A Fellow Member of the ICSI and a Law Graduate (L.LB.), with Post Graduation in Economics (M.A.) and Commerce (M.Com.)

CS Ashish Garg has been re-elected to the Central Council of the ICSI for the second term of four years in the year 2019 after the first term from 2015-2018.

With over 19 years of experience and specialization in Corporate Laws, Organizational Restructuring, and Corporate Legal Advising, he is a sought after faculty at conferences and seminars for CSs, CAs, and MBAs in India and abroad. 

An extremely passionate and driven professional known for his diligence, perseverance, and endurance, CS Garg has been a visionary since his days as the Secretary and Vice Chairman of the Indore Chapter of the Western India Regional Council of The ICSI.

CS Ashish Garg President, The Institute of Company Secretaries of India talks about his inspiration, his challenges, and his journey so far in an exclusive interview with CLIQTAX:

CT: What inspired you to choose CS profession?

AG: I always had a knack for solving problems and advising people. As any other teenager of my age back then, I was looking for a course that would hone my skill as well as help me use it to my advantage in my career. Choosing Company Secretary Course was an easy, informed, and well thought over the decision.

Students from any stream (except for fine arts) can enroll and pursue this Professional Degree Course alongside graduation.  So, for someone coming from a then small city of Ujjain, aspiring to make a mark for oneself in the corporate world, becoming a Company Secretary was my key to Board Rooms and Strategic Advising.

CT: How do you provide balance to professional and personal life?

AG: Company Secretaries are known to be good time managers, for we are taught this right from the beginning as to how to diligently work and follow the laws in true letter and spirit, within strict timelines. Just the way we are abreast of our form filing calendar, scheduling and planning in advance comes easily to us by virtue of experience. 

As the President of the Institute, I have to travel from one part of the country to another, to ensure that the Institute is working in tandem with the Ministry and the Government. This shuttling between cities, amidst stringent timelines, does take a toll sometimes on one’s personal life.

However, having said that, technology has helped a lot in shortening the distances and increasing the efficiency of the functioning of both professional and personal life.

CT: Importance of reading the newspaper & magazines in professional life?

AG: As a professional, one needs to be aware of what is happening around the world to be able to tweak his work in tandem with changes in the surrounding. And what better source than this most powerful means of expression of the news and views, the Newspaper, to quench this thirst.  

Of course, there are other means of getting news these days but newspapers will still hold its importance for the very fact that it enhances your vocabulary and widens your perspective. For Professionals like Company Secretaries, it is but natural to have got advocacy skills, and newspapers perfectly add that flavor.

I personally recommend to all young professionals to develop a habit of reading newspapers daily to keep themselves abreast of their surrounding professional environment.

CT: Are there any differences between the Company Secretary course of your time and at present?

AG: As we all know that “The Only Constant in Life is Change” and for any professional course that caters to the ever-changing business environment, revising, adding, and discarding the antiquated is necessary for sustainable progression.

Therefore, the Institute of Company Secretaries of India has always been making the necessary changes in its course structure to leverage the role of Company Secretaries in the Indian Economy.

Over time the Company Secretary Course Syllabus has also undergone many changes to incorporate the conditioning required for the new role and responsibilities bestowed upon the Company Secretaries after the Companies Act 2013.

From the traditional role of Compliance, Company Secretaries have now moved on to becoming the Governance Professionals of the country.

CT: Is there something that you like to tell students wishing to join the profession?

AG: This goes out for all the students standing at the threshold of choosing a career or profession to always make an informed choice rather than giving in to peer pressure.  

The key to success is not just in perseverance and dedication but is also deeply embedded in the decisions that one takes at the beginning of his career. Company Secretary is a Profession that sans boundaries.

With the Regulatory Authorities consciously working on developing a robust governance structure in the country, professionals like Company Secretaries, with their knowledge of the multifarious aspects of corporate governance and business operations, will have a pivotal role to play in acting as an extended arm of the Regulatory Authorities to build a Self Reliant India. 

CT: Tell us something about your vision on 21st-century students in order to enhance the profession?

AG: 21st Century is going to be ruled by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. There will definitely be a paradigm shift but automation will never be able to differentiate between ethical and unethical unless it is ascribed with a peculiar program for it.

Therefore, skills are to stay forever. Even a recent survey conducted by Oxford on the possibility of Artificial Intelligence taking up human jobs 20 years from now, placed Company Secretaries at relatively low risk of only 6%, much lower than other professionals, further emphasizing the increased scope and demand for these Avant-grade Governance Professionals.

Thus the focus of all students should be to constantly upskill themselves and embrace technological advancement in the profession as an opportunity into the future.

CT: ICSI has joined hands in many tie-ups and partnerships like with International Accounting Bodies. Can you throw some light in that area as how these partnerships will help the profession as a whole?

AG: ICSI is a member of Corporate Secretaries International Association Ltd (CSIA), International Valuation Standards Council (IVSC), and International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) and has been closely associated with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

ICSI has received equivalence recognition of Bachelors and Masters, for its Executive & Professional Programs respectively, in UK & UAE by UK NARIC. Malaysian Association of Company Secretaries (MACS) has adopted the Secretarial Standards formulated by ICSI for benchmarking its own Secretarial Standards.

ICSI has a MoU signed with the Institute of Chartered Secretaries Administrators (ICSA) for providing for reciprocal exemptions to subjects as well as training requirements to members of each other's Institute.

ICSI has a MoU with the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI) whereby CISI qualification may be offered to ICSI students and members at a 50% discount.

Besides this, the Vision of the Institute is “To be a global leader in promoting Good Corporate Governance” and the Mission is “To develop high caliber professionals facilitating good corporate governance” and reaffirming its commitment to both these statements, ICSI has made headway in growing its global footprint by setting up ICSI Overseas Centre, USA, ICSI Middle East (DIFC) NPIO and ICSI Overseas Centre London.

All of them have been actively engaged in organizing various capacity-building programmes and facilitating the members and students of the Institute. 

CT: Let us know the prospects the young students can look forward to choose this profession as their career?

AG: As mentioned earlier, the role and scope of work for Company Secretaries have increased many folds. They are the key functionaries in the corporate pyramid, rendering their expertise and service in various laws like corporate, securities, accounting, taxation, and other allied laws.

With the Companies Act, 2013 conferring a special status on to Company Secretary as the Key Managerial Personnel or KMP, bracketing them along with MD, CEO, Manager, Whole-time director(s) and CFO and mandating of Secretarial Audit by a Practicing Company Secretary, the role has now become more expansive and inclusive.

While these are the roles designated under the Companies Act, the responsibilities and recognition of the Governance Professionals extends into securities laws rolled out by SEBI, GST, Insolvency Laws, Consumer Protection Act, Depositories Act, Competition Act, Labor and Industrial laws, Intellectual Property Laws and so on.

Even further the Company Secretaries have been recognized to act as Arbitrators under the Arbitration Laws and also appear before tribunals like NCLT/NCLAT. Guiding corporates on strategizing business policies, Risk Management, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sustainability Reporting, etc. is another forte of this brigade. 

So yes Sky is the Limit.

CT: Message for CS students?

AG: Knowledge plays a very important role in anything and everything that one does be it choosing a profession, making money, taking care of one’s health, or even choosing the kind of lifestyle one wants to have.

There is no alternative to the value that a constant continuous education, through books, lectures, and practical training, adds to a 360-degree development of an individual.

As It is rightly said, “Success is a journey and not a destination” and to be able to tread the path of this beautiful journey, you cannot afford to sit when you achieve a benchmark. Your dedication and hard work today is what will help you hold your heads high tomorrow. I convey my best wishes to all of you, for all your future endeavors. 
CT: How was your experience with CLIQTAX?

AG: Cliqtax is doing a wonderful job of bridging the gap between professionals from various walks of life by providing a networking platform where ideas and initiatives are talked about.

It has been an absolute pleasure to be associated with such a novel platform that is giving professionals an edge by allowing them to exhibit their skills and expertise and making them accessible to the seekers. Good luck and Best Wishes.

CLIQTAX extends heartiest wishes to CS Ashish Garg President at The Institute of Company Secretaries of India for his journey as a mentor. Kudos to him for such an amazing interview.



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