cherian-thomas

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Meet Cherian Thomas

Faces of Deloitte Advisory is a series of true stories that explore the personal history of our practitioners, highlighting key experiences that defined their values and explaining why they do what they do. In this story, Cherian shares how resilience came through by taking advantage of opportunity and being grateful for the blessings that have followed.


“I learned that your state of mind decides the outcome of a situation. That I have control over it, and I make the choices.”


The wide-open world of a very small town
Born in Kottayam, a small town in the south Indian state of Kerala, Cherian says his greatest blessing during school days was the interaction with teachers who had returned after a long career in foreign countries. “Those days, a lot of teachers from my hometown would go abroad. Those who returned after retirement would visit our school and share a lot of their stories and experiences. They were my window to the world. In an era without internet, they were my knowledge about the broader outside world,” Cherian says.

He also discovered the world through books. And the people who inspired him to read were his parents. “I was blessed to be born to parents who were avid readers, and I had access to some international publications during those days.”

“While my parents influenced my reading habit, they also inspired me to go beyond the ordinary in everything I do. For instance, even hosting a dinner was uniquely done, each time. They believed in doing things differently. Their approach deeply influenced me as a child.”


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Making the most of an opportunity
In his career, the desire to be unique had an influence on his decisions. Cherian’s father is an accountant, and Cherian chose to pursue the same profession. In his culture at that time, children often aspired to get better at their fathers’ vocation. “All I wanted to become was an accountant and take up my father’s practice.”

While Cherian did become an accountant, he didn’t join his father’s practice. Instead, he went a different direction and started his career with the Big Four—a decision influenced by one of his father’s clients.

“I was lucky. The process of getting that job was made a bit easier because my father’s client had made a recommendation. And I moved to Bengaluru, the Silicon Valley of India.”

Cherian started his career in 1999, during the dot-com boom. When he started, most of his supervisors had moved to dot-com roles, which were higher paying than an auditing job. But in their leaving, Cherian saw an opportunity. New roles opened up; he had the chance to work directly with partners, which wasn’t the experience of most new hires. “In a normal year, I wouldn’t have gotten to do what I really did those early years. Of course, I made a lot of mistakes. But, thankfully, they were all forgiven.”

Bengaluru in those days was turning into an IT hub. Cherian remembers how he witnessed the dot-com era emerge and the city transform.

“After two years, I was tasked with a complex project. And no one else was willing to take it up because it involved extensive travel across the country—often three to four months at a time. I spent two years traveling to some of the most remote places because several of the companies I was auditing had their factories away from cities, for tax benefits.”

For Cherian, these were two years of great learning, deeply exploring India, and meeting people from varied backgrounds. “I learned to appreciate the diversity of my country and how I should respond to people based on their cultures and traditions.” Looking back, he feels grateful for how those two years shaped his professional and personal self.


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Good fortune disguised as adversity
But it wasn’t long before opportunity came disguised as adversity. When Cherian’s employer became the client’s auditor, the advisory project was transitioned to a different firm. After that, he left the company and started an accounting outsourcing firm.

He tried it out for two years, but luck didn’t favor him this time. “I failed miserably with this new venture. I set this up in a city where it was really expensive to get talent and the city was booming.”

Cherian remembers how his father’s character helped him navigate this crisis. His father had often said that one shouldn’t lose hope even in the worst situation; that one should always try to think positively. “I learned a lot during that phase. I acquired the skills to sell, deliver, and hire. I learned that your state of mind decides the outcome of a situation. That I have control over it, and I make the choices.”

Cherian explains that it’s these kinds of experiences that prepare people to think ahead and evaluate risks. “I had been reading a lot, especially stories of resilient people. And over the years, I have developed my own ways of overcoming adversities.”

It was while trying to navigate these crises that a Deloitte recruiter contacted Cherian with an opening in Hyderabad. He replied that he could attend the interview if it was in Bengaluru. Destiny played its part again. The recruiter said they were going to be in Bengaluru the next day and asked if he could come.

There are some things that are meant to be, and Cherian realized it when he sat across from the Deloitte partner. “At the time, I wasn’t looking for a job, but this partner and I had very similar experiences and I ended up joining Deloitte.”

When Cherian joined Deloitte India (offices of the US), the audit and advisory businesses were being set up. “It was a new model, and we were new to it.” But from there Cherian’s responsibilities grew to more challenging projects that only confirmed his path. “I have never doubted once why I chose Deloitte or why I’ve been here for so long.”

At Deloitte, Cherian admits that he’s driven by people and opportunities to do different things. He recalls how he set up the strategy and innovation team—visiting campuses and telling candidates that it was a new model and how they could make a difference. “That has been the most rewarding experience—creating the strategy and innovation team and managing it.”

Was it luck? Or was it taking opportunity?
As the conversation wraps, Cherian reflects on what he’s learned from both adversity and opportunity. He remembers what it felt like to be new to a situation. How resilience has been the fruit of adversity. And how those experiences have helped him become a leader who “creates an environment where people can have fun while they do what they are asked to do.”

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Get in touch

 


Cherian Thomas

Managing Director

As a managing director of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services India Private Limited, Cherian is a leader within the Strategy and Transformation organization. He shapes and drives a market-leading innovation and transformation program to drive growth for Deloitte’s Risk & Financial Advisory practice.

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