The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has gone for a stylized logo CA that can adorn the letterheads of a chartered accountant in India. Brand building and its adjunct logo are essential in a competitive situation as otherwise there would be nothing to differentiate one product from another.
Pepsi and Coke are brands that fiercely vie with each other for market share. Their brand names and their brand ambassadors differentiate and proclaim the products emerging from them. There are also brands like woolmark, ISI, agmark, and so on, that are not company specific but cater to the entire industry so as to project it in a good light before the customers at large.
Such collective brands are registered and promoted by the regulatory body under whose protective wings come the various producers belonging to the industry. Thus manufacturers of food products while directly in competition with one another may nevertheless sport the industry logo agmark in addition.
Perhaps the ICAI has pioneered the idea of collective mark in the esoteric and rarefied world of professionals with a view to proclaiming the quality of the qualifications its members have so as to overcome the onslaught of attack from the equally dignified profession of management consultants.
It may appear ironical that a professional body which proscribes its members from advertising for professional work, itself woos potential clients on behalf of its membership.
Allopathy doctors these days feel the heat of competition from not only quacks but also from alternative systems of medicine such as unani, homeopathy and ayurveda. Would the Medical Council of India be better advised to toe the ICAI line? There are charlatans and impostors galore in the legal world too. The Bar Council of India too can perhaps emulate the ICAI.
The chartered accountants not fortunate to belong to the Ivy League are not however amused by the ICAI initiative. To them, brand CA is a gimmick which can at best protect the turf of big players, especially when the ICAI backs up its initiative with imaginative advertisements with a view to wooing prospective clients into the fold of its membership. The lesser ones can just wear the brand on their sleeves, only just. Because quality professional work is hogged by the big players in any case. Public sector bank branch audits and other sundry professional work that are left for them are all what they are going to get, brand or no brand.
The profession has to live down its reputation of being hand in glove with managements of the audit enterprises which perception stems from you-dont-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you theory.
Making the auditors fiercely independent is thus more important to overcome public cynicism than bestowing on them an honorific that they have been enjoying in any case even otherwise.
S. Murlidharan (The author is a Delhi-based chartered accountant.)