite as of now. I also enjoy doing litigation. Spending time with my kids and watching Hindi movies really helps me unwind.
What would be your parting message for our readers?
It does not matter what career you choose, but whatever you choose, do it in the most exemplary way and then everything will fall in place. Success is not a destination; it is a never-ending journey.