Tapan Jindal, Head - Finance, Legal and Supply Chain, SugarBox Networks

Even though Tapan calls himself a corporate strategist, entrepreneurial thinker and a result-oriented problem solver, the one thing that keeps him going is unearthing ways to add value in his work. He also firmly believes that the financial department of an organisation plays a pivotal role in operational excellence and impacting the company’s bottom-line.

In his career span of close to 16 years, Tapan has worked as an Investment Banker, Corporate Finance Executive, and Chief Financial Officer, with various brands. His previous stints have been with commendable growth brands like Baazi Games, Car Dekho, Den Networks,  Fidelity International and Moody’s Analytics Knowledge Service. In his current role at SugarBox Networks, he is responsible for building a tech-based financial and legal  & compliance infrastructure, building business partnerships, and overall planning and budgeting to enable business growth.

Tapan is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and also holds a Bachelors in Commerce from Panjab University.

 

If you visualise a modern-day start-up, chances are you will see a fast-paced environment, ever evolving business ideas to solve consumer problems, lack of resources (including money), and hear whispers about cost optimization and fund raise, almost through-out the year. And often you will see people assuming greater responsibilities and every individual rolling up their sleeves, to solve that one extra challenge. Finance chiefs are no exception, to this picture.

For the longest time, finance chiefs were construed to be like goalkeepers of a hockey game – the team’s last line of defence. However, in the current era, finance chiefs are also required to play the role of mid-fielders to be able to add value to the business. The midfield is the engine room of the team. Midfielders are expected to attack and defend. Midfield players will have to be able to shoot, tackle, mark, dribble and pass, as well as read the play accurately. It is probably the hardest field hockey/soccer position to play. (India’s Goalkeeper Sreejesh and Midfielder Hardik Singh played a crucial role in Tokyo 2020 Olympics and helped India win Olympics medal after 41 years). Over the last decade and a half, the role of finance chiefs has witnessed a shift from being essentially the chief accountant of a company to being a strategic business partner for the chief executive officer.

Today, finance chiefs need to act both as analysts and strategists who can help steer their company in the right direction. They need to ensure that all relevant information around value creation and performance, opportunities and risks, and trade-offs are available for internal decision makers, investors and other capital providers – to steer an organization towards its business objectives.

Be a Strong Communicator: Finance chiefs can only be successful in this strategic role if they are great communicators. Today, finance chiefs must be far more visible and transparent. The more time they spend communicating and educating, the more sophisticated business units will become in understanding links among strategic goals, performance, and budgets. 

It’s All About the Right Time: PR Sreejesh brilliantly saved two goals – one in the 6th minute and the second in last 6 seconds of the game, which got India its 1st Olympics Hockey Medal in over four decades. If you had followed that game, you would realise the importance of time for a hockey goalkeeper, in the context of the match. Similarly, a finance chief needs to understand the importance of timely reporting to business and other stakeholders for better & timely decision making. A financial report that goes out to the CEO and business leaders on 20th of the following month, might not create a significant value as the decision making gets delayed. We all have read or heard about how Ford Motor’s then CFO reinvented the wheel to restructure the financial reporting in Ford to make 5th day MIS delivery possible from existing 20th day structure, which then helped its CEO and Sales Teams to take data driven timely decisions. The CEO-CFO partnership eventually led to the creation of the Taurus, one of the company’s all-time best sellers!

Act as a True Business Partner: Whatever role the finance chief plays – accounting, treasury, FP&A, compliance – one needs to deeply understand the problems business is trying to solve, in order to be the best business partner a finance chief can be. Business teams are looking for their finance departments to do more than track and report results, close the books every quarter, and establish guardrails for spending. 

Provide Information and Not Just Data: A traditional Finance Chief is consumed with myriad compliance processes and monthly reporting. To create value, the finance function needs to evolve, by providing meaningful insights into the decision-making process. A modern-day start-up is often backed by private equity or venture capital firms. PE-VC firms have a huge appetite for financial and operational data analytics, particularly data about what drives a business. This data is mostly used to derive meaningful insights for shareholder value creation. Institutional investors require that the finance chief creates value by combining financial expertise with operational facts to help the CEO and the founding teams make more informed decisions.

Good financial officers are more than just number crunchers or bookkeepers. They think like a founder, bringing entrepreneurial in their decision-making, adding hands-on approach and a concise and timely communication style. 

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