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The cost advantage

The ICAI is a choice of thousands of students looking for a specialised professional qualification

education Updated: Nov 27, 2012 16:09 IST
Rahat Bano

If you are looking for a basic college degree along with a professional credential, what do you do? One of the choices of many students with this question on their mind is a programme like cost accountancy, offered by the Institute of Cost Accountants of India.

Rajeev Mehrotra was able to do the institute’s intermediate course while pursuing a BCom (hons). Later he continued with the final part of the cost accountancy course while doing a job which enabled him to self-finance his studies. In the end, he got a professional qualification which is well regarded in the market.

It has been “more than satisfying” to have taken this qualification, says Mehrotra, now chairman and managing director of RITES Ltd, a government of India enterprise which offers engineering, consultancy and project management services in the transport infrastructure sector.

Talking about the cost and management accounting (CMA) course, Mehrotra says, “The diversity of papers and depth of subjects is very good to help you face many challenges in finance and general management.”

RS Sharma, another ICAI member, says he found the course “more comprehensive” than certain other professional courses. “Apart from accounting, taxation and finance, there were papers on law, quantitative techniques and a lot of specialisation in cost management and I could see that any commercial enterprise, business entity, any institution or any organisation has to take care of cost optimisation. There’s a difference between cost savings and cost optimisation which means value for money,” says Sharma, who started his career in banking and went on become chairman and managing director of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation. He is currently chairperson of the Quality Review Board of ICAI and chairman of Lloyd’s Register (south-west Asia), which provides independent assurance to companies operating high-risk, capital-intensive assets in the energy and transportation sectors.

USP: The institute offers a professional course for a particular profession. “The course provides a comprehensive understanding of management function with specialised understanding of cost optimisation, that is, getting best value out of money (for your organisation),” says Sharma.

Programmes: ICAI’s flagship offering is the cost and management accountancy programme, which has three stages, foundation, intermediate and final. Students who have passed Class 10 or its equivalent are eligible to apply for the foundation course. However, they are allowed to take the foundation examination only after passing Class 12 or its equivalent. Those who finish the foundation course from ICAI or graduation from any recognised university can apply for the intermediate course. Those who pass all the six papers in the intermediate course can apply for the final course, after completing which they can become CMAs.

The institute also offers a one-year accounting technician certificate. In addition to this, the institute’s Advance Studies Directorate offers courses in business valuation and corporate restructuring; treasury and financial risk management and enterprise performance management and appraisal system. Under a 2008 memorandum of understanding with ICAI, Indira Gandhi National Open University has been running two special courses BCom with major in financial and cost accounting and MCom in management accounting and financial strategies exclusively for CMA students.

Faculty: The CMA course is conducted mostly through correspondence. For oral coaching classes, the institute engages teachers – most of them practising CMAs, says an official.

Infrastructure: Headquartered at Kolkata, ICAI has regional councils in Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai, and 95 chapters in important cities in India, plus seven centres abroad. The contact classes are held at the institute’s premises (regional and chapters).

Information technology is used to provide virtual classes and various services to the students, currently numbering around five lakh. Student registration is done online and so is the delivery of some classes. To reach students (and members) across the country, there is a webinar (online seminar) facility.

The institute’s placement directorate links up with the industry. Placement camps are organised in different parts of the country. In 2012, ICAI registered 70% placements with an average salary offered of about Rs. 6.5 lakh a year. The employers include a large number of public sector companies, including mini and maha ratnas and multinational companies from the private sector such as ONGC, Coal India, Nestle, Tata Consultancy Services, HCL, TVS, Wipro and Jindal Steel, among others.

During placements, one of the qualified CMAs from the June 2012 batch got a job offer with an annual pay package of Rs. 11.2 lakh from the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

The Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI), formerly the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India, was set up as a statutory body under an act of Parliament in 1959. Working under the administrative control of the Union ministry of corporate affairs, ICAI is a training institute as well as a regulatory body. It regulates the profession of cost and management accountancy, enrols students for its courses, provides them coaching facilities, organises professional development programmes for its members and carries out research as well

There is a need to better control the quality of intake and focus more on equipping students with communication and presentation skills, says Rajeev Mehrotra, an ICAI alumnus (1984 batch), now chairman and managing director of RITES Ltd