RAMESH KUMAR / New
60, Kashi Nath
Memani is a contented man. With reason. The
International Monetary Fund has picked him as one of the three most
important men in the world to scrutinise its own account books. And
Memani, chairman of the Delhi-based accountancy
consultancy firm Ernst & Young India, is thrilled at being the
first Indian to be conferred such a prestigious assignment.
"More than personal glory, you must view this as the global
recognition of Indian accountancy practices," says the lean and tall
Memani. If the accounting wizard, who hails from
Dhulian in West Bengal's Murzidabad district, is to be believed,
Indian accounting practices are more or less at par with the United
States General Accounting and Audit Practices (US GAAP). Then how do
you account for the multicrore securities scandal and the plethora
of other scams that hit the Indian financial and corporate scene?
"Our accountants and auditors are world class. But if you don't have
proper systems in place, what can you do?" says the Marwari
family has been living in West Bengal for the last 100 years. Even
today, two of his brothers are living and doing business there.
Educated at Scottish Church College in Calcutta,
Memani came out with flying colours in Commerce. He
headed straight for S R Batliboi & Co in 1965 as a chartered
accountancy trainee. Three years later, he became a partner. But
Calcutta was not to his liking. "I was getting stiff and wanted to
shift out and quietly suggested to my partners to let me go and set
up our Delhi office," says he.
Well, that was the turning point in his career. "In 1971, I
reached Delhi and found a place at Kasturba Gandhi Marg, near
Connaught Place, and was lucky enough to get space in the only
high-rise building there. We were three of us then -- an assistant
and a peon besides myself. Today we are 300 plus in Delhi alone and
900 all over India."
Memani was so good at human relations -- the current
rage in corporate India -- those two employees work for him even
Around 1989, when Arthur Young and Ernst & Winnie merged
worldwide to become Ernst & Young,
Memani had some problems. While S R Batliboi & Co
was working with Arthur Young, Ernst & Winnie had an arrangement
with Billimoria & Co. Unfortunately, the Indian companies did
not see any merit in coming together. "We were culturally different
and for some time the new global outfit allowed both of us to handle
their work in India," he adds.
Soon, Ernst & Young felt that such an arrangement would not
do and after much scrutiny chose to work exclusively with S R
Batliboi & Co.
Memani heads Ernst & Young India's operations.
Though he left Calcutta over a quarter century ago, he still loves
his Bengali roots. "I am not a Bengali by caste. The moment I sense
I am in the midst of Bengalis, I break into Bengali," says he. At
home, he uses Marwari with his wife, English and Hindi with his son
Rajeev (a partner at Ernst & Young) and daughter Ritu (studying
Public Relations in London).
Memani will be heading for New York to attend the
first meeting of the IMF audit committee. "There is no monetary gain
in this high-profile job. Just honorary," he says. Besides
Memani, the committee has two representatives -- one
from the United Kingdom and the other from Argentina. But until his
flight takes off, it is business as usual at his spacious,
spick-n-span South Delhi office.