Western India has a high degree of corporate presence and Mumbai in particular scores high on  this count. Therefore it is not surprising that, within the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, the Western India Regional Council (WIRC) is an extremely active and relevant contributor, with thoughts on how to maintain the growth, respect and relevance of the profession. Ashish Karodia, Chairman, WIRC, shares his views on the same with Pankaj Joshi.

Edited excerpts:

How do you look at the Western region’s representation in the overall graduate strength of the organization?

The overall member strength of the Institute is around 58,000 and the WIRC’s share is around 20,000. We have generally been around a third of the all-India figure on a consistent basis.

Total student strength of the Institute is close to 3 lakh, and within that the WIRC’s contribution is close to 1 lakh, which again points to consistent contribution. Within the 1 lakh figure of the WIRC, Mumbai has a 50% share and the rest make up 50%, which is indicative of the importance of Mumbai. Even within the 18 chapters of WIRC, five chapters are located in the MMR territory.

Mumbai has been the financial capital of the country and hence it is natural that WIRC would have a major part in the membership and the student strength. We are in active consideration to create a dedicated team in Mumbai to liaise with corporates, to find out what it is that they seek.

Likewise the team will extend its interaction with industry bodies and definitely with students. The Mumbai team vision is primarily how can the scope of work and relevance be expanded. Today the Company Secretary must have great exposure to as many legal areas as possible, more so the newly evolved ones.

WIRC Chairman Ashish Karodia: Interpretation by students, evaluation skills key going forward

What initiatives do you see emerging which would go towards enhancing the relevance of the profile of your organization?

If you want to define the scope of work as per our original charter, each listed company needs a full-time position of Company Secretary. There are five crore private companies which is the other big work opportunity. Our growth really picked up from 2006 onwards as the MCA portal took shape and form.

MCA was among the earliest of ministries to go online, and we were among the earliest to appreciate this strong progressive step and leverage the entire e-governance move, particularly with the digital signature gaining widespread acceptance. The Institute has contributed a lot and has benefited a lot likewise. MCA is among the best of the government portals as of date.

It is part of the mandate of this dedicated team to also create a vision of expansion of work areas across as many legal structures as possible beyond listed companies’ compliance, corporate governance to GST, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Code, NCLT and other things.

The purpose, time and again, is to increase relevance in more and more areas. Shell company identification is another area where our members should be more involved. Valuation exercise is another activity which can raise relevance and growth prospects.

Today the past few years show us that exposing to different tasks and development of varied competencies is growing in practically each city and not just the main cities. Overall the idea is that we should move forward from compliance to governance. Essentially when we have the skills to check the level of compliance effectiveness of a system, we can adapt ourselves to creating such systems.

The forward vision of the Institute is mainly that of governance, an area where our members have a strong understanding. We would definitely be at the forefront among the corporate sector in terms of institutionalised governance, but that is not the only goal.

We want to spread good governance practices beyond corporates. The Institute today is helping the Government to establish good governance systems and practices in areas where the government is active – be it NGOs, or the governing bodies down to the district level and further.

How much are you satisfied with student flow over the past decade vis-à-vis other professional streams like CA and CMA? Which are the specific curriculum areas you want to target for the ICSI?

The student flow has been comparatively weak over the past few years, where a broader trend can be identified. Till around 2005, medical and engineering fields were preferred career options.

From then onwards for a decade, you had the professional fields in vogue – CA, CS, CMA, MBA and so on. From 2015, it is the banking and insurance tailored courses which have enticed student fraternity and seen a shift.

Our pass-out percentages were around 5-10 percent till 2006, and in the subsequent decade they went up to around 20 percent, but since then have reverted to 10 percent.
The current developments would, I believe, bring student traffic back to our Institute.

The IBC / NCLT activity is a great opportunity for our Institute to attract more students, once we create a space for ourselves in that area. As of now, this code is applicable only to corporates, once it is brought down to individual level the opportunities will be massive and so will the manhour requirements. We can definitely see a role for ourselves here.

The syllabus definitely has to move in sync with changes and developments in the corporate world, which will ultimately be the working environment for our pass-out students. A syllabus overhaul is in effect and the executive level syllabus has been upgraded and modernised last year, whereas the similar exercise for the final level syllabus has just been implemented.

Our BFSI teaching has a elective paper where students select one out of eight options available. Exams for these would be in the open book format. The idea here is not to have an assessment of student awareness, but in fact an assessment of what interpretation and evaluation skills has the student developed, which is what is required in the working world.

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