ICAI San Francisco plans beyond the pandemic



In-person meetings are still not back in fashion, but community leaders, elected officials, and members of the San Francisco chapter of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) were all smiles during a holiday luncheon.

Vish Arunachalam

Vish Arunachalam, founder chairman, and director of ICAI San Francisco, also had something more than social bonding in mind; he was thinking about issues most chartered accountants face and ways to get the U.S. and Indian governments to help address them.

It makes sense. After all, Arunachalaam established the chapter, to generate goodwill between the accounting fraternities of India and the U.S. The agenda at the luncheon, held Dec. 18 at Amber India restaurant in Los Altos, California, and attended by more than 150 people, just took things further.

Arunachalam told indica that he was pleased that so many people had shown up, despite fears of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The San Francisco chapter, launched in 2017, boasts over 450 members. Across the United States in chapters such as Washington D.C., New England, Houston, Dallas, Chicago and New York, the total number is 4,000.

“We believe we need more though we are getting more popular and we have a nice footprint at this time,” said Arunachalam, who aspires to have ICAI chapters in “each state and at least in one city [in each of them]. The U.S. has the most overseas offices, and we have a nice society.”

Arunachalam pointed out that the group’s biggest concern was that chartered accountants, highly prized in India, were not recognized in the U.S. He pointed out that, ironically, a master’s in commerce is recognized but the far more rigorous standards that made a chartered accountant was not. He pointed out that other parts of the world had mutual reciprocity arrangements between their local institutions and The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.

He said that ICAI San Francisco was trying to get mutual reciprocity with the state of California, which like other states, regulates its own accounting body, in its case the California Board of Accountancy.

“We are mobilizing resources, and bringing up people together and partnering with local leadership,” Arunachalam said. “So there is some work that needs to be done.”

He said ICAI had reached out to authorities in a few states, but has to reach across the country.

“It’s not as simple as it appears,” Arunachalam said. “There have been attempts made in the past. The Indian government needs to be involved and [the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India is] with us,” he said.

Dr. Nagendra Prasad, India’s consul general in San Francisco, the chief guest, lauded the fact that ICAI sent over medical supplies during the second COVID wave in India. He also discussed plans to host budget-related and hold sessions to answer tax-related queries.

ICAI also honored the mayor and vice mayor of the city of Fremont, council members of Santa Clara and Saratoga, and many community leaders who have helped support the organization.

When indica asked the consul general about ICAI’s Chartered Accountants’ degree issue and any support he could offer said, “We will take this up with California state once I receive a formal request from ICAI in this regard.”

Sudha Michel, the vice chairperson at the ICAI San Francisco chapter, told indica that while the organization offered mentoring support, and conducted focus workshops and panel discussions, more work needed to be done to encourage women.

“We have to believe in ourselves at the highest level,” Michel said.”You need a sisterhood… and there are some things only a woman can understand and support the other person. She said the San Francisco chapter is trying to host women’s forums, and have one-on-one sessions with a mentor to address how to balance family and work, especially if the accountant was also a young mother. While the chapter is yet to hold events for women, other chapters have led the way, she said.