Manjul Agarwal

Pioneering Tech-Savvy Finance Leadership

Manjul Agarwal

Chief Financial Officer,

Bonzai – The Creative Management Platform

The modern financial chronicles need modern solutions, and automation becomes the enabler. This means that being a tech-savvy CFO is non-negotiable. Manjul Agarwal, the CFO at Bonzai – The Creative Management Platform, understands this truth profoundly. He embodies the essence of a CFO who not only comprehends but fully embraces the potential of automation and AI. In his view, these technologies are not job usurpers but rather tools that amplify efficiency and decision-making prowess.
Yet Manjul knows that navigating the automation landscape isn’t a stroll in the park. Challenges abound, and he’s faced them head-on. Building consensus within an organisation, adapting to evolving project dynamics, and managing expectations about the role of automation are hurdles he tackles with finesse. Manjul’s motivation is simple yet profound: he thrives on challenges. Whether it’s tackling intricate cash flow management or deciphering the complex web of liquidity risks, he derives his drive from finding solutions. His career journey, spanning Bharti Airtel, SBI Card, Bajaj Finance, and Bonzai, reflects a rich tapestry of experiences in diverse organisational cultures.
In the digital age of finance, Manjul’s story exemplifies the fusion of adaptability, leadership, and tech-driven financial excellence. He’s a testament to how embracing automation and AI can enhance efficiency and decision-making. His journey inspires finance professionals to innovate, adapt, and thrive in the ever-evolving landscape. TradeFlock interviewed Manjul to understand his narrative that underscores today’s financial world. 

What are your key responsibilities as CFO of Bonzai?

At Bonzai, I shoulder several core responsibilities. Firstly, I function as a business partner, working closely with various teams to provide financial insights that aid in informed decision-making. Secondly, I play a pivotal role in shaping the finance strategy, ensuring it aligns seamlessly with our overarching business objectives. Additionally, tax planning and ensuring compliance with all relevant regulatory requirements fall under my purview. It is imperative for an organization to establish stringent accounting controls and governance frameworks to uphold transparency, to deliver on these responsibilities effectively, I adopt a proactive approach, prioritise financial strategy, and emphasise the collaborative role of finance in propelling our organisation forward.

How do you use automation and AI as a CFO?

We actively harness the potential of technologies like automation and AI to streamline various financial processes. To start with, our current initiatives are aimed towards leveraging AI for routine tasks like automating invoice generation and overseeing reminders for overdue payments. In the time to come, AI can aid in the preparation of financial statements thereby, optimising efficiency. However, it’s crucial to approach AI with a discerning eye, as inherent biases may exist within these technologies. Therefore, we are diligently addressing these concerns to ensure that technology enhances our capabilities while upholding the principles of accuracy and fairness in our financial operations.

What are your future goals and ambitions?

My immediate priority is to actively contribute to the growth and success of Bonzai. This involves aligning with our future plans and strategic initiatives. Simultaneously, I am deeply passionate about mentoring and empowering the upcoming generation of finance professionals, aiming to make a positive impact within the community. As a leader, my core values revolve around prioritising people, empathy, adaptability, perpetual learning, and effective communication. These principles drive my ongoing career success and the development of my dedicated team.

Highlight two key leadership skills crucial for successful automation implementation.

I have identified two paramount leadership skills crucial for the effective implementation of automation. Firstly, there’s the skill of objective identification. This involves the ability to pinpoint precisely what should be automated while maintaining a crystal-clear understanding of the ultimate objectives driving automation. It’s about discerning whether automation primarily serves as a tool for cost optimisation or a means to enhance revenue. The second critical skill is change – management. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to cultivate an environment where my team feels empowered to embrace automation enthusiastically. I also need to be prepared to navigate the changes that invariably accompany the automation process. Proficient change management is the linchpin for ensuring seamless integration of automated processes.

How do you manage financial resources for automation and gauge ROI effectively?

When it comes to managing financial resources for automation, a precise approach is paramount. It all starts with identifying tangible benefits, where the key question is whether automation will lead to cost savings or revenue growth. Following this, a rigorous cost-benefit analysis is conducted, quantifying both, the expenses and the corresponding advantages associated with such automation. With a view to look at things holistically, opportunity costs are also factored in, as a part of this analysis. Then, the focus shifts to ROI calculation, measuring the return on investment as the surplus of benefits over costs, expressed as a percentage, and closely tracking payback periods. These meticulous steps ensure that decisions related to automation projects are well-informed and financially sound.

What is your piece of advice for aspiring finance professionals?

I would like to stress the significance of proactivity, empathy, perpetual learning, and effective communication for aspiring finance professionals. These skills will be your compass in navigating the everchanging terrain of finance and business. Always keep in mind that placing people at the forefront is the key, and success will naturally ensue.