I became friends with Karan Batra through our online conversation over email and social media. He is the guy to whom I reach out whenever I need an expert advice on finance. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant who is trying to simplify Income Tax for the common man through his online finance community.
I started my personal finance website because I love to talk about money saving hacks and building a passive source of income. Karan started his finance website because he loves to talk about everything related to finance and taxation.
Karan cleared his CA exams with All India rank 22, and I must tell you that only less than 10% students clear their CA exams and 22 rank is as tough as reaching to the peak of Mount Everest.
Karan is also a visiting faculty member at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and has taken more than 200 batches and has personally mentored more than 10,000 CA Students. He even helped a lot of startups and corporates with his consultancy services.
Also, he has been featured in both TV and Print Media a couple of times and is a renowned Tax Expert.
but… He is making his living from his finance blog.
Do you know how Karan started his online business?
When he was a student, he started an orkut community in 2007 because at that time Facebook was not so popular in India. He understood the power of online communities much earlier in his career. Later on he started his Facebook page in the year 2009 (that now has more than 3,50,000 likes), where he shares his insights and financial wisdom.
Early success on Facebook and Orkut convinced him to start his website in 2011 after completing his education. The initial days were of course difficult, especially when you don’t know anything about technical stuff related to websites and content marketing.
But now, Chartered Club receives 20,00,000 page views every month from more than 1 million users.
Karan has been so kind to me that he agreed to share the snapshot of his traffic when I requested him.
When I was writing my article on 100 ideas for online business in India, then also Karan had shared his research and insights on the finance industry. If you are interested in starting up something in finance industry, you can get a lot of inspiration from his ideas. I have put all the ideas that he has shared with me in my article.
Currently, Karan is making money through different channels on his website.
- Google Adsense – The simplest and easiest way – mainly through Google
- Selling Direct Advertisement space – Direct Advertisers want big traffic. Once you have the traffic – a lot of advertisers start approaching you.
- On call Financial Advisory – Karan also gives his readers an option to directly talk to him over the phone and seek his personal guidance for their specific queries. This is a paid Telephonic Consultancy and he currently charges Rs. 799/- per appointment.
- HR consultancy – Through the website, he gets a lot of leads to hire CA’s and then his wife does the HR Recruitments. (Clear case of Horizontal Business Expansion. If you have traffic – you can sell anything)
From advertisements alone, he is making $2000 every month. He usually does not share his Income Report, but on special request – he agreed to share his Google Adsense Income Report. As mentioned above – Adsense is not his only source of income, but one of the sources of Income. You can even get inspired from the following snapshot.
Some Income Streams from which Karan can make money but does not intent to make money.
- Content Syndication – Karan had tried both Outbrain and Taboola but was not satisfied with the experience as both of them looked spammy and could spoil the user experience.
- Sponsored Reviews/ Posts – Sponsored Reviews pay big money, but may hurt in the long run as your readers may not like it and therefore, Karan always stays away from sponsored reviews.
- Affiliate Marketing – Karan does not sell any products on his website through affiliate marketing, but feels that there is nothing wrong in doing affiliate marketing till the time the products are of use to your readers.
Let’s get some more details from Karan about his personal experience with the online business and some tips for people who want to start something in the finance domain.
Karan, I understand that anyone can make money when they have millions in traffic on their website. But, how was your first year, when you started your website in 2011?
The first year was extremely discouraging. I had skipped my Campus Placements in the hope to enter into a field for which I was passionate about, i.e. getting engaged in the Digital space.
I faced a lot of criticism during my early days and barely anyone understood what I was trying to do. Initially, it used to hurt a lot, but then I realised that it is not their fault. The thing I was trying to do was so futuristic that nobody could understand at that point of time.
The first year was full of struggles. My revenues were extremely low and that I had to opt for other part-time jobs to keep my business and myself afloat.
“Uss waqt startup word hi koi nahi jaanta tha… Uss waqt bola jaata tha – ki beta dhanda kya karte ho??”
I’m talking about the period when bringing up a startup was not considered fancy. The only people who used to opt for doing something of their own were the ones who could not get a job in the corporate field.
When did you receive your first income? How was the experience of making your first dollar from the Internet?
In my initial days – the only source of revenue for me was Advertisements. And, it took a lot of time to receive my first cheque.
Adsense does not disburse payments of less than $100 and it took me 6 months to reach to that level. But, the growth after that was somewhat fast. In fact, fast is an understatement – it was superfast.
The first few months were disheartening. I was frustrated, both with the outside world and myself. But, I kept trying and it was only after a year that I received a payment worth considering.
It was after this payment that I reduced my other part-time engagements and moved my business directly into the 5th gear. I could see a future, which others could not and I decided to run as fast as possible so as to get the maximum benefit or advantage for being the 1st mover.
How much money did you spend on your website in the initial days? And, how much do you spend now on the tools and services to manage your online business?
I had spent around Rs. 15,000 in setting up the website. This included the payment for a shared hosting and wordpress theme customisation. It was fortune enough for me that my school classmate Harsh from Shoutmeloud agreed to set up my website himself and guided me through the things. I’m not sure if he still provides this service.
My current monthly website spending is around Rs. 25,000 per month on the tools and services.
Whenever I spend money, I ensure that the product is good irrespective of the brand. I could easily pay more than Rs. 2,00,000 a month if I want to use the tools of big brands… but, I always research a lot to find the cheap alternatives that could offer almost the same quality and thereby end up saving a lot…
Was there any period in your life when you didn’t feel motivated enough to continue with your Chartered Club?
Yes, in the few initial days of the commencement of my website – I did think of quitting Chartered Club as the revenues were extremely low. But, to stay afloat – I did take up some part time work. And, this is the solution that I would recommend to everyone.
If you create any stream of cash flow (either big or small), it would reduce the pressure on you to perform in your business. Most small businesses shut their work not because they don’t have clients, but because they do not stay long enough in the business.
Can you share something that very few people know about your relationship with Chartered Club?
Our facebook page was taken over thrice by facebook between Jan 2010 and Oct 2011, because we were growing too fast and facebook’s algorithms thought that there is something fishy being going on. However, I was able to prove that all this is the organic growth without implementing any black-hat technique and then they restored the pages to me.
Although, initially I was disheartened when my facebook pages were taken away and classified as Community Pages, but getting them restored was a major confidence booster for me. If Facebook thinks you are growing too fast – it means you are actually growing too fast.
What motivates you when you feel down?
I have felt being discouraged and low a couple of times, and I think that it is a part of everyone’s entrepreneurial journey.
And, when I feel low – I usually go to my colleagues in my co-working space and try to share with them all the difficulties that I’m going through. They may or may not be able to encourage me and guide me, but at least they understand what I’m going through.
There is a very old saying, “Dukh baantne se kam hota hai”. So, I try to connect with my colleagues in my co-working space and I always feel better after that. Sometimes, they are even able to help me solve my problem.
Well, it is important to note here that a salaried employee may not be able to understand the problems of a startup founder. Therefore, I try to connect only with other startup founders, as they are able to better understand my situation.
And, this is one of the main reasons why I work out of a co-working space and don’t prefer to have my own office.
What you do (tips) to stay productive? Any tools you would like to recommend to my readers?
Indians work on deadlines. And, I’m a true Indian.
In the absence of any deadline – most tasks get delayed. Therefore, I try to set deadlines for myself. I try to break big tasks into smaller ones with a daily deadline and try hard to stick to these deadlines.
I recently found free software called Asana, which helps me, set deadlines both for my team and myself and I have personally felt an improvement in the output by setting deadlines.
Any legal hack to save income tax in India that 99% people don’t know about? It must be applicable to general salary class :).
I’ve a firm belief that the Income Tax Rates in India are not high, It’s only that people don’t know the ways to save tax legally ;). I can give one advice to salaried people and one to business class.
Salaried class citizens
A very few are actually saving tax is the deduction under Section 80CCD(2). As per this Section, an additional deduction of Rs. 50,000 is allowed for investment in the National Pension Scheme.
This deduction is allowed over and above the deduction of Rs. 1,50,000 under Section 80C. Very few people are able to claim this deduction due to lack of knowledge, but this is something, which I recommend to everyone.
If you are running a business or working as a professional, you can take advantage of presumptive tax under section 44AD. If you pick presumptive taxation option then your profits would be assumed at the flat rate of your revenue. You don’t have to maintain accounting books. There is no requirement of keeping the records of expense invoices.
For small business : Profits are assumed at 8% of sale revenue if the turnover is less than 2 crore per annum. Good option for anyone who is selling anything online or offline.
For professionals : Profits are assumed at 50% of service revenue if the turnover is less than 50 lakhs per annum.
You can also take advantage of filing your income tax return by using presumptive tax option. If you are making 10,00,000 rupees per year by selling products then you taxable profit is assumed only 80,000 rupees. It’s assumed that your expenses are 9,20,000 without asking you any proof of expenses.
What is the one most biggest/important contributor to your success? (It can be any person, event or philosophy)
There have been many people behind my success and I would like to thank all of them (especially my parents).
Apart from the people – One philosophy, which I personally believe is a sure shot way to succeed is – never do anything for others, do it for yourself. Just assume to be in the footsteps of your client – what type of service/product would you expect?
If you like it, the world will also like it. And therefore, I would advise you to make yourself your 1st Customer. And, if you can satisfy this 1st Customer – your business is a sure shot success. Sadly, I don’t think that 99% of the people would be able to satisfy this first customer.
Which business you would pick if you have to start today? (Apart from similar to Chartered Club)
Not exactly sure about the business, but one space which excites me is what I refer to as ‘Convenience’.
An interesting trend, which I have recently noticed is that people have started paying for convenience. They don’t mind paying extra if the service is good.
Take the case of e-commerce stores – In some cases, they have started charging extra for delivery and people don’t mind paying that. They can easily go to the market and buy the goods, but they prefer to get it delivered at their home and don’t mind paying the delivery charges.
Earlier, people were short of money and had excess time, and therefore, they used to spend money wisely and time excessively. Now, people have more money and less time and therefore they spend money excessively and time wisely.
I have started observing early signs of the fact that people are paying for Convenience. And, if I had to start a new business today – it would be something in this space. In fact, I’m already looking out to make some startup Investment options in this space.
Thank you Karan for giving us your valuable time. Your tips will definitely help me save more money on income tax this year. Presumptive tax option is looking like a gold mine for small business owners.
If you can help a finance geek like me to save thousands of rupees from income tax then I am sure you can help many people in saving tons of money. It becomes more economical for my readers to book your appointment, I think you are going to be very busy in coming days.