And with the downward spiral in fortunes for all things internet, you can understand his reluctance to be grouped with a growing catalogue of failed ventures.
Nevertheless, ACCA-qualified Karia has joined a select band of accountants in moving away from day-to-day practice to take his first tentative steps in the new economy. And so far he’s relishing the internet’s challenge.
‘The web presents an amazing opportunity. What fascinates me is the provision of knowledge on demand,’ he says.
‘Throughout my career I have enjoyed working with cutting-edge technology, and I feel I’m getting that opportunity again now.’
Having set up a successful practice, Karia, a PKF-trained accountant, was after something new. But with questions about how to build a successful business model on the internet, he’s not in for an easy ride.
Amid doubts over the economy, eaccountingplus launched four weeks ago following a year’s technical development. It’s the brainchild of Karia’s friend Reema Chadha who had noticed too many accountants’ websites were just online brochures – basic marketing tools describing the practice, its history and how to get in touch. But the internet has the potential to be more than a fancy phone directory and Chadha and her colleagues realised what clients really wanted was their accountant online.
‘I believe in the internet, but I’m not just interested in websites themselves. The concept of a professional portal is far more attractive,’ Karia reckons.
‘Part of this was born out of my desire to make my own practice more efficient so it would take up less of my time. Many of the accountants’ everyday chores can now be automated – in fact many of the accounting procedures he [sic] undertakes can now be automated too.’
And in a highly competitive market, the company hopes this will help it keep ahead of the rest. By providing accountants with control over what appears on their website and enabling them to provide portfolio management for their clients, it reckons it has first mover advantage.
Tax calculators and tables, newsletter content, a company formations service and discussion forums can all be added to a website, to form what Karia rather grandly refers to as an ‘accountant’s portal’. Naturally enough, one of the first practices to sign up was Karia’s own, but since launch, ten others have signed and he says more are interested.
‘We are bringing powerful internet technology to small and medium-sized practices at a fraction of the cost paid by big firms,’ says Karia.
And it’s true. While perhaps not having quite as much scope as Karia would like to think – ‘we already have a medium-sized firm interested,’ he claims – the solution does show remarkable breadth. Adding an online advice centre to basic accounting services means clients have access to their accountant even if they’re doing business on the other side of the globe.
For Karia, 42, eaccountingplus is a logical step in his career. After PKF, he moved to IT solutions company Star where he helped market products to companies and became increasingly aware that accountants were laggards in terms of technology.
‘Too often clients have introduced new technology to their accountants. Accountants have been dragged along.’
‘I noticed this when I worked at Star but now feel eaccountingplus is offering the opportunity for accountants to reverse the process and become technology leaders. We are helping accountants to drive technology solutions to clients,’ he says.
Eaccountingplus reckons it can do this by e-enabling accountants so that they can offer e-business products that previously small practices could never have imagined selling. And of course the accountant gets a cut for every transaction.
Karia says: ‘My practice can now offer a range of e-solutions. For practices of my size to be able to this is great. And the practice gets additional fees out of any new services a client takes up.’
Karia is already boasting some ten customers and with an OFEX float on the horizon and plenty of space at its Berkshire offices, the company has lofty ambitions. Success, however, ultimately depends on how many practices share eaccounting’s vision.
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