Swadeshi Jagaran Manch

New answers to old questions

Let in foreign accounting firms? We can't say Coke: Yes, Ernst &Young: No

Roopen Roy

Should we allow Martians to buy land in NOIDA? or Should we allow Hindustan Lever to sell Lux in Mylapore? Answer: There are no Martians and Hindustan Lever is an Indian company operating for many years as a distinguished corporate citizen. There are no foreign accounting firms in India. There are audit firms which are owned and managed by Indians, who are members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI). PriceWaterhouse (established in 1880), A F Ferguson, Lovelock & Lewes and Fraser & Ross are examples. They were established long before the ICAI was born or the WTO was mooted. Some of them are great institutions of learning. They have contributed significantly to the development of the profession in the Indian sub-continent. They have groomed thousands of chartered accountants.

Yes, there are numerous Indian firms of chartered accountants which have foreign affiliations. Should we allow them to use foreign sounding names? I do not think we can say Coke: Yes, E&Y: No. The ICAI has an archaic rule that all firms registered after 1988 cannot use any name other than the name of their partners. This does not provide for a level playing field. All Indian firms should be permitted, if they choose, to use the name of their foreign affiliates. Brahmayya & Co should be allowed to use Morrison International, Haribhakti & Co: Moors Rowland International, Lodha & Co: BDO International, RSM & Co: Pannel Kerr Foster and Ray & Ray: Moore Stephens International.

We have so far talked about auditing which is exclusively reserved for CAs. There are other players in accounting, e.g., ICWA. With increased digitisation, back-office accounting will be a multi-billion dollar business. Indian accountants and technologists are so capable in this area that swadeshi movements against them are sprouting in the west. The accounting profession is at the cross-roads. Should we be confident like the software industry and compete successfully in the global market or should we be like the jute industry unceasingly whining for protection? Shall we travel the Narayana Murthy way or go the Gurumurthy route?