In this comprehensive interview, we have the privilege of delving into the life and career of Mr. Nirlep Bhatt, an inspiring finance leader whose journey embodies the principles of resilience, perseverance, adaptability and continuous learning. Born in the small city & coming from a humble background, Mr. Bhatt’s path to success was paved with discipline, unwavering commitment and a profound commitment to self-improvement. As the current Group Finance Controller at Al Majid Jawad, he shares insights into the milestones and challenges that have shaped his professional trajectory.
Throughout the interview, Mr. Nirlep Bhatt reflects on the key moments and decisions that have been instrumental in his journey, from achieving academic excellence to navigating the complexities of the financial sector, while also overcoming challenges successfully. He emphasizes the importance of mentorship, networking and embracing opportunities for growth, shedding light on how these elements have contributed to his remarkable career.
Mr. Nirlep also discusses the significance of digital transformation and sustainability in modern business, highlighting their impact on profitability and operational efficiency. As a seasoned leader, he shares his perspective on the essence of true leadership – beyond titles and designations – focusing on empowerment, collaboration and inspiring others.
Join us in an intriguing conversation as we uncover the multifaceted professional life of Mr. Nirlep, a figure who not only stands as a testament to achieving professional excellence but also serves as a guiding light for aspiring professionals in the dynamic world of finance.
Would you mind recounting your career trajectory, emphasizing pivotal moments or decisions that have been instrumental?
I was born in Jamnagar, a small city in Gujarat, India. Raised in a humble background, my primary tools for success were hard work, discipline and a laser-focus on education. Although I was a meritorious student, I wouldn’t consider myself a genius or supremely talented. My late parents played a crucial role in shaping my character, fostering curiosity, creativity and confidence in me. They instilled values such as the habit of reading, being respectful for everyone, and a love for nature. There’s a saying, “An open mind collects more riches than an open purse.” This reading habit not only honed my communication skills and expanded my vocabulary but also made me a lifelong seeker of knowledge. My respect for seniors and those more knowledgeable than myself ingrained in me a sense of humility and gratitude. Moreover, my love for nature imbued a softness and kindness in my personality. Little did I know then that these attributes would become Critical Success Factors (CSF) in my life, aiding not just in my academic pursuits but also in shaping my all-round personality and, importantly, in influencing and inspiring others.
I completed my higher education in Ahmedabad and started my career there. After working for over a year in Mumbai with the largest private sector bank in India, I moved to Qatar in 2008. My first job in Qatar was with a multinational construction company. Subsequently, I joined one of the largest conglomerates in Qatar, and currently, I am serving as the Group Finance Controller at Al Majid Jawad, marking a significant milestone in my career.
My leadership abilities are further evidenced by my tenure as the Chairman of the Qatar (Doha) Chapter of ICAI during 2021-22, following six consecutive years in the executive committee. I have also been the President of the CA Toastmasters Club, an Area Director, and have held various other esteemed positions.
What motivated you to pursue a career in this field?
I am fortunate to have earned the esteemed Indian Chartered Accountancy qualification, renowned for its rigorous standards. My motivation to pursue this path stemmed from two key factors:
My natural aptitude in Mathematics, as evidenced by my exceptional scores — achieving 100 out of 100 in grade 10 and 96% in grade 12 in accountancy-related subjects. Additionally, I had the distinction of being among the Top 10 rank holders in my entire district.
The Indian Chartered Accountancy course stands out for its cost-effectiveness and meritocratic nature, offering a level playing field for all. Coming from a self-made, middle-class family, my options were limited, making this affordable yet prestigious career path an ideal choice.
Can you share a few of the projects or initiatives you’re particularly proud of?
I was recognized by the senior leadership of our group as an outstanding contributor for the successful development of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project. In my role as the Head of Finance, despite facing challenging business dynamics, a complex economic landscape, global upheaval like CVOID-19 pandemic, our team effectively managed funds and working capital, without resorting to external borrowing, which we achieved for eight consecutive years.
During my articleship (training period) prior to qualification, I traveled extensively across most districts of Gujarat and its remote areas. My role as the internal audit coordinator for multi-million USD projects, funded by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, was a significant milestone. Undertaking these responsibilities at a young age not only provided me with invaluable work experience but also significantly shaped my management and interpersonal skills.
What’s your approach & thoughts to continuous learning and professional development?
It is often said, “The best return one can generate is by investing in oneself.” In the realm of professional excellence, continuous learning and self-development are not merely beneficial; they are essential. The need to upgrade one’s knowledge and skills transcends mere optionality—it is a fundamental requirement for not just thriving, but also surviving in today’s dynamic environment. This pursuit should not be a one-off endeavor but a lifelong commitment.
To enrich and educate myself, I actively participate in seminars, conferences, and global conventions of professional significance. These platforms allow me to stay current with topics of contemporary relevance and emerging trends. My involvement extends beyond attendance; I have been a speaker and moderator at many prestigious events. Balancing this with other priorities is challenging, yet I conscientiously ensure my participation, whether as an organizer, speaker, or attendee. Additionally, I engage in residential courses at highly respected business schools to further enhance my knowledge and skills.
How do you handle setbacks or failures in your professional journey?
I firmly believe in the principle of not letting success go to my head & not letting failure go to my heart. In an environment where outcomes often overshadow efforts due to fierce competition, I recognize the importance of actively practicing persistence, introspection, focused action and renewed vigor.
In moments of failure, it is crucial to reflect on the reasons that initiated one’s journey. This introspection often reveals the answers needed to persevere. It is worth noting that success, particularly when it follows failure, tends to be sweeter and more gratifying.
In this context, the role of a mentor is invaluable – a guide who offers motivation and insight without judgment. I embrace learning opportunities from everyone I encounter, including my juniors and approach different perspectives and constructive criticism with sagacity and judiciousness.
What were the key challenges you have faced? How did you overcome them? And were the critical success factors in your opinion?
The biggest challenge, if I may call, I have faced is that luck has hardly favored me. But this has strengthened my self-belief and faith in my efforts. Being raised in a middle-class family, I understood the value of time and money quite early and have learnt to utilize them wisely. Staying away from my hometown & parents was often difficult, but it made me emotionally independent and strong.
Covid-19 acutely impacted our business and consequently, my professional growth. I continually expanded my network and did not stop upskilling; in fact, I elevated it.
When I was the Chairman of the Doha Chapter of the ICAI, I encountered insurmountable challenges on both professional and personal fronts. I, with faith in the Almighty & undeterred commitment, not only continued to serve members & students steadfastly and but also collaborated with multiple stakeholders and engaged institutions – viz. Embassy of India in Qatar, Qatar Financial Center, Invest India, Indian Business & Professional Council and other overseas chapters. The Doha Chapter not only reached newer heights but also was awarded the 1st Prize as the Best Overseas Chapter’s Award (Category 2) by the ICAI, thanks to exemplary teamwork, resolute mindset and support from everyone.
How important has mentorship and networking been in your professional journey?
Life without a mentor is akin to a ship without direction. It may sail but cannot reach its destination. Throughout different stages of my life, various mentors have provided guidance, encouragement, and continuous improvement, as guiding lights. Similarly, I mentor many young professionals and students on topics such as professional excellence and career growth, among other areas of professional interest. In mentorship, both the mentor and mentee learn and evolve. A mentor’s role cannot be overemphasized, especially during a challenging period, as discussed earlier.
Building and maintaining networks is immensely important. It has enabled me to expand my horizons and step beyond my comfort zone. Networking skills have not only allowed me to learn from others but also to assist them. However, networking is often perceived as easy, which is far from the truth. Merely exchanging cards or connecting on LinkedIn does not constitute effective networking; it should be conducted in a purposeful manner. Moreover, as a leader in networking, one must also be a collaborator and facilitator for others, as highlighted earlier. This is how one makes a difference and adds value.
Both mentorship and networking have been instrumental in shaping my professional journey. In fact, I have had the opportunity to conduct sessions on these topics, among others.
Would you like to share a couple of memorable leadership experiences?
As the Chair of the Sponsorship Committee for a major event which was organized at the Torch Doha & was attended by nearly 400 attendees from diverse culture & background, I volunteered my services and successfully raised substantial funds surpassing the objectives of the mega conference. The key leadership skills employed included collaboration, creating win-win situations, negotiation abilities, and executing projects within strict deadlines.
Early in my career, I had an opportunity to work with colleagues representing as many as 20 nationalities that made me culturally sensitive & an open-minded professional. When I transitioned to a new job, my subordinate, whom I’ll refer to as Nick, shared with me on my last working day, “You will find another Nick, but I will never find another Nirlep.” These words are unforgettable and have deeply touched my heart.
Leadership is not merely about titles and designations. It’s about empowering, elevating, and enriching others, ensuring win-win situations, and constantly improving, influencing, and inspiring those around you.
In the current business scenario, how important do you deem digital transformation & sustainability?
Digital transformation is the only way forward and a top strategic priority for organizations. Embracing technology to its fullest is essential, regardless of your business domain, size, or scale. We are in the era of Industry 4.0, where cloud technology, robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and machine learning are set to impact every aspect of our professional functions. It is crucial not only to adopt these technologies but also to become adept at using them.
Harmonizing business objectives with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not just a moral obligation; it’s a strategic imperative. Many global challenges that the SDGs aim to address, such as climate change, resource scarcity, and social inequalities, directly affect business operations and profitability. By acknowledging these intersections, companies can proactively mitigate risks while uncovering new opportunities for growth.
Mr. Nirlep, give us a few words, that describe you best:
Persistent, self-motivated, adaptable & lifelong learner.
Finally, any words of advice or guidance for young professionals?
Make upskilling your closest ally to be future-ready. Find your passion and motivation and never lose sight of them. Strive for happiness and a balanced life.
Connect with Nirlep Bhatt on LinkedIn.