Raghunath Debur

10-Best-Leaders-from-Finance-in-India-2023

The Chronicle of an Extraordinary Finance Maestro

Raghunath Debur

Assistant Vice President Finance,

ClayWorks

For someone who believes that age is just a number, Raghunath Debur is the living embodiment of a relentless commitment to his craft. With an illustrious career spanning 45 years in the realms of finance and auditing, his journey reads like a testament to unwavering dedication and unyielding passion. In his 45-year career, Raghunath dedicated 25 years to hospitality, three to the service industry, and 17 to diverse sectors, including retail and non-retail industries.
His career has been punctuated by pivotal roles in internal audits, where he has donned titles such as VP-audits, associate director-audits, and director-audits. Notably, he has also operated his own consultancy with a significant focus on the hospitality industry for a decade. Raghunath’s journey had its humble beginnings in the era of manual accounting, where typewriters and ledger books were the tools of the trade.
In 1976, he embarked on his career as an account assistant at a Mumbai-based manufacturing company’s Bangalore branch. Here, he immersed himself in branch accounting, store management, billing, collections, and expense control. In an era of manual general ledgers, financial intricacies demanded relentless attention, with errors translating to sleepless nights to reconcile the trial balance.
This immersive experience extended through roles at renowned companies like Usha, ECE, and Prakash Tubes Ltd., laying the foundation for his first 12 years in finance. However, a pivotal shift occurred when he joined the UB Group, delving into finance and accounting roles encompassing receivables, expense control accounts, and sales-related activities. His outstanding contributions led to global recognition, with invitations to present papers on receivable controls, breweries, and branch cost controls during the 75th Platinum Jubilee celebrations in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and London.
His career transformation blossomed in the hospitality industry, where he rapidly ascended from middle management to senior levels, navigating the transition to computerization seamlessly. Tenures with renowned hospitality brands like Mahindra & Mahindra, Taj, Leisure Lodges, and IHG Group, coupled with collaborations with esteemed auditors like PKF and Shankar & Sanketh, firmly established his reputation as a finance maverick.
Raghunath’s journey epitomises enduring curiosity, adaptability, and unwavering commitment as he now leads ClayWorks Spaces Technologies as its assistant vice president of finance. With each chapter, he not only embraced change but thrived within it, crafting a remarkable saga of financial prowess and leadership. 

How do you balance long-term strategy with short-term business demands as a financial leader?

Balancing short-term and long-term financial priorities is essential for success. I achieve this by setting clear goals, assessing their urgency, and devising a holistic strategy. This approach involves continuous monitoring, adapting as needed, and consistently working towards milestones. Regarding capital investments in workplace and real estate solutions, my experience in internal audits has highlighted the importance of risk assessment and process classification. In the co-spacing industry, where ClayWorks operates, I emphasise diligent analysis of funds and cash flows. This data-driven approach enables informed decision-making and ensures that potential risks are carefully weighed against potential rewards in a dynamic, expansion-focused environment.

In a co-working space with fluctuating occupancy, how do you ensure cash flow and financial stability?

Co-working is a dynamic market. Effectively managing cash flow and ensuring financial stability amid revenue fluctuations hinges on three primary income streams. Contractual rentals provide a stable foundation, with longterm commitments maintaining consistent occupancy. Meeting room revenue operates similarly to hotel room sales, requiring proactive sales and marketing efforts to sustain bookings from repeat clients and online channels. Dedicated desks and day passes, akin to walk-in customers, contribute minimally but often rely on leads from existing contractual and meeting room clients. To ensure stability and precise revenue projections, historical data from the corresponding month in the previous year is instrumental, while incentivizing the sales team remains crucial for driving new business opportunities.

In your extensive finance career, what stands out as your most significant achievement, and why?

My most significant financial achievement occurred during the COVID pandemic, while I served as a finance controller for a Nairobi hotel. Occupancy dropped drastically from 60–90% to 5–10%, raising viability concerns. Collaborating with HR, I reduced the workforce from 300 to 144 and implemented cost controls. This reduced the breakeven point from 44 million to 28 million. My extensive internal audit experience and exposure to global audits played a pivotal role in effectively contributing to the organisation during this challenging period.

Throughout your career journey, has there been a consistent financial philosophy or principle that has guided your decision-making?

Throughout my career, my guiding financial philosophy has been rooted in integrity, ethics, and a strong code of conduct. I lead by example, readily getting involved to support my team when needed, and I place a high value on building and nurturing effective teams while involving the core team in decision-making processes. Looking ahead, I firmly believe that age is merely a number, and I remain committed to continuous learning and contributing to my company’s success. My primary goal is to be a dedicated team member and play my part in ClayWorks’ growth within the real estate industry. My individual goal is to contribute my knowledge and commitment to the Hospitality Industry and Real Estate or any other service industry where I have specialised. I also look forward to consulting assignments in risk matrix, assurance process and its mitigation.







     







       







         







           







             







               







                 







                   







                     







                       







                         







                           







                             







                               







                                 

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