GC Powerlist: India
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For 29 years, The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world. The GC Powerlist is the latest publication from The Legal 500, turning its attention to the in-house function, and recognising those corporate counsel who are driving the legal business forward. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: India, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in the region...read more
We have canvassed opinions from law firm partners and in-house counsel across India, to identify corporate counsel that have been instrumental in changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; developing brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; creating innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; or providing a business working model that other corporate counsel should follow. Our team of experienced researchers assessed the nominations, speaking both to general counsel and nominating lawyers to finalise each list. The GC Powerlist: India features not just information on why that individual has made the list, but also comment from those in-house lawyers about how they have helped shape innovation in the legal industry.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: India, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in India or global), please do get in touch at email@example.com.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
GC Powerlist: India
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Senior vice president, legal
General counsel and commpany secretary
Huawei Telecommunications (India)
Senior vice president and general counsel
Senior vice president (legal) and general counsel
Legal and regulatory affairs director
Group general counsel
Subir Bikas Mitra
General manager, law and human resources
Shujath Bin Ali
Senior director of legal and risk management
President and group general counsel
Reliance ADA Group
General counsel for South Asia
Group general counsel and head of taxation
Corporate counsel - India corporate counsel - South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
Managing director of legal
Legal director (SE Asia)
Senior vice president and general counsel
Dr. Reddy's Laboratories
Partner and general counsel
Everstone Capital Advisors
Regional counsel - India and South Asia
Senioe vice president and head of legal
Head of legal - India
Senior general manager and head of legal
Mahindra & Mahindra
Chief counsel India
Shreenivasa P. Gotur
Deputy general manager - legal and company secretary
Toyota Kirloskar Motor
India legal counsel
Mars International India
Pujarini Guha Maulik
Director and associate general counsel
Aditya Birla Group
Group general counsel
President and general counsel of legal and regulatory affairs
Group general counsel and company secretary
Anju Jain Kumar
Assistant regional legal council
The Walt Disney Company India
General counsel for the Indian subcontinent
General counsel (India)
Vice president legal
General counsel, compliance officer and company secretary for India and South Asia
Ananthanarayan K V
Head of legal
Company secretary and head of legal and governance for risk and compliance
Volkswagen Group Sales India
Head of legal and compliance
ICICI Lombard General Insurance
Group head of legal
Senior vice president and legal head
Associate general counsel
Sanjit Kaur Batra
Legal head (South Asia)
General counsel, India region
Assistant general counsel
Levi Strauss & Co.
Group senior legal and compliance director
Jitendra Kumar Bodha
Executive director and chief legal officer
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation
Sudhir Kumar Jha
General manager corporate legal
Amar Kumar Sundram
National director of legal and general counsel
Head legal and company secretary
Datamatics Global Services
General manager, legal
Philips Lighting India
General counsel South Asia
General manager, legal and compliance for South West Asia
Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces
Head of legal
Head of legal
Metro Cash & Carry
President of legal and general counsel
Assistant general counsel
Executive vice president, company secretary, general counsel and ethics officer
Group president and general counsel
Vice president and head of global legal
General counsel and head of legal
General counsel, compliance officer and company secretary
Executive director, legal and government affairs
GE South Asia
Reserve Bank of India
Country counsel India
Boeing International Corporation
Executive vice president and global head of legal, governance and risk
Group general counsel and senior vice president
Mahindra & Mahindra
General counsel - India
Chief legal officer
Group general counsel
Head of legal
Group general counsel
Tech Mahindra Group
Senior vice president and general counsel
General counsel India
JP Morgan India
Jasmeet Singh Wadehra
Head of legal - power
Executive director of legal and general counsel
Chief officer – legal, compliance and corporate affairs
Yum! Brands India
Managing counsel, downstream India and legal focal point, downstream Middle East
Head of legal, compliance and public affairs for Indian subcontinent
Madhu Sivaram Muttathi
Chief legal counsel– India and South Asia
Associate general counsel/company secretary
Senior vice president and general counsel
Head of legal and general counsel
Group general counsel
Ugen Tashi Bhutia
General counsel and executive vice president, legal
Group general counsel and group head of legal and compiance
Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC)
Senior vice president and general counsel
Head of corporate legal
Senior vice president of legal
Piramal Corporate Services
Group general counsel
Vice president and lead counsel
General Motors India
Now a legal specialist in commercial transactions, joint ventures, M&A and restructurings Howard Armstrong has always been a gifted academic, having attended Princeton University and Stanford Law School. Between his two periods of study, he spent seven years in the finance sector, which accounts for some of the commercial astuteness that runs throughout his career. After a total of four years as an attorney at San Diego based law firms, he re-entered the financial sector as Western Systems’ chief financial officer between 1993 and 1995. After that he took his first in-house legal position as general counsel for Triple J Enterprises. Clearly a talented individual capable of working in both financial and legal environments, Armstrong was appointed as a partner for law firm Latham & Watkins in 1997, this time staying in the role for 12 years. After further developing his skills in directing commercial, transactional and corporate matters, he moved to his current position of senior vice president for legal at Reliance Industries. In this role, Armstrong is responsible for all commercial legal activities in connection with the company’s $15bn expansion of its Jamnagar refinery complex and its Dahej and Hazira manufacturing plants in Gujarat, India. He manages Reliance’s internal legal group to handle legal and contracting activities with multinational, regional and local licensors, contractors, vendors and service providers. One source had this to say about working with Armstrong: ‘I have never known a lawyer any more brilliant or thorough yet practical than Howard’.
Prior to occupying his current position Gaurav Arora spent the majority of his career with two listed companies, both of which had overseas investments from venture capitalist and renowned financial institutions. He often dealt with corporate restructuring in the form of mergers and listings with the stock exchanges, raising of funds through global depository receipts, foreign currency convertible bonds and external commercial borrowings. In 2008, Arora joined Huawei Telecommunications (India), a Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company. As general counsel and company secretary, he has built a high quality team of six to take care of the company offices and operations in Mumbai, Bangalore and Gurgaon. The end result of building the team, and reviewing procedures to ensure smooth compliance, is that the legal department is now considered a valuable asset in Huawei’s business plans. Continually looking to develop and meeting the department’s objective of ‘safety in operations and meeting of business objectives’, Arora is heavily involved in implementing contractual safeguards, helping the company avoid claims. Explaining the effect of his approach, Arora says ‘effective risk and compliance management followed with disputes management has resulted in building of more trust in the management about the impartial legal and judicial system of India. I believe that trust, in the long run, helps any business to delegate more authority and thereby create a cycle of growth’.
JSW Steel, part of the JSW Group conglomerate, is the largest private-sector steel company in India by market capitalisation. With 2015-16 revenues of over $5bn and over 11,000 employees, the company is a major player in the Indian and global steel production markets. Rajiv Bakshi, who has been their general counsel since 2013, therefore finds himself overlooking legal matters that can have ramifications for the business world in India and beyond. However, Bakshi’s extensive legal career puts him in good stead to be able to deal with the challenges that present themselves in the role. Bakshi had exposure to dispute resolution back in 1984 as a legal trainee, before moving on to hold a corporate lawyer position at ICI India. Bakshi’s next roles include a long tenure at chemical company Jubilant Organosys, and then almost four years at Godrej Consumer Products. Now at the head of a team of 26 at JSW Steel, Bakshi has made a number of organisational improvements to the department’s structure. Key legal business sectors such as litigation, M&A and contracts have now been attached to specific sub-units, and ‘each vertical is headed by a professional who is well trained in the job with overall responsibility resting with me as a departmental head’. Bakshi also mentions that he allowed legal staff a greater level of autonomy, and ‘empowered the team leaders to take independent decisions’. As many of Bakshi’s initiatives are based around getting the best out of the gifted individuals in his team, it is perhaps unsurprising that he points to talent retention as the biggest challenge he has faced during his career. The ‘new generation’ in particular, can be impatient to become GCs themselves, so keeping their ambitions in check while building a top-quality team is essential.
After graduating in 1974, Ashok Barimar’s professional career began in Bangalore as an advocate. After spells as a deputy personnel officer, law officer and assistant manager (legal and personnel) at various companies between 1978 and 1982, Barimar took his first head of legal job at Grasim Industries. He spent almost seven years at Grasim, a building materials manufacturing company, which is owned by the Aditya Birla group. Having gained recognition for his skills in corporate governance and contract negotiations there, Barimar was hired by the Hinduja Group in 1989 as its general manager for legal where he spent seven years. He also had a two year spell at Satyam Computers (now Tech Mahindra), before being appointed to his current position of senior vice president of legal and general counsel at Jet Airways in 1999. After 17 years in the role, Barimar is one of the most highly respected general counsel in India, and he is a leading expert in supporting corporate and joint venture deals. After dealing with recent changes to airline ownership rules in 2015, he facilitated Etihad Airways’ investment into Jet Airways in 2016, and is currently playing a pivotal role in forming an extensive transatlantic venture with Air France-KLM and US carrier Delta Air Lines.
With over 25 years’ worth of global corporate and transactional experience in the oil and gas industry, Douglas Barrie is one of the most seasoned counsel practicing in India today. In his current role, Barrie manages approximately 60 lawyers and oversees all legal work for Reliance’s hydrocarbons businesses, from refining and marketing to exploration and production. Additionally, Barrie’s broad role sees him oversee a diverse group of businesses and report directly on strategic matters to the company’s board and chairman. As Barrie puts it, ‘a lot of decision making filters through the top team and my role has been to look at key things [and] get owner’s attention’. He began his in-house career in 1985 as counsel for Occidental Corporation’s UK North Sea operations. He subsequently worked for Occidental’s Middle East division before joining the London offices of Enterprise Oil in 1995. Here he was responsible for managing the legal affairs of the UK business until its take-over by Shell in 2002. Following a return to private practice as an energy sector specialist at CMS Cameron McKenna, he became group general counsel and company secretary for South East Asia focused Salamander Energy. Barrie’s long and distinguished career has taught him that the biggest challenge GCs face is, as he puts it, ‘seeing the wood for the trees’. The GC’s key challenge, he continues, is ‘managing highly sensitive matters at board level and ensuring that advice is given on key issues and is heard in the context of a huge volume of business matters, each with legal implications. It requires focus and dedication to do this’.
Shahana Basu is an experienced corporate lawyer with extensive global experience advising and managing legal and business issues across a full breadth of operations of multinational companies. Between 1998 and 2012 she worked for high profile law firms in the US such as Sullivan & Cromwell, Jones Day, WilmerHale and Edwards Wildman Palmer as well as three years at magic circle firm Linklaters in the UK. Basu made her in-house debut in 2012 as chief legal officer at Apollo Tyres, one of India’s largest tyre manufacturers. Based in Gurgaon, she was responsible for all legal functions, including all corporate, litigation and intellectual property matters across multiple jurisdictions. Due to her considerable skill in operational management and handling complex transactions, such as joint ventures and M&A, which she acquired previously in her career, Basu was headhunted by Amira Nature Foods, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and global provider of branded Indian food goods. In the role of global general counsel she provided strategic advice to the chief executive, board and senior management of the company in addition to working with its business heads in India, UAE, Germany, UK and US. Since February 2016, Basu has been at Max India, a company focused on healthcare and part of the Max Group which is worth $2bn. As its legal and regulatory affairs director, she is able to, in her words, ‘leverage decades of international experience across the entire spectrum of the legal practice to guide businesses to operate with ethics and integrity within the parameters of law and regulation’. She is currently working on the amalgamation of the company’s subsidiaries, Max Life Insurance Company and Max Financial Services, as well as the demerger and transfer of its insurance business to HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company.
After completing his LL.B in 1978 at Bombay University and then becoming an accredited company secretary in 1981, Mukesh Bhavnani took the role of general manager of legal, purchases and administration at Godrej Consumer Products in 1981. After 11 years with Godrej, he moved to Dubai to take up his first general counsel position at Jumbo Electronics, the flagship company of the Jumbo Group, which is the UAE’s leading distributor and retailer for IT and consumer electronics. However after five years, in 1998, he returned to India after being hired by Coca-Cola India as its senior legal counsel. Since his work for Coca-Cola, Bhavnani has held coveted high profile head of legal positions at some of India’s largest companies such as Essar Group and Bharti Enterprises. While at Bharti Enterprises, one of the largest Indian conglomerates and owner of Bharti Airtel the world’s third largest mobile operator, he gained particular recognition for his operational management, especially with regards to corporate governance and joint ventures between 2011 and 2015. After a brief stint at Vedanta Resources and time out in the US, Bhavnani was re-hired by Bharti Enterprises in 2016 at a time when the company faces intense competition from new entrants to the market.
As one of only seven state-owned enterprises belonging to the highest ‘Maharatna’ category of companies, GAIL – the largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company in India with diversified operations in petrochemicals, telecoms and gas infrastructure – operates in a heavily scrutinised environment that places great demands on its advisers. Subir Bikas Mitra joined GAIL in 1991 and has risen through its ranks to become general manager for legal and human resources. Helping to improve employee relations has been a particularly important aspect of Mitra’s contribution to GAIL, and his efforts have been recognised with awards from The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the National Petroleum Management Programme (NPMP). Mitra has also taken the lead on some of GAIL’s most important commercial negotiations, including its involvement in the Asian Development Bank-backed TAPI pipeline, which will transport natural gas through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Aside from his extensive duties at GAIL, Mitra holds a number of senior positions in the fields of law and labour relations. He is the present chair of the Delhi Chapter of the National Institute of Personnel Management and a member of the governing council at the both the Indian Council of Arbitration and FICCI.
Shujath Bin Ali, a legal professional with over 14 years of corporate experience, has a skillset that has been put to the test across diverse sectors during the course of his career. After receiving his LL.B. from Osmania University in 1999, Bin Ali moved through a raft of high-profile in-house legal roles, including Valtech, International Paper and Deloitte. Throughout these roles, Bin Ali combined his legal responsibilities with company secretarial work, allowing him to amass experience in both areas. This provides Bin Ali with a wealth of both legal and business acumen to draw upon, which has meant his strategic business advice has been highly regarded by the management of his companies. In May 2016 Bin Ali moved into his current role as senior director for legal and risk management at PAREXEL, one of India’s leading biopharmaceutical companies. His move to the pharmaceutical industry provides a further opportunity to prove that his transferable expertise is able to add value to the in-house legal function of multiple sectors. Bin Ali is keen to use his experience to benefit academic matters, in order to add to the knowledge base of the legal profession as a whole: he is part of a number of professional bodies for corporate counsel and business people, including sitting as a member of the executive committee of the Indian Corporate Counsel Association.
Graduating in 1980 from the Law Faculty of Jammu University, Rajesh Bragga has enjoyed over 30 years of in-house experience. From 1996 to 2009 Bragga was at Hindustan Unilever where he gradually rose through the ranks holding positions including corporate legal head for all its food, home and personal care businesses in South Asia. His last role at Hindustan Unilever was as regional category counsel foods, where he acted as the strategic chief legal resource to Unilever's foods businesses across Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. Bragga then moved to Tata Motors in 2009, heading the global legal function as vice president legal for India’s largest automobile company. He also acquired the role of global lead for human resources and employee relations before joining Reliance ADA Group in 2014. At Reliance ADA – an Indian conglomerate with interests in communications, capital investment, power and infrastructure – Bragga’s expert skills in M&A, intellectual property, litigation and corporate governance amongst many others have been exhibited on a regular basis. In the role of president and group general counsel, he manages the reputation and regulatory risk of the group and its subsidiaries, whilst developing systems and resources for driving compliance and manage risk internally.
Now general counsel for the South Asia cluster at Siemens, a German multinational engineering company, Saugata Chakravarty can look back on a career that saw him undertake a rapid progression through the ranks of one of the world’s premiere companies. After completing an LL.M in Commercial Law in 2004, Chakravarty took up an associate position with Mumbai-based law firm Gagrats, where he gained experience of high-level deals, including assisting in the takeover of Air Sahara by Jet Airways in January 2006. Deciding to move in-house in 2007, Chakravarty took up a legal manager role with Siemens, where he learned first-hand the intricacies of managing in-house legal work at a large multi-national corporation. Now among the most senior lawyers at Siemens, Chakravarty has climbed the corporate ladder via a strategy of consistent interaction with management and effective leadership of diverse elements within the team, all underpinned by a passion for the work undertaken by the business. The legal team that Chakravarty now leads at Siemens deals with a variety of legal matters, although their core area of advice is in projects and infrastructure. They aim to conduct as much legal work through the in-house team as possible, preferring to capitalise on the economic benefits that this allows rather than through instructing external counsel.
Since qualifying as a lawyer in 2001, Ashish Chandra has spent his career in the technology, media and telecom (TMT) industry with large industry players such as NCR Corporation, Geometric Software, eBay India, Star India and Reliance Jio Infocomm. In 2014 Chandra moved to Snapdeal, India’s largest online marketplace, where he serves as senior vice president, group general counsel and head of taxation. He currently leads 30 legal and tax professionals in a department he created from scratch. Combining legal acumen with business intelligence, Chandra has led more than 15 M&A transactions with fund raising of more than $2bn, demonstrating his value to the company and gaining a number of industry awards in the process. Chadra works very closely with various industry and regulatory forums to promote business-friendly legislation or regulation and to ensure the orderly growth of the e-commerce and mobile payment industry in India. He has made representations before various government bodies, in an attempt to make relevant agencies fully understand internet related jurisprudential challenges and crimes. Describing his approach, Chadra says that ‘the best way to overcome the challenge is to have a continuous dialogue with the policy makers and law enforcement agencies to help them understand the dynamic and ever evolving business model, and assist them in making business-friendly regulations and interpretations’. In a constantly growing industry, close cooperation with regulators will be crucial to Snapdeal’s continued success.
When Kapil Chaudhary was offered the chance to join the Indian operations of US-headquartered Autodesk, a leading manufacturer of software, in mid-2015, he saw an opportunity to work on the frontlines of India’s tech boom with one of the country’s most exciting companies. Chaudhary left his position as IBM’s Singapore-based Counsel, a prestigious role that gave him invaluable Asia-Pacific experience. Chaudhary is recognised as one of India’s leading business services counsel and has taken key strategic roles in a number of sectors covering outsourcing, technology and oil and gas services (as former India general counsel at Schlumberger). He is also a Member both of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators (SiArb) and of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). At Autodesk he handles a broad range of issues including channels, marketing, procurement, contracts, intellectual property management, license compliance, marketing, sales, M&A, and corporate policy. He is also the Asia Pacific focal point and lead counsel of Autodesk’s global privacy legal practice group and member of Autodesk’s core compliance practice group. While India’s thriving tech sector has given him a fresh perspective on how lawyers can advise businesses, Chaudhary still says his biggest challenge as general counsel remains similar to that of his peers across the world: ‘how not to be seen as just a lawyer’. To those who wish to follow his path he offers this advice: ‘To remain on top of our game, as in-house counsel, one has to think as a lawyer but be able to earn the trust of one’s clients by building relationships and paying attention to communication. Speaking to the business in its own language is the key to success’.
Rajeev Chopra spent 10 years as a litigator in a corporate commercial practice before moving in-house in 2003. He represented many multinational corporations on various legal issues and transactions during this period, ranging from advisory, litigation and arbitration, project finance, major infrastructure projects and foreign direct investments. Since moving in-house, he has held head of legal positions at large technology companies such as LG Electronics, Bharti Airtel and Dell before joining global information technology and services company Accenture in 2007. In his current role as managing director – legal, Chopra is in charge of legal matters across India, Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. As the company’s operations have expanded by over four times since his arrival, Chopra’s efforts and guidance has ensured the legal team has attained high visibility within the business and are heavily involved in its development plans. Having previous experience of building top class legal teams at Bharti Airtel and for Accenture’s Asia Pacific employment law matters, Chopra was able to hire and develop an exceptional team that currently comprises of over 60 employees, including 22 lawyers. To further facilitate Accenture’s growth ambitions Chopra setup best practices on how to provide quality legal support to Accenture’s delivery centres in addition to setting up local compliance teams to establish processes and a methodology for accurate monitoring. Demonstrating his formidable pedigree as a trusted advisor and pragmatic business partner, Chopra holds a global role as senior director for legal support to Accenture’s Global Delivery centres. In addition he sits on the company’s leadership team, which make decisions on the India geographic unit, and serves the on board of directors for Accenture’s entities in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Chopra says his journey into ‘the fabric of organisation and becoming a trusted advisor, required consistency, pragmatism, a business mind-set and ability to craft solutions that clearly articulate risks and provide mitigation strategies’.
Described by peers as ‘a very clear headed, driven professional’ with a ‘problem solving approach’, Sameer Chugh is a well-respected legal adviser with almost 20 years of professional experience. After just two years as an associate and two years working in-house, Chugh took his first head of legal and regulatory position in 2003 at telecoms provider BT India. While at BT, Chugh worked with a small team of eight lawyers on several projects, and gained recognition for his ability to pick up new and complex assignments. After a year in the role he was hired by the Essar Group to act as senior vice president and general counsel for their communications business for three years. Chugh then spent September 2011 to August 2014 at Cummins India, a global power provider, as its vice president for legal, secretarial and general counsel. In 2014 he was hired by Bharti Airtel, the world's third largest mobile operator, to handle it legal and regulatory work as legal director for South East Asia. With extensive knowledge of the telecoms sector, Chugh has handled a total of over $12bn worth of transactions in his career having been involved in cross-border deals in various parts of the world including, the US, UK, South Africa and Singapore. He has been recently quoted as saying, ‘apart from providing legal advice and support, a corporate counsel must be a commercial advisor and provide the "how to do it”, while steering clear from “how not to do it”’.
Kumar Das started his legal career in 1989 when he joined Hindustan Unilever as a management trainee in the legal department. Years of dedication to Hindustan Unilever led to his promotion to head of legal and regulatory affairs for the Foods business in India. From 2005 up to 2010 he was general counsel and director of legal for the Nokia Group in India. Das eventually joined Vodafone in 2010 and is a respected member of the senior leadership team at the telecommunications and mobile operator. The company has seen growth from 31 million to 180 million customers across the country, bringing additional legal and regulatory challenges. One of his key contributions to Vodafone has been successfully battling tax cases against the Indian government. Working closely with the UK based group general counsel, Das was able to save the company in excess of $2bn to date, as well as setting an industry standard for the collection of back-taxes from international companies. Das is an alumnus of University of Delhi and pursued his career in law by receiving his LL.B degree in 1998, going on to attaining a Master’s degree in Law at University of Delhi. He completed his post-graduate studies in 2000 with an MBA in Justice Administration from Edith Cowan University and the Indian Law Institute.
Starting his career in 1994, Suprio Dasgupta has held a number of senior positions at the Indian subsidiaries of some of the world’s largest conglomerates; including GE, Honeywell International and Schneider Electric. In 2015, after collecting extensive experience, Dasgupta moved to Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, an Indian multinational pharmaceutical company with annual revenues of circa $2.3bn. Serving as senior vice president and group general counsel, Dasgupta is responsible for the legal function which spans across more than 20 countries, leading a global team of 34 lawyers. Since joining the company, his top priorities have included addressing change management, creating niche roles to support businesses globally and address their unique needs, Dasgupta was quick to identify simplification, digitiliasation and cost optimisation as the most critical actions which have impacted the company. Upgrading and scaling up the capability and competency of the team was also part of Dasgupta’s change process: ‘building stakeholders’ confidence and ensuring my counsel are more business savvy, were some of the strategic priorities too’.
In over 25 years of corporate in-house experience, P M Devaiah has worked at some of India’s largest and most succesful companies including Tata Projects, Hindustan Unilever, Bio Products Laboratory, Carlyle Group and ICICI Venture. During this time he has gained exposure to a wide range of practices such as joint ventures, private equity deals, shareholders agreements, high stakes litigation, M&A transactions, international arbitration, vendor contracts, technology transfer arrangements, intellectual property matters and comprehensive legal due diligence. Having held both head of legal and general counsel positions in the past, Devaiah joined Everstone Capital, a private equity, real estate and financial services company with $3.3bn of assets under management, as partner and general counsel in 2007. Part of the senior management team and partnership committee and with eight direct reports, Devaiah’s role covers the legal, secretarial and compliance functions of the firm. Key features of his tenure at Everstone have been transforming the legal department into an ‘in-house law firm’, training the team to be ‘completely business like’ and positioning them as an integral part of the company delivering high quality services and added-value to the business teams. In dealing with the evolving regulatory framework, Devaiah says ‘our own long experience, preventive planning, access to best advisors, talents and public place relationships supported by our own strong and robust adherence to good governance and legal regime are all some of the methods in which we overcome such challenges’. In his spare time Devaiah enjoys writing legal articles and has had work published on civil dispute practices, regulatory reform and Indian business.
Ajay Dua gained his Bachelors in Law in 1996 at Delhi University, before obtaining his Diploma in Law, English and European Commercial and Corporate Laws in 2000 at the University of York. Before joining IBM, the largest technology and consulting employer in the world, Dua was a partner at Dua Associates between 1997 and 2005. At the law firm he handled corporate and commercial matters, project finance deals, acquisitions, and government disinvestments and privatisations. He joined IBM in 2005 and is now the company’s general counsel in India and regional counsel for South Asia. In addition to managing all legal matters and the legal teams in the region, Dua is a member of IBM’s regional leadership team. Facilitating the strategic direction of the company, he is involved in corporate and commercial contracts, M&A matters, software licensing, human resources, litigation and legal compliance issues. He has gained particular recognition for negotiating several contracts worth over $100m with multinationals in India and globally. Rewarding his contribution, IBM has awarding Dua with several internal awards including their “Annual Recognition Award” three years in a row.
Currently heading the legal department responsible for M&A, contracting, litigation and arbitration at Indian multinational conglomerate Adani Group, Badrinath Durvasula has a distinguished pedigree in the in-house legal market. His career, spanning more than 25 years, has seen him working at high calibre companies such as: General Insurance Corporation of India, Lloyds Steel Industries, Asian Paints India, Reliance Industries, Great Offshore, United Phosphorus and Larsen & Toubro (L&T). While at L&T between 2011 and 2015, Durvasula served as vice president and head of legal, notably dealing with the legal aspects of turn key management; a niche element of legal expertise that he believes ‘showcased his intellectual acumen’. Recognised by peers as a ‘charismatic leader’ with ‘deep insight when it comes to the oil and gas industry’, Durvasula is also known for the apparent ease with which M&A road maps have been planned and successfully executed, since joining Adani Group in 2015. With his experience and skills, Durvasula and his team of 28 are perfectly placed to manage the effects of government policy changes and the opening up of foreign direct investments which has ‘rocked the boat’ on their joint ventures. Describing his team management style, Durvasula says ‘empowerment and functional independence are the critical attributes I wanted each of the team members to attain. While I continue to guide them, it is their self-evolution which is critical to their career building’.
Natasha Fernandes went in-house immediately after the completion of her legal studies in 2002, joining GP Consultants & Developers, a property development firm, as a legal officer. After gaining exposure to court procedures, Fernandes moved to law firm P. V. Nichani & Co. After a year there, practicing in courts all over Mumbai, including the High Court, she moved back in-house with a brief spell at Indian business conglomerate Shapoorji Pallonji Group as legal assistant. Her next role was as a legal executive at Star India, an Indian media and entertainment company and subsidiary of 21st Century Fox, covering their programming and real estate operations. Joining B4U Television, one of the world’s leading Bollywood networks, in 2005 as assistant legal manager, Fernandes began to shape the legal department, handling everything from channel distribution, marketing, human resources, regulatory, film production and distribution. As a mark of the trust and confidence in her work, she had already been promoted internally once before being appointed head of legal for India as well as a director of the company in 2009. Known as a ‘very hard negotiator’ demonstrating ‘absolute professionalism and performance under pressure’, Fernandes has successfully fought a number of litigations for the company. ‘In one of our major litigations, which went right up to the Supreme Court, we tight cornered our opponent to bring them to an out of court favourable settlement. Our legal contractual negotiations are more than often a win-win situation’, she says.
Girish Gadgil began his legal career in 1994 at Indian Oil Corporation, India’s national oil company. Staying there for 13 years, Gadgil held a number of positions, and eventually becoming deputy manager - law in 2002. He then joined Larsen & Toubro (L&T), one of India's largest engineering and manufacturing industries, in 2007 as deputy general manager for corporate legal, entrusted with taking charge of the legal work for their engineering and construction division. At both companies he gained extensive experience in litigation, drafting and day-to-day advisory matters. At L&T, Gadgil was instrumental in settling a potential dispute with a consortium partner for an oil and natural gas corporation project, ultimately securing ₹50 crores for the company. Since joining Indian multinational automobile manufacturing corporation Mahindra & Mahindra, Gadgil has again gained promotions and now serves as senior general manager for group legal. Under his tenure, Gadgil was responsible for obtaining an ISO certification for the corporate legal department of Mahindra & Mahindra in 2014; a project that was solely driven by Gadgil and his team, the ISO certification is one of his most notable achievements. He is currently working on an investigation started by the Competition Commission of India against car manufacturers, in connection with the availability of their spare parts in the market. Despite the challenges that in-house lawyers can face when protecting their companies, Gadgil still enjoys elements of his role: for example, ‘partnering with the business, managing corporate governance, having high values, saving huge costs by doing maximum possible work in-house. This is what makes my role as an in-house lawyer worthwhile’. Gadgil has worked at some of the largest, and most important, companies in India, becoming one of the most respected figures in the in-house market.
After graduating from the National Law School of India University in 1996, Thirumalesh Gangappa spent two years as an associate at Singhania & Co. before debuting in his first in-house role at Mphasis. He spent one year at the information technology (IT) solutions provider as legal counsel before moving to Hewlett-Packard, a global IT company. Gangappa spent over four years at Hewlett-Packard, acquiring skills in contractual negotiations, M&A transactions and litigation in the IT realm. A brief stint at another global IT and services company, Oracle India, ended in 2006 when Gangappa was selected to be Google India’s first legal counsel. From his Bangalore office he manages a small team whilst drawing on his extensive experience to support the company in gaining capital funding into Indian subsidiaries and real estate transactions, in addition to his primary role of providing legal support. As Google’s India counsel, Gangappa also sits on the board of directors for a number of its subsidiaries.
Bhushan Gokhale has headed legal teams in India since 1997. His first seven and a half years were spent at KPIT Cummins Infosystems, a global IT consulting and product engineering company, where he set up the legal and commercial contract management, risk management and statutory compliances structure. He also handled its initial public offering and negotiated and drafted the contracts for its international and domestic mergers, acquisitions, business contracts, strategic alliances and escrow arrangements. After spells at Organon (India) and Tata BlueScope Steel, Gokhale moved to Volkswagen India. As the global automobile maker’s first head of legal and company secretary in India, Gokhale handled a number of important issues in a short space of time. Using previous experience of department building, he was able to initiate the legal and company secretarial departments and create its legal policies, processes, statutory compliance guidelines and a corporate governance framework. Since 2013, he has served as chief counsel (India) for Eaton Technologies, a multinational power management company with global sales of $21bn in 2015. In this new role he is part of the leadership team and heads the legal, company secretarial and compliance functions for 11 of the Eaton entities in India, with the help of a team of 15 lawyers and company secretaries. By heading the legal shared services function for Eaton’s Europe, Middle East, Africa, US, and Asia Pacific regions, Gokhale is present and plays a significant role at all related board, shareholder and corporate governance meetings.
After graduating in law, Shreenivasa P. Gotur practiced in a Bangalore-based law firm between 1994-98 with a focus on constitutional laws, civil litigation, conveyancing and drafting. He then joined Toyota Kirloskar Motor (TKM), a joint venture company between Toyota Motor Corporation (Japan) and Kirloskar Group (India), which manufactures Toyota-branded automobiles in India. Staring at TKM as a legal officer, Gotur worked his way up the ranks to be appointed to his current position of deputy general manager – legal and company secretary, in 2012. Heading the legal and secretarial divisions of TKM, Gotur leads a team of five that he empowered to innovate and take decisions for timely and effective handling of issues. Joining TKM at its nascent stage, Gotur was part of its stabilisation process having contributed to several negotiations and early contract drafting for the company, including land procurement, tax incentives, purchasing agreements with parts suppliers, dealership agreements, labour contracts, retail sale documents and advertisement materials. He says of his time at TKM: ‘Working in a Japanese company posed challenges and excitement at the same time, when handling cross-culture issues including reporting style and mannerism. It has been an interesting journey so far’.
A hugely experienced legal professional with an extensive career at many top-ranking firms in India, Sameer Guha took on the role of India legal counsel at Mars International in August 2014. Guha now has the significant responsibility of handling all legal affairs for Mars Corporation’s confectionary and petcare businesses throughout the Indian subcontinent. Tasked with the legal safeguarding of some of the most prominent global brands, Guha’s time with Mars has been active and often involved complex and time-consuming operations. Among others, a landmark memorandum of understanding with the Mumbai government, aimed at producing the first Mars chocolate factory in India, is a particularly strong example of the work completed by the legal team. Guha’s long career in private practice has left him in a particularly well suited position to operate effectively in his role at Mars. In particular, experience of private equity transactions, M&A and joint ventures during a long tenure at Trilegal have been particularly applicable to his in-house work. Negotiating with international firms and other actors as part of cross-border transactions and disputes also gave valuable insight into how to act in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Despite only being engaged as a corporate counsel since 2014, Guha’s impact on the legal business world has already been noticed, as he has been highlighted in the Indian legal press.
Pujarini Guha Maulik, associate general counsel of pioneering Indian online advertising firm InMobi, points to the volatility of the advertising technology market and a constantly evolving legal framework when discussing the general challenges in her sector. Maulik has personally been involved in a recent settlement made by InMobi with the US Federal Trade Commission over a privacy issue. This response has manifested itself via the implementation of a new company-wide privacy program to comply with ‘the letter and the spirit’ of privacy laws. Further initiatives that Maulik has been involved in include the transformation of the legal team from what she describes as a ‘reactive’ to an ‘intuitive’ department, well organised into sub-sections based around specific expertise and business needs. Maulik’s impressive career leading up to InMobi has put her in a good place to handle these challenges. Having been an in-house lawyer for over 11 years, Maulik’s résumé up to this point features a number of prominent companies, such as a six year tenure at Infosys that included a role as second in command for the Infosys BPO legal team. When measuring her own success, Maulik refers to the intangible rather than calculable success markers inherent in legal work. She values ‘the establishment of a compelling team and systematic legal process’, above success in ‘large value deals or complex disputes’. Indeed she measures the success of her team as a whole in a pragmatic way, believing that calculating the positive effect a legal team has on a business ‘cannot be quantified by any measurable metric – be it deal value or number of transactions’. Rather, the success or failure of an in-house legal team is ‘evidenced by [the] healthy functioning of the company’ as a whole. Maulik’s experience has been recognised by industry insiders, as she has been invited to speak at a range of legal conferences on a number of occasions.
Now an award-winning specialist in M&A, joint venture agreements, project equity and infrastructure deals, Vidyut Gulati’s legal career began in 2002 at DUA Associates, and continued after a move to Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co in 2006. Before moving in-house, Gulati gained expertise in structuring complex acquisition and investment transactions, multi-party negotiations and leading transactions involving public and private companies as well as government undertakings. In 2015, three years after becoming a partner at the firm, Gulati moved to Cairn India, one of the country’s largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies, to take up the role of general counsel. In a short space of time she has already introduced and implemented standard operating processes and systems in the legal team with the aim of institutionalising them as a part of the team’s culture. At a turbulent time in the energy sector due to oil price fluctuation, Gulati aligns the legal team of eight with the key objectives of the company, fostering a culture of thinking and innovative execution in the process. As part of this Gulati says ‘the recent levels of prices, with the current burden that we have, puts the company’s profitability under significant stress. We had to innovate and reinvent our approach in many ways: effective cost and manpower management combined with industry-wide advocacy measures helped us face the challenge. We had to maximise our potential by efficient resource utilisation and management’. Reflecting the level of trust in both her legal and management expertise, Gulati works closely with Cairn India’s CEO, CFO and business unit heads, and is part of the core management team and leadership team. She says, ‘being able to influence senior management and the board is critical. Engaging with senior management and providing timely legal advice, is fundamental to the general counsel role’.
When the Aditya Birla Group needed to bolster its legal operation to match its hectic M&A activity in 2009, it turned to Ashok Gupta who was at Hindustan Unilever at the time. Clearly happy at securing Gupta’s services, Aditya Birla’s executive director (HR & IT) Santrupt Misra said at the time: ‘We wanted Ashok to join us because he has expertise in M&A. He also has global experience and was handling the South Asian region for Unilever out of India’. Interacting with other business heads on various acquisitions, mergers and divestitures Gupta has so far fulfilled the company’s trust in him, having led his team through a number of large acquisitions including a stake in Star Cement for $380m, Domsjo for $363m and Columbian Chemicals for $875m. Leading a team of over 200 in-house lawyers, Gupta also works closely with other corporate functions to provide integrated business solutions, whilst keeping a close eye on the regulatory environment. In addition to handling complex acquisitions, corporate re-structurings and various arbitrations and litigations, Gupta has formed the Adita Birla’s policies and guidelines, through his legal team, on key issues such as intellectual property rights, competition law and corporate governance. A proactive exponent of the in-house role, Gupta has been quoted as saying: ‘The role of lawyers is now getting aligned to shareholder expectations; they are the conscience keepers of an organisation. Earlier, external lawyers routinely stitched together agreements but did not take a call on the deal. Now, in-house lawyers take business decisions based on the risk-benefit scenario’.
After eight years at law firm J. Sagar Associates (JSA), Neena Gupta moved in-house when joining InterGlobe Enterprises, a leader in aviation, hospitality and travel related services. She became the company’s general counsel within six months of her arrival and in 2015 was appointed as an executive director for special projects. Gupta initially inherited a team of three lawyers, which has now grown to 26 members, of which 11 professionals covering six business areas report directly to her. Gupta oversaw the increase in both the headcount and the business standing of the legal function; the team is now included in transactions and matters right from their inception. Her team’s forward-looking approach means that the future impact of every deal made is closely investigated for the benefit of the company. Gupta herself has resolved very difficult joint venture relationships, ensuring the company is not only seen as ‘understanding India’ but also a ‘knowledge contributor’ that brings with it its own expertise. Her very proactive approach in managing the changeable regulatory environment in India was recognised when the company moved from its traditional business-to-business structure to a customer-facing approach; meaning internal business structural changes and attracting different regulations. Demonstrating her influence, Gupta sits on all the important strategic business meetings managing the company’s joint venture relationships with a number of multinational companies.
Heading up the 75-strong legal team at media and entertainment company Star India, Deepak Jacob fulfils an important position at one of India’s most prominent broadcasters. The career path to this senior position began in 1995, when Jacob was a junior counsel at litigation legal firm Amit Chadha & Associates. Jacob rose to a senior associate position before moving into the in-house field, completing spells at prominent companies eBay and Reliance Communications. Jacob then transitioned to an executive vice president and general counsel position at Star, before being promoted to president and general counsel in 2011. As part of a broad portfolio of responsibilities, Jacob deals with legal, regulatory, compliance and government cooperation functions within Star. Jacob’s diversity of career experience has proven crucial to successfully handling this range of topics. For example, a background in litigation has had extensive benefits in terms of locating, assessing and then mitigating risk to the company effectively. Alongside this, his experience in the upper management of large businesses means that he is well acquainted with what it takes to truly fuse legal and business work. Jacob has recently put a high-degree of work into self-regulation, rather than waiting for government oversight on regulatory matters he has encouraged Star to create a robust self-censorship model to make Star’s activities as efficient as possible.
Known as a consistently high achiever with experience of both private practice and internal corporate legal work, Sujeet Jain has worked hard to foster a culture of excellence among the 52-strong legal team at Viacom 18, having built the department ‘from scratch’ since 2008. The legal team could be shaped to Jain’s liking after Viacom 18 was created through a joint venture between Viacom and the Network 18 Group, to operate various television channels of the Viacom group for the Indian viewer. Having this opportunity meant that Jain could create an environment that combines ‘in-house and law firm culture; this means every member is encouraged to [develop] into a good manager and technically solid lawyer’. The success of this strategy is evidenced by the excellent retention rate that the legal department at Viacom 18 enjoys; attrition has been ‘less than 5%’ over the years of the team’s operation. These achievements have not gone unnoticed in the market, and Jain was awarded the title of “General Counsel of the Year” by an industry publication earlier this year, to go along with the group accolade of “Best In-house Legal Team of the Year” that the department has won for the past four years running. Jain has been mindful of the regulatory pressures that affect the company’s work when building his legal team and planning its progression. When outlining what he believes to be the ideal procedure for dealing with regulatory challenges, Jain advises that one should be ‘constantly engaging with regulators and government, carefully planning regulatory changes and anticipating [these] in time for the business to incorporate that in [its] overall business strategy’. Throughout, Jain seeks to provide added value to the business as a whole as much as possible, advising that he is only satisfied when he has ‘contributed beyond legal advice and been [able] to solve business problems with efficiency’.
After developing an interest in intellectual property (IP) rights as a paralegal, Anju Jain Kumar moved to law firm Anand & Anand’s IP practice, and studied an LL.M in New York. Spells at Motion Pictures Association in Los Angeles and law firm AZB & Partners in Mumbai followed. During her time at AZB Kumar was seconded into The Walt Disney Company, the American diversified mass media and entertainment conglomerate, helping to structure their entry into the India market. Having thoroughly enjoyed her time in-house, Kumar was selected as The Walt Disney Company’s assistant regional counsel, the most senior legal position for the company in India. Inheriting a team of two, Kumar set up the legal team in 2012, which now has 40 members. This reflects the growth of business operations after the acquisition of UTV, India’s leading movie studio, for $454m in 2012. An essential element of the company’s India business, Kumar’s many achievements include exceptional impacts on risk management and safeguarding the company from litigation. In fact, there has been no substantial legal liability in the last 10 years, and the company now has a good standing with regulators and the courts.
In 2013, seasoned general counsel Prarabdha Jaipuriar joined Suez India, a waste collection and water resource company that provides solutions to address new resource management challenges for commercial and consumer markets. With consistent diligence and an aptitude for success he has worked his way through the ranks to assume his current position as head of legal for all Suez India entities, including Degremont India. Since assuming the role of general counsel for the Indian subcontinent, Jaipuriar has been integral in enforcing the business’ aim to develop synergies across functions so that the legal function is an active facilitator of the business. Knowledge of the legal team has expanded, with plans to develop a law library and dedicated seminars and webinars to solidify this awareness. Among his most exceptional achievements, taking a guiding role in the acquisition of majority stake in Driplex was one of the most notable accomplishments of his career. This acquisition sealed the relationship between two leading players in the market, aiming to cater for India’s increasing industrial water demand and ever-changing rigorous environmental regulations. Reflecting on his past achievements Jaipuriar says: ‘My in-house career has been far more exciting than I had expected it to be. The highlight has been my involvement in Suez's M&A activity in India when it acquired majority stake in a leading Indian player in industrial treatment solutions, Driplex. It was a challenging assignment. The stakes were high and the expectations even higher’. Jaipuriar concedes that the role of an in-house lawyer is getting increasingly challenging due to the responsibilities the industry brings: ‘A GC cannot afford to be a passive actor anymore. He or she is expected to have a hands-on approach. Moreover, a GC has to take ownership of their decisions, some of which may not yield the expected outcomes’. Jaipuriar explains that the trust of management and shareholders is perhaps the greatest measure of value addition to the business. In light of a great deal of variation and uncertainty in sectorial regulation, Jaipuriar represented Suez India in a series of meetings held by Ministry of Water Resources on the hybrid annuity model being developed by the Ministry to set up sewage treatment plants to clean the river Ganga.
Known for his pragmatism in business and his ability to get things done, Rajneesh Jaswal has worked in-house since leaving his litigation practice in 2004. During successful spells at major international companies such as GE India and MasterCard, Jaswal worked on a number of large transactions. While at GE Jaswal was the principal lawyer working on a $1bn deal, in addition to other large transactions, demonstrating the huge trust that the business placed in his expertise. He initially joined the Asia Pacific business of international tyre manufacturer Michelin in 2013 as a senior legal counsel based in Singapore. After covering the company’s operations in Australia, Indonesia and Thailand for 18 months, where he worked on large divestitures, purchased retail stores and factory expansion projects, Jaswal was then asked to return to the company’s India business and assume the position of general counsel for Michelin India. Based in Gurgaon and leading a team of five, Jaswal is focused on making the legal department more agile, and ‘making sure business happens’. In a short space of time he has led a successful recovery programme for the company, managed the legal work behind the establishment of new product lines and online platforms, established and maintained ethics and compliance programmes in addition to digitising the work flow in the legal department. Jaswal has a wealth of experience in business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, and has a natural ability to manage and mentor multinational and multicultural legal functions. He currently assists Michelin India’s board of directors, solidifying the legal, ethics and compliance expertise as the global company expands its business in India.
Aditi Jha joined LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking service, in 2016. Prior to joining the company as general counsel (India) and member of the Indian leadership team, Jha worked at other top companies including ITC, Johnson & Johnson and law firm Nishith Desai Associates. During her career Jha realised that she would specialise in the technology sector, taking a sabbatical between 2010 and 2012 to complete a LL.M in Law Science and Technology at Stanford University. A forward thinking lawyer, at ITC Jha designed and executed a project that digitalised all intellectual property records of the company. Her credentials are well respected in the industry due to her ability to win several significant cases filed by or against the company, such as trademark infringement cases. Jha has also led on transactions and acquisitions and purchase of assets, which have been of strategic value to the company. During her time at Johnson & Johnson, Jha helped set up new manufacturing units, as well as playing a part in other global projects covering antitrust law, regulations governing e-commerce and big data. Now in her role at LinkedIn, she is proactively involved in business strategy not just implementation. Jha sums up the importance of in-house counsel in today’s business environment by saying: ‘Businesses expect GCs to be true business partners – people who are approachable, collaborative, prompt but thorough, use language that is understandable, brainstorm and provide solutions instead of just stating the position in law, understand the business, products, market forces and who are not afraid to challenge the status quo but while still staying within the four corners of what is legal, ethical and right‘. In her current role Jha supports the LinkedIn business on all legal and compliance issues across India, such as structuring and negotiating enterprise contracts, advising on employment, data privacy, telecom, anti-trust, and anti-corruption laws and policies. Excited by the new role Jha said: ‘It is an interesting time to be in LinkedIn India, which is the only LinkedIn office outside of the US to have all functions including amazing plans for product and R&D. We are also engaging with the government on key projects such as “Smart Cities” and “Make in India”’. In the near future, Jha looks set to play a key role in implementing Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn in India in a deal worth approximately $26bn.
Ballarpur Industries is India's largest manufacturer of writing and printing paper, which has revenues of approximately $3bn and is part of the Avantha Group. Before his arrival at the company, Kurian Joseph held senior legal positions at well established companies in a number of sectors, such as TVS Motor Company, Cadbury India, and Raymond, a global conglomerate with presence across a wide spectrum of sectors. Joseph joined Ballarpur Industries in June 2015, and was appointed vice president legal. As a mark of his skills in dealing with complex litigation, Joseph achieved a settlement for Ballarpur Industries on an industrial litigation that started in 1997, almost 20 years prior to his arrival at the company. His thorough approach is set to help the company offload its Malaysian forest arm in the near future, an important divestiture for the company.
Established in 1998, Schindler India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Schindler Holding, the worldwide manufacturer of escalators, elevators and moving walkways. Before joining the company in 2014 as general counsel, compliance officer and company secretary for India and South Asia, Atul Juvle had already amassed almost 30 years of professional experience. Starting as a qualified banker then company secretary, Juvle eventually turned in-house lawyer in 1998. After this date he served at well-known companies such as Tata International, Otis Elevator and HDFC Standard Life. Known as a ‘perfect team-man’, upon joining Schindler India he implemented an automated legal data base, providing role clarity and empowerment to his team of eight. In doing so he has changed the image of the legal department from ‘“no-go” lawyers to solution providers and business lawyers’. Juvle explains the needed approach for overcoming regulatory challenges saying, ‘we do our homework well. We always try to comply with applicable laws 100%. We keep ourselves updated through networking and attending seminars. If in a rare case we fail in compliance, we go up-front and close the issues at the first point and do not wait until it’s discovered by the regulatory authorities’. This proactive approach to his legal work has made his achievements stand out in the legal market.
Ananthanarayan K V initially graduated as a bachelor of science before receiving his bachelor of laws degree from Bangalmore University. His skills in corporate law, legal research and due diligence began to develop in 1997 as an advocate at a prestigious law firm in Chennai, where he spent three years. He then made his first move in-house by joining Hindustan Unilever as a legal officer between 2000 and 2003. After a brief spell at Bharti Airtel, an Indian global telecommunications company based in New Delhi, he took his first head of legal role when he joined Ingram Micro India in 2004, as its India country counsel. By February 2008 Ananthanarayan had acquired specialist skills in corporate governance, contract negotiation and commercial litigation, and was appointed general counsel for Honeywell India. The subsidiary of multinational conglomerate company Honeywell International, Honeywell India’s business operations focus on the areas of aerospace, automation, control solutions, performance materials and technologies. The cutting-edge work of the company has been known to rely on the expertise of Ananthanarayan and the legal team, as it continues to innovate within India.
As head of the legal department for the retail arm of Phoenix Mills, Sabira Khadri has a varied portfolio of responsibilities. Overseeing the work of over 55 legal and leasing staff members, with 15 direct reports, Kadri’s day-to-day work includes among other issues, litigation, negotiation and legal training for the company. A legal professional for over two decades, Kadri has moved between private practice and internal legal roles, including major conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra from 2010-2012. After moving to her current role in April 2012, Kadri has played a part in a number of innovations within the department, most of which are aimed at improving efficiency. Among these, Kadri mentions the ‘introduction of documentation processes’, the ‘training and mentoring of each [team] member… through various training programmes’ and ‘streamlining the board approval matrix for negotiation and closure of contracts and agreements’, as having had an appreciable effect on the running of their legal function and wider business. When discussing personal career highlights, Kadri frames these in relation to the successes of her departments, an indication of her team-oriented focus. Among a range of accomplishments outlined, Kadri points to the complex transactions she has completed, mentioning that she ‘successfully negotiated and closed various high value contracts for companies’ over the course of her career. Kadri explains what she believes to be the specific challenge of in-house legal work: ‘As an in-house counsel you are expected not only ensure compliance but also to understand [the] business’ need to achieve target[s]’. Kadri’s insight has proved to be a valuable resource to her employers, and looks set to continue to be so in the future.
Vijay Kamath first moved in-house in 2003 when he joined Fiat India, part of the Italian car manufacturer. Having experienced significant exposure to dispute resolution, contracting, corporate advisory work and intellectual property rights at Fiat, and subsequently at engineering consultancy company Uhde India (now ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions (India) Group), Kamath joined car manufacturing giant Volkswagen in 2008. Originally head of legal and company secretary for Volkswagen Group Sales India, his role was extended in 2011 to cover governance, risk and compliance. As part of the Volkswagen Group, the company sells Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen and Škoda vehicles in India. After building his team of six from scratch, Kamath has fostered high levels of efficiency in the team by streamlining internal processes, creating contract templates, encouraging the use of reporting and contracting management systems among other things. His work has been replicated in the group’s other companies and has helped shifted perceptions of the legal department in the company. ‘Legal is involved with the business teams right at the beginning, rather than at the end, of the projects. We are an integral part of business strategies and the combined expertise in legal, compliance and risk only adds to the value’, Kamath says. Recent work he has been involved in includes a successful defence of a criminal case filed by a local dealer against Volkswagen’s senior management. After gaining a favourable result, other companies in the industry have sought to replicate the approach to solving disputes that are common in the industry. Kamath says ‘lawyers should get out of their conventional approach of advising merely as lawyers, but should contribute in giving commercial solutions and at the same time working well within the compliance and legislative framework’.
Lokanath Kar gained extensive experience of Indian corporate and financial laws whilst acting as a practitioner at the Bar Council of Delhi. He then moved to Escorts Group, one of the leading engineering conglomerates in the country, before taking up his current role at Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI Bank) in 2006 as national manager, legal and compliance for its insurance business, ICICI Lombard General Insurance. With the aim of developing and expanding, the department has gone from having eight members to 140, with 110 being lawyers. ‘At a time when no Indian law firm catered to all the needs of insurers’, he grew the in-house team in number and expertise, and it is now regarded by the industry as the ‘thought leader’ in its area according to Kar. As a result of this significant expansion, Kar has trained a significant number of the current head of legal and general counsel positions to the India’s non-life insurance industry. Kar regularly provides consultation to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), India’s insurance regulator, and the industry body, General Insurance Council of India. Recently, Kar was nominated by the IRDAI as a member of the consultative committee constituted for the purpose of examining the scope and developing a scheme for introduction of title insurance in India. A notable influence he has had is urging the IRDAI to prescribe a regulation making it mandatory for the industry to geo-spot all automobile accident locations being reported to them as third party claims in order to identify accident hotspots. Another key piece of his work includes the management of a large motor insurance third party claim portfolio, worth approximately $360m; this part of the business is very important for the profitability of any Indian non-life insurer in the country. During his tenure he has developed innovative internal systems to record decision documentation, manage judicial proceedings and compliance management. Kar says he is also very much a part of the business by having a close working relationship with the CEO and being consulted on every policy decision taken by the CEO and the board of directors. Throughout his career, Kar has become one of the most important professionals in the insurance industry, having had a significant impact on the talent pool within the profession and the approach that industry bodies take.e boutique in the US and Mexico.
Described by sources as an ‘effective communicator’ and a leader with a ‘resilient personality’, Karla Gross is currently the legal director for the greater Caribbean region at Colgate-Palmolive, a global leading manufacturer of oral care and personal care products. In her dual role, Gross also leads the compliance function of the wider Latin American team. During her relatively short tenure in the company, Gross has made a positive impression with her management style and has influenced Colgate-Palmolive’s strategy with her advice regarding legal processes, as well as with her interpretation and enforcement of regional laws and corporate policies with a profound impact on the company’s operation in the region. A lawyer known for her strong commercial focus, Gross previously worked at Marsh & McLennan and Barrick Pueblo Viejo Dominicana as legal and compliance counsel and senior counsel respectively. In these roles, Gross demonstrated the flexibility to successfully manage a wide range of responsibilities related to the implementation of regulatory, risk and compliance initiatives and has impressed with her ‘second-to-none’ negotiating skills. Between 2004 and 2011, Gross worked as a legal coordinator at Unilever in the Caribbean region, where she directly advised the board of directors and each of the company departments on legal issues across intellectual property, contracts, corporate, litigation and M&A related work. Gross’ time there is characterised by the training initiatives she created and the effort she put in to increase awareness of legal issues throughout the Caribbean, as well as anticipating and influencing new regulations and legislation in the region. Gross started her legal career as a paralegal at Dominican firm Headrick Rizik Alvarez Fernandez, where she subsequently spent two years as an associate attorney before moving in-house.
Rashmi Kathpalia gained a wealth of experience as a litigator between 1988 and 1998 in the Supreme Court of India and various High Courts and Tribunals. Representing and advising various Indian and foreign corporate clients on a range of matters, during this early period in her career the UK Government awarded her the Chevening Scholarship for Young Professionals, which recognises future global leaders in business and world affairs. She then moved to Bechtel, the largest US construction and civil engineering company, as its sole in-house counsel in India, covering all of the company’s entities and projects in the country. During this phase Kathpalia was managing counsel for the Dabhol power project settlement saga, gaining recognition by achieving a final resolution, with the help of a team of over 30 in-house and outside counsel, spanning four continents. Her success on that this matter led to a promotion to senior counsel in the global Bechtel legal department. Joining French engineering and construction company Technip in 2015 as senior vice president and country head of its legal department, Kathpalia is currently responsible for: advising and directing on legal issues raised in commercial transactions and the contract negotiation process; supervising on transactions, litigation, deal and compliance related matters; and provides advice to the local board of directors. More specifically, she is responsible for establishing and administering the company’s short, medium, and long-term legal strategy and as a member of the senior management team, she contributes to the effective leadership of the company. Given the heavy regulatory framework in the hydrocarbons and petrochemicals sector, Kathpalia plays an important role in supporting business growth. Demonstrating her managerial skills, Kathpalia centralised her team of six to focus on providing core services. As she says, ‘the strategy for having a top-class legal team is to instil in them the value of knowing the company’s business inside and out, so as to astutely apply relevant law, of which they already have expertise. The more a lawyer knows about the business or project, the easier it is to unravel the legal issues, draft and negotiate related contracts‘.
Since 1996, Madhu Katri has been building her formidable in-house legal career at large multinational companies. PricewaterhouseCoopers, GE Healthcare and Wipro have all benefitted from her legal and operational expertise, until 2011 when she joined Microsoft India as associate general counsel. During her time as general counsel for IT services company Wipro in over 55 countries between 2005 and 2011, Katri amassed a plethora of industry-specific skills and experience. In her current role, Katri advises the Microsoft’s business leaders on issues ranging from intellectual property, compliance, commercial and transactional matters, corporate governance, and government affairs. In addition to facilitating product releases for the company, in the coming months Katri will be helping Microsoft to comply with a new order from the Indian Supreme Court. The order prevents software companies from advertising prenatal gender testing for parents, following millions of abortions of female unborn babies that has created a chronic imbalance of genders in the country. She also looks set to play a pivotal role in implementing the parent company’s purchase of LinkedIn in India worth approximately $26bn.
After graduating in law at Kurukshetra University in 2000, Sanjit Kaur Batra began her legal career as an associate at the Punjab & Haryana High Court. After two years there, and brief stints at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the India Center for Human Rights and Law, she joined Mumbai law firm Lall & Sethi, spending four years as senior associate. With particular expertise in trademark matters, Batra shone with one former colleague commenting calling her ‘a serious lawyer and highly professional’. Batra took her first in-house role in 2006 at Nucleus Software, a provider of lending and transaction banking solutions. As an associate manager of legal at Nucleus, she single-handedly looked after all legal and intellectual property matters including customer contracts which are of great importance in a software company. Another former colleague said: ‘she is intelligent, grasps new concepts easily and is knowledgeable. She was of great help in a critical function and I have no hesitation in recommending her for the legal function’. Continuing to build on her intellectual property knowledge, she spent five years at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) before moving to her current role as legal head for the South Asia region at DuPont in 2012. At the multinational science-based products and service company, Batra leads the legal, secretarial and compliance function for the organisation and is part of the corporate management team, providing strategic inputs for facilitating business growth in a complex regulatory environment.
PepsiCo has a substantial operation in the Indian market, which is one of its top five globally. It has become one of the pre-eminent brands in India on the back of a number of high-profile marketing campaigns, including their former sponsorship of the Indian Premier League cricket competition, one of the most watched sporting tournaments in the world. Vinod Kaushal is general counsel for PepsiCo’s substantial and complex operations in India, having recently advanced into this role after spending six years at the company as senior legal director. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Kaushal had spells at Marico and multinational conglomerate Nestlé, demonstrating an excellent track record in the consumer goods sector. Kaushal’s rise to general counsel at PepsiCo has come at an opportune time for the company, as 2016 has seen its revenues rise 13% in India. This is an ideal environment for Kaushal to once again prove his corporate legal abilities belong at the upper echelons of Indian business.
"Between 1997 and 2008, Shelly Kohli developed her legal skills at various Indian law firms. After a brief spell at leading intellectual property management and technology company, CPA Global, Kohli joined GE as senior legal counsel for its energy management subsidiary in South Asia. At the conglomerate, she led the legal and compliance team whilst assisting the leadership team on business transactions. Using this experience, Kohli became highly adept at executing and strategising on commercial opportunities while identifying and mitigating legal and regulatory risks in the process. One of her legacies at GE was fostering a compliance culture through the creation of a robust compliance program. Moving to world famous clothing brand Levi Strauss & Co. as assistant general counsel in 2015, Kohli is now responsible for directing legal operations and managing her team of lawyers on all commercial transactions, litigation, employment, real estate and intellectual property matters, in addition to corporate and regulatory compliance. Since joining Levi’s, Kohli has focused on business understanding, knowledge of the industry and establishing the legal function as a key enabler, driving business priorities while mitigating legal and financial risk. For this she works closely with different functions and teams globally, continuing to explore opportunities to improve commercial processes, due diligence and legal productivity. As a member of the executive team, Kohli works on strategic initiatives to accelerate business growth and drive operational efficiencies in the region. Spotting issues proactively, being a trusted business advisor and adopting a solution-oriented approach are key features of her work, attitude and management style. "
Pulin Kumar has built up a wealth of in-house experience since qualifying from Delhi University in 1991. He has worked at numerous Indian and multinational conglomerates such as Montari Industries, Triveni Engineering, Ambuja Cements, New Holland Tractors and Jubilant Organosys. Between 2008 and 2013 Kumar served as Samsung India’s head of legal, where he gained internal and external recognition for a legal case against ‘the menace of parallel imports’. Having gained extensive experience in contracts, litigation and compliance management, Kumar joined global sports manufacturing giant adidas in 2013, at a time of internal turmoil for the company due to a financial fraud reported in one of its subsidiaries, Reebok India. Kumar was able to support adidas during its handling of the crisis as well as improving the corporate governance within the group without disrupting the normal support of day-to-day operations; this improvement meant Kumar had to ‘restructure the entire working of the team by assigning specific roles to each individual’. By successfully completing the investigations in a time-critical manner, the team ensured no adverse orders were received against the group. Following a merger of the adidas and Reebok operations in India, Kumar’s pragmatism ensured consistency within the team by integrating the practices of both the brands. By participating in all board meetings and providing input on business decisions, Kumar is a trusted business partner to the senior management team and is proactive in synchronising adidas’ dynamic requirements. Kumar has provided advice on a number of positive regulatory changes, which have facilitated ease of business and attracted foreign investors. Further demonstrating his positive impact, Kumar helped adidas become the first company in India to be granted a Single Brand Retail Trading License, which resulted in him receiving industry awards. Outside of adidas, Kumar participates in legal conferences, contributes immensely to sharing best practice in internal governance related to the corporate sector and co-hosts a knowledge sharing platform “Sadgamaya”, which is an informal association, founded by a few like-minded general counsel and lawyers.
Rohit Kumar is an eminent and well respected in-house lawyer whose achievements have seen him singled out for praise by the industry press. After completing his university education, Kumar rose through the ranks at commercial legal firm J. Sagar Associates (JSA) before moving on to Herbert Smith Freehills’ Melbourne offices. Kumar amassed a wealth of knowledge of cross-border transactions, as he was tasked with supervising deals originating in Australia for the Southeast Asian market. This experience stood Kumar in good stead for a role as an in-house legal professional, and after two years at Herbert Smith Freehills, he moved on to his current role as general counsel of UPL, a leading global producer of crop-protection products. Along with putting his transactional experience to good use, Kumar is responsible for negotiating contracts and protecting UPL’s interests in strategic disputes. A source described Kumar as a ‘very hard-working and sincere’ legal professional, who ‘knows how to tackle the toughest of situations calmly’. This, combined with the scale and complexity of deals he has been involved with over the course of his career, makes Kumar the ideal person to shoulder the responsibilities of operating at an important company such as UPL.
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), India’s second largest publicly traded company and largest oil and gas exploration and production company, plays a key part in the country’s economy. Operating under the control of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, ONGC produces nearly 80% of India’s crude oil, around two thirds of its natural gas and makes a significant contribution to its balance of trade. Jitendra Kumar Bodha is a member of the senior management and chief legal officer at ONGC where he manages 70 lawyers across more than 20 sites. A university lecturer in commercial and labour law with more than three decades’ worth of experience as a legal adviser, he brings a rare balance of pragmatic judgement and theoretical understanding to bear on the issues facing ONGC. Bodha also has significant expertise in handling international arbitrations and recently helped to frame the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Act, 2016. He has previously helped shape a number of laws and regulations in India, including those applied to oil and gas and employment.
After graduating from the University of Delhi, Sudhir Kumar Jha progressed through a varied in-house legal career that spanned a range of sectors and included major companies such as Larsen & Toubro and ICICI. In 2004, Jha was eventually appointed general counsel of HDFC Limited, the largest bank in India by market capitalisation. HDFC provided Jha with an ideal place to showcase his considerable talents, and has continued to go from strength to strength. Although Jha is directly in charge of 10 legal colleagues, with a further 15-20 reporting indirectly, he sees this as ‘professional sharing’ rather than ‘hierarchical reporting’, emphasising his approach towards cooperation and staff resource management within the department. Along with this, Jha prizes continued process improvements within the department, and endeavours to keep as much legal work in-house as possible. To these ends he has been involved in the introduction of a document management system within the department, and seeks to outsource legal work only when specific or expert advice is absolutely necessary. Jha believes the greatest overall challenge faced by in-house lawyers is making non-legal colleagues appreciate the broader value of a legal team; enabling them to maintain a place in the ‘driving seat’ at the strategic level of a company, and not be perceived as ‘deal blockers’ who point out problems. On the in-house legal function in general, Jha maintains that, while the upkeep of a high-quality team can be expensive, the savings made via risk mitigation are well worth this outlay. He is also highly positive about the business advice they provide to a company: ‘In-house lawyers are the perfect balance between organisational sensibility and business sensitivity’, he says.
Amar Kumar Sundram has gained more than 20 years of experience working in Indian corporations. Since 1994, he has held head of legal positions at companies including Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Citibank India and BPTP, one of the fastest growing real estate companies in India. In the 18 year period he was at those companies, Sundram handled high stake international arbitrations as well as domestic arbitrations that involved critical questions of law. He also structured large securitisation deals of more than ₹1,200 crores with four leading banks and non-banking financial companies. Since September 2012, Sundram has been serving EY, the multinational professional services firm, in the capacity of national director of legal. Based in Gurgaon, and essentially acting as the company’s general counsel in India, Sundram draws on his past exposure to a wide range of in-house legal issues to facilitate the company’s growth plans in India. He believes that his ‘strength lies in [his] interface with government and regulatory bodies, and their involvement in legal and operational issues’. He has also published a number of articles in leading law journals, represented EY at industry forums and was a founding member of the Indian Corporate Counsel Association.
Datamatics is a global IT and business process outsourcing organisation, which works with a number of Fortune 500 Companies globally. Divya Kumat joined the company in 2004 as senior vice president legal and company secretary. Kumat’s previous experience includes working as a company secretary and legal head in the automobile and hotel sectors, as well as senior legal analyst for Computer Sciences Corporation, a US IT multinational. In the past 12 years at Datamatics, Kumat has established a legal department that is a strong support partner for all units and projects within the company, ensuring that the routine activities are governed by defined processes. The team has been recognised through internal company awards for their quick turnaround time and high-quality performance. With a significant focus on being a business enabler along with monitoring governance, Kumat believes her main goal is to adopt a solution-focused approach whenever possible: ‘The agility and turnaround time in responding to the “C-level”, and other business heads, by the legal team has enabled the business to respond promptly to all contractual and legal matters. Mediating with aggrieved employees, advising the chairman and CEO on legal matters and legal due diligence, are some of the other activities that have increased the effectiveness of this department, impacting the business positively’, she says. Equally significant is the role that she plays in M&A transactions and other in-organic initiatives of the company; this has been a particular focus of the company in the last five years and something that Kumat has worked to facilitate smoothly. ‘Our chairman is a visionary, the CEO a strategist and the CFO and I are aligned to execution’, she explains. The senior management, besides consulting with her on important issues, also proactively seek her personal opinion and professional legal advice. Well known in the Indian in-house market, Kumat has won countless individual and industry awards ranging from female general counsel of the year in 2014 to an outstanding achievement award in 2013 for a unique intellectual property right battle in the US which protected the company’s brand name.
Starting her legal career as a junior lawyer in a criminal law chambers, Roop Loomba also had a spell at Delhi-based law firm Amarjeet & Associates before moving to an in-house legal role at Castrol India in 2005. From here, Loomba rose through the ranks at a variety of companies, including Hindustan Unilever and Louis Dreyfus Commodities, before moving into her current role at Philips Lighting India, a de-merged entity of the global Philips brand. A high-achiever who is the recipient of a range of awards for her services to the company, Loomba points to her role in risk mitigation as having had a particularly positive effect on the company’s operations. Additionally, Loomba advised that she has ‘sensitised the business to legal requirements’, effectively improving processes throughout the company to respond to legal matters. When discussing her career highlights, Loomba points to a mixture of in-house and extra-curricular achievements. On the in-house side, she points to her work at Hindustan Unilever, including her involvement in ‘successfully driving [the] legal strategy in [the] closure of… a sales tax litigation’ case. In terms of outside achievements, Loomba mentions her invitation as a guest faculty member to the Bureau of Police Research and Development in 2009 as another particular highlight. Here, she was brought in as an expert on cyber laws and cybercrime, and the knowledge she imparted was used to develop training programmes for police officers across Northern India. Loomba is highly confident in her own abilities, believing she has the right mix of experience given previous roles in both private and in-house legal practices.
With over 16 years of holistic industry experience with a focus on corporate and commercial law, distinguished general counsel Hitesh Mehra has become a leading professional in the industry. He boasts wide industry experience across automotive, electronics, healthcare and insurance services, consulting services, automation and telecommunication. Prior to his role as general counsel South Asia for Nokia, Mehra had a stint as an assistant general counsel and compliance officer for Rockwell Automation as well as the role of general counsel at Ernst & Young for six years. Mehra is seen as an entrepreneurial and result-orientated professional. This is evidenced through his consistent and proactive risk mitigation strategies that protect corporate capital and profitability. He demonstrated his inclusive nature and change management capabilities when Alcatel-Lucent, which he joined in 2014, was acquired by Nokia, in an industry-changing global takeover valued at approximately $17bn. Mehra is seen by peers as a trusted advisor to the Board and executive management teams. He possesses exceptional business acumen and legal skills that continue to protect reputation and assets, whilst also managing regulatory affairs and minimising risk. He is a leading expert in strategic and analytical problem solving with a superior understanding of senior management priorities, which provides key knowledge in a globally networked corporate environment. This is seen through his guiding role in negotiating and closing sophisticated commercial transactions with a focus on ascertaining strategic business direction and sustainable business growth.
Navodit Mehra is an in-house lawyer with over 20 years of experience in various industries. He has held coveted positions such as vice president legal, head of legal and compliance and general counsel at a number of companies. He was head of legal at start-up company Air Deccan between 2004 and 2007, and vice president of legal at Indian multinational company Havells between 2010 and 2013. He is now at Samsung, the multinational leading technology brand, in the role of general manager for legal and compliance in the South West Asia (SWA) region. Over the course of his career, Mehra has been a strong litigator having been awarded three international arbitrations and handling bulk consumer litigation across India and the SWA region. One former colleague describes how he found Mehra ‘a man of detail and great perseverance who would follow matters to a conclusive end’, adding, ‘he is sharp and quick on the uptake of matters, an excellent business advisor and confidant who can be relied upon‘. Another feature of his tenure has been dealing ‘extensively with regulatory agencies in the Labour Department and other controlling agencies of the Indian Government and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries’, according to Mehra.
The Taj Group has been one of the leaders in India’s hospitality sector ever since Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, founder of the Tata Group, opened the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai in the early twentieth century. The group, which remains part of the Tata Group of companies, now operates around 120 hotels around the world and has a number of former royal palaces and private islands among its portfolio. Rajendra Misra joined Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces as general counsel (GC) and executive committee member in December 2015. Misra’s role is a new one at Taj Hotel Resorts and Palaces, where legal had been previously overseen by ongoing company secretary and vice president of legal Beejal Desai. Misra joined with a formidable reputation as one of India’s most experienced corporate counsel with more than two decades’ worth of experience. He was previously senior legal counsel at Hindustan Unilever, where he served as global brand legal counsel for two of the group’s business units, and has worked as senior counsel in a range of sectors, from tobacco and retailing to industrial products and personal care. Misra has also served as chairman of the legal committee of the Indian Beauty & Hygiene Association (IBHA), India’s personal care industry representative body, and as adviser to the executive committee of Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA).
Lupin is among the 10 largest generic pharmaceutical companies by revenue globally, the third largest Indian pharmaceuticals companies by revenue, and a significant player in the US, European and East Asian markets. Dr. Vivek Mittal joined Lupin as head of legal in 2009 and has offered key strategic guidance during its recent period of growth and consolidation. Spearheading the company’s legal affairs and related process framework globally, his activities include M&A, strategic alliances, in-licensing and partnerships, contracts, litigation, risk mitigation and intellectual property rights management. He is credited with having successfully reorganised and bolstered the legal services group by setting up and centralising legal affairs for the company. According to nominators, Mittal’s key strengths as head of legal derive from his sharp intellect and credibility when dealing with counterparties and senior business figures. This credibility has been particularly noticeable in facilitating some of the company’s joint venture and partnership agreements with much larger multinationals. Mittal is also a skilled tax and compliance lawyer – essential attributes in such a heavily regulated and scrutinised sector – and has helped devise litigation strategies for the group. Prior to joining Lupin he held senior legal positions at real estate and housing finance group Indiabulls and Reliance Retail, India’s largest retailer. Mittal believes that he is ‘always focused on raising the bar when it comes to service levels, the quality of delivery as well as success ratios while servicing internal customers‘. With Mittal having ‘consistently delivered tactical advice helping internal customers to grow their businesses’, he identifies Lupin’s growth trajectory as ‘directly linked to its partnerships and litigation track-record’.
With over 20 years of professional experience, Arpita Mukherjee has extensive experience of negotiating contracts for financial services, information technology, telecoms and retail companies. Before taking her first head of legal position in 2010, Mukherjee spent time at companies including ICICI Bank, IL&FS Financial Services, Genpact India, Accenture and Nokia. During this period of her career, between 1993 and 2010, she gained recognition for successfully leading and managing multimillion dollar contracts and working collaboratively with cross-functional teams in both legal and non-legal roles. At Nokia, between 2008 and 2010, Mukherjee assisted and advised accounting and financial executives regarding credit matters, corporate structures and loans in addition to her legal role there. In 2010 she joined US design and engineering company Aricent as head of legal for the Indian region. Covering legal and compliance matters for Aricent in India, the Asia Pacific, Ukraine and Vietnam, she handled high-stakes real estate litigations involving multiple government entities, landowners and developers. In recognition of her sterling work, global denim retailer Levi Strauss & Co. hired her between 2011 and 2015 as assistant general counsel - Asia Pacific and India head. A member of the senior management team of in South Asia, Mukherjee was responsible for legal, regulatory, secretarial and compliance functions for the organisation’s operation across the region. In 2015 she was appointed to the position of country head of legal for India at Metro Cash & Carry, part of Metro Group the world’s fourth largest supermarket retailer. Holding the role of legal, data protection and anti-trust compliance for its India businesses, she is a member of the leadership team and has been participating with business operations for contract structuring, designing policies and procedures, training employees on all forms of compliance, facilitating audits for compliance adherence and managing relationships with the corporate headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Abhijit Mukhopadhyay heads the central legal function at Hinduja Group, one of the largest diversified conglomerates in the world. While the group’s companies are located in a number of jurisdictions and are run on a day-to-day level by their boards, Mukhopadhyay works from Hinduja Group’s London headquarters to deal with legal issues relating to investments and overall strategy. In this capacity he has to work closely with the Hinduja family, who take a very hands-on approach to the company and insist on the highest levels of professionalism. Overseeing the activities across a $25bn conglomerate would be challenging enough for most GCs, but Mukhopadhyay also finds time for an impressive array of outside interests. He is, among other things, an advisory board member of the International Bar Association, a faculty member of the Global General Counsel Academy, a member of the India Business Forum of the Confederation of Indian Industry in the United Kingdom, and chairman of its Immigration Task Force. Mukhopadhyay is also an active and well-respected member of the international arbitration community and sits as a European Board Member of the CDR Dispute Resolution Board. For his wide-ranging contributions to Indian legal and commercial matters, he is recognised here as an outstanding global GC.
Described as ‘dependable, intelligent and hardworking’, Smitha Murthy has over 17 years of experience in the legal sector. After almost six years at law firm Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co., she moved in-house for the first time, spending two years at Dubai Aluminium, where she was mainly responsible for drafting and negotiating contracts with raw materials suppliers and other service providers including IT software. After brief spells in-house at Independent Mobile Infrastructure and at law firm Narasappa, Doraswamy & Raja, Murthy moved back in-house to join the legal department at multinational conglomerate 3M's India office, where she provided legal support to its multiple business units and support functions. For the brief period when there was no head of legal for the company’s Indian subsidiary she stepped in to provide necessary support to the leadership team, and took the lead in implementing enhanced compliance initiatives. In late 2014, Murthy moved to Monsanto, an American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation, to take up her current role as assistant general counsel for the India region. Murthy works extensively with the company’s India business and global legal teams guiding the business through complex issues in commercial matters, regulatory frameworks and intellectual property related issues for existing products and to enable introduction of innovative products to market. The role required a very steep learning curve in a highly technical area, but Murthy’s unique approach sees her highly regarded for being ‘personable, diligent and timely in her work’.
Currently heading the secretarial, legal, ethics and internal audit departments at IT services company Mphasis, Sivaram Nair has over 25 years of experience spanning across the manufacturing and services industries. Having worked at Mphasis for more than 11 years, Nair has been a part of Mphasis’ leadership team during its journey of growing its revenue from $150m in 2005 to its present revenue of $1bn. Nair and his legal team also supported this growth through their key role as negotiators with global clients, making sure the best value possible value is attained. Leading a team of 34 professionals, Nair has developed the team into ‘integral decision-makers within Mphasis’. The team is now ‘involved in every aspect of business operations, helping determine Mphasis’ strategic growth plans, analysing risk factors, and even outlining the Mphasis’ public image and becoming a profit centre’, he says. Constant training from Nair has led the team to becoming ‘business enablers; not only do we understand the business well but also the risk profile of the organisation. I constantly advise my team not to review the document but the transaction or business as a whole’. The global role Nair plays has allowed him to add value through proper contracting, ensuring minimal negative exposure for the organisation and being 100% compliant on statutes. Reputational damage and penalties can therefore be avoided, and intellectual property can be leveraged more effectively due to lawyers’ awareness of commercialisation methods and the company code of conduct. Over and above his responsibilities at Mphasis, Nair is the co-founder of Technology Law Forum, a non-profit organisation, and also a member of the National Regulatory Committee of the Confederation of Indian Industry. Sivaram has been running the Whistleblower and Prevention of Sexual Harassment programs in the company for many years and has established credibility and faith in the system by acting decisively and expeditiously
Founded in 2004, Yes Bank has grown to become India's fifth largest private bank. Sanjay Nambiar joined the company in late 2010 and, according to nominators, has shown ‘masterful judgement of the legal issues it faces’, while taking ‘a brave but firm stance on the risks facing the banking industry’. Nambiar joined Yes Bank just as the wave of litigations following the 2008 financial crisis was reaching its peak, and oversaw the resolution of these claims, assisted by senior team members. His previous roles have included senior positions at ICICI Bank, real estate developer IDBI, and Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation. His six years at Yes Bank have been marked by a rethinking of the legal team’s relationship with the business and an overhaul of its processes for identifying and managing risk. He is, says one nominator, a ‘supreme legal organiser who encourages his team to advise the business in the way that he advises it: with great tact, thought and insight’.
Akhilesh Nand joined Biocon, India’s largest biopharmaceuticals company, as vice president and global head of legal in mid-2015. He arrived with almost unparalleled experience in the sector, having helped Ranbaxy Laboratories to complete its $4bn merger with Sun Pharmaceuticals. Nand oversaw all legal work related to the transaction on Ranbaxy’s side, helping to close one of the largest pharmaceuticals mergers ever undertaken in India. He is known as a strong strategic thinker and skilled manager who is capable of raising standards within his team and drawing the best out of his staff. Nand’s wide-ranging experience of the Indian business and legal markets gives him a unique perspective on deal structures and he is credited with playing a leading role in some of India’s most creative M&A transactions. In 2009 he was among those credited with the innovative legal structure behind HCL Technologies’ $1bn acquisition of Axon.
The Indian economy is among the world’s fastest-growing, and with ever-increasing energy requirements from businesses and consumers it is an ideal market for power companies to operate in. Sumant Nayak, serving as general counsel, has proven essential to the success of Essar Power as the company grows to meet the mounting energy demands of the Indian economy. Unsurprisingly given the array of legal and business areas that he now covers, Nayak’s career leading up to his time at Essar Power has included working at a number of prominent establishments, including being head of legal at Delhi International Airport and GMR Energy, as well as chief legal officer at GMR Airports. In those positions he undertook the key role in handling legal and corporate secretarial affairs by establishing joint ventures and negotiating M&A transactions, shareholders agreements and initial public offerings. Nayak joined Essar Power as general counsel in 2013 and now sits on the management team there. He has a broad portfolio of responsibilities, being involved with corporate governance, company secretarial and regulatory matters alongside legal work. During his tenure he has been awarded with a number of industry awards in recognition of his work. Nayak also chaired a panel discussion at a summit in London held in conjunction with the Indian Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Commerce and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and Society of India Law Firms as a means of generating greater investment into India. With his leadership and mediation skills well known in the market, Nayak is perfectly placed to assist Essar Power in its current talks with the Coal Ministry to reconsider the termination notice for the Tokisud North mine in Jharkhand.
Since obtaining his master’s degree in law from the University of Mumbai, Sanker Parameswaran has gained over 30 years of professional experience in the legal and secretarial field. Before joining ICICI Bank, he was exposed to multiple sectors in both multinational and Indian companies. He spent 10 years in the financial sector before making the switch to the private corporate sector, handling legal and secretarial functions at large companies such as Taj Hotels Resorts & Palace, The Indian Hotels Co., Colgate Palmolive, Marico Industries, Reliance Infocomm, Godrej Agrovet and Amway India Enterprise. He originally joined ICICI Bank, India’s second largest bank and largest private sector lender, as head of legal and compliance for its subsidiary ICICI Ventures. However, in February 2012 he was appointed as it general counsel for the wider bank, adding the roles of compliance officer and company secretary in January 2014.
After 13 years of working at IDBI Bank, the Indian government-owned financial institution, Debolina Partap joined Wockhardt, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company headquartered in Mumbai. She joined as head of legal for Wockhardt Hospitals before being appointed as general counsel at group level in 2011. With a team of 11 reporting into her, Partap has introduced legal knowledge technology tools for speedy provision of solutions to various internal and external customers of the legal department. This system has also proved effective for intellectual property and brand protection, and enhanced litigation management for the company. Reporting to the chairman and managing director, Partap is also a member of the company’s corporate strategic governing council, which decides business strategies and risks of the Wockhardt Group. Through her senior management position she was able to assist in overcoming the group’s financial problems through effective litigation management; the legal team was able to add to the company’s bottom line through enforcement and avoidance of claims. Following routine US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laws and good management practice matters, Partap’s time has been increasingly focused on compliance. She sums up her approach to the role by saying ‘as a general counsel, the first thing that I see is the business requirement, and then I provide an effective but compliant legal system or solution that achieves the same’.
Mondelēz is the leading chocolate manufacturer in India, with 65% market share, producing well-known brands such as Cadbury’s chocolate and Oreos biscuits. The company has recently announced plans to open a global research and development centre in the outskirts of Mumbai, part of its public strategy of making India one of its global production hubs. As a member of the board of directors, the India leadership team and the leadership team for chocolate products across the Asia Pacific region, Sree Patel plays a role that goes far beyond that of a legal adviser. Patel’s role as executive director, legal and government affairs, sees her working closely with other senior business figures to develop corporate strategy across the region and acting as company representative in discussions with government, regulators and other stakeholders to help influence policy. Patel has previously served as vice president for legal and corporate affairs at GlaxoSmithKline India and has extensive experience in a number of practice areas. Recognised as one of the leading senior counsel in India, she is praised for her strong leadership skills and her ability to build business models that take into account complex legal outcomes.
Having qualified as a solicitor at both the Bombay Incorporated Law Society and the Law Society of England and Wales, Tejal Patil has previously gained experience from well-known law firm Wadia Ghandy & Co., in Mumbai. She moved her career in-house when she joined the multinational conglomerate GE in 2001. Based in Singapore she has served as general counsel for GE Lighting Asia Pacific, and several other GE businesses, covering aviation, healthcare, consumer and industrial (appliances, lighting and industrial products) before relocating to Delhi in 2012 to assume her current position as general counsel for GE South Asia. Leading a team of over 40 legal and compliance professionals and reporting directly to both the CEO of GE South Asia and the general counsel of GE’s global growth organisation, Patil is a key member of the leadership team in the region. Patil assisted on the Indian leg of GE’s acquisition and integration of Alstom’s power and grid businesses, its largest ever industrial acquisition. She also played a leading role when the company secured the largest foreign direct investment contract by the Indian Railway Ministry in 2015, allowing them to set up a diesel locomotive project in a deal worth $2.5bn. Internally Patil has created an integrated “one-team” structure to function seamlessly and support the growth of the company in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. With a pragmatic approach to communication and the collaborative spirit she has instilled in the team, Patil ensures divides are non-existent. Her proactive management style has seen her establish cross-business projects to build legal efficiencies, as well as create centres of excellence in corporate governance and compliance to ensure GE’s highest standards for its over 40 legal entities in India. In 2013 Patil and the GE India compliance team ran a seminar on “Fostering an Ethical Business Environment”, inviting other multinational conglomerates, industry associations and international organisations to attend. She also assisted in establishing the GE India Legal Diversity Forum to strengthen ties between diverse legal professionals, enabling and encouraging their personal and professional development. In 2016, Patil (on behalf of GE) launched the “Compliance Management Program” in collaboration with the Indian School of Business and CII as an executive education course aimed at positioning and enabling compliance professionals in India as strategic business partners. Despite all this, Patil doesn’t lose the focus on the importance of the team’s day-to-day performance: ‘Ably supporting thousands of transactions across different business delivery models, including a number of big ticket deals with large Indian conglomerates, public sector undertakings and business restructuring, the team is also proud to clock one of the lowest legal spends in the company’.
Described by one nominator as a ‘focused and dedicated professional’, P.S.N. Prasad joined the Reserve Bank of India, India’s central banking institution, in 1998. Prior to this he had a successful eight year spell at Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO), a premier techno-financial institution operated by the government of India, where he rose through the ranks gaining two promotions to the position of law officer. Replicating his rise at Reserve Bank of India after joining in 1998, Prasad held a number of positions before being appointed as legal adviser in the rank of chief general manager in 2015. He now boasts over 30 years of in-house experience and is well known across the industry for his exceptional expertise and his ability to manage projects in times of considerable stress. His current role for Reserve Bank of India covers interpretations of laws, drafting of pleadings, legal opinions, liaison with advocates, appearing before quasi-judicial authorities, conducting cases, consumer forums and other authorities. As one source states Prasad is a ‘dynamic boss who will go to the ends of earth to support and help his juniors and colleagues’, using this mentality to oversee the 40 law officers in his department. Explaining his approach to managing his team and working with Reserve Bank of India’s CEO, Prasad says ‘we work together to strengthen our efforts to achieve organisational goals and objectives; we work with mutual respect and maintain cordiality in our relationship’.
With experience gained from working at a selection of some of the most recognisable and prestigious global companies, Dr. Akhil Prasad possesses career highlights that few in the legal market can match. After completing a PhD in commerce to go along with his doctorate in law in 2003, Prasad moved from General Motors, to gain further experience. He spent periods at The Walt Disney Company and Fidelity International India, before moving to his current role at Boeing International. Currently acting as Boeing International’s country counsel for India, Prasad is the company’s exclusive legal professional in India and as such has a key role for the organisation’s operations in the market. Prasad sees himself as an invaluable source of support and advice for the company, by removing the ambiguities of business in order to contribute towards a clear direction for strategy going forward. Prasad points to the variety of the companies he has worked at as both the most challenging and rewarding aspect of his career so far. Learning new business areas sufficiently to be accepted as a member of senior leadership has proved difficult at times, but Prasad mentions he was ‘successful with all of the companies [he] has worked for’. Along with these successes, Prasad points to recognition in the industry press as being a personal highlight, and stresses that flexibility is one of the greatest attributes a company can have. ‘The biggest challenge any international business faces is to adapt to the local legal and regulatory landscape’, Prasad explains. The organisations that are successful, he goes on, ‘learn early how to adapt’ to the specific conditions of whichever market they find themselves in.e Deposit Guarantee Institute.
With an excellent academic background, Smita Priyadarshini was handpicked by top Indian firm Luthra & Luthra Law Offices, before being seconded to and then hired by one its large US-based multinational corporate clients Perot Systems as legal counsel. After Perot Systems was acquired by Dell in 2009, Priyadarshini and her team provided global legal support to the legacy Perot businesses. Priyadarshini was eventually elevated to the senior management team of Dell, reporting to the assistant vice president of legal, where she serves as the lead commercial lawyer for the Asia Pacific and Japan region and provides legal support to several regional profiles. As a multinational computer technology company, innovation is a key theme at Dell. In line with this, Priyadarshini proposed a concept of Global CLaaSS (“Contracts and Legal as a Shared Service”) to the legal team. This was based on hiring legal talent locally in India for providing legal support to various regions and businesses of Dell; effectively leveraging India-based lawyers to support the business globally. In addition to her input into the creation of a global team, Priyadarshini has handled various internal projects, witnessed and managed three acquisitions and provided ongoing support to ensure successful transition from Perot to Dell. To her colleagues, peers and team members she is considered a ‘complete workaholic who values excellence above all else’. Her dedication and hard work have shown through as her corporate legal excellence has caused her to win several awards at Dell.
Ravi Rajagopal joined Mumbai-based multinational Crompton Greaves in 2014 as its global head of legal, governance and risk. A member of the Avantha Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates, the Crompton Greaves specialises in the production of tools for power generation and transmission industries. With nearly 30 years of experience as a legal advisor to the financial services and power industries, and particular knowledge of overseeing subsidiary entities belonging to some of India’s largest conglomerates, Rajagopal came with just the right mix of skills to help take the company forwards. He has helped to develop a new global legal and governance framework for the company while ensuring its overseas expansion is brought into line with this centralised approach. A member of Crompton Greaves’ executive committee, Rajagopal regularly works with senior management and is a well-respected strategic voice. He was previously general counsel at Essar Steel India has held senior legal positions at Sterlite Industries (a subsidiary of Vedanta Resources), Jaiprakash Industries (a subsidiary of the Jaypee Group) and advertising agency Pressman.
Naveen Raju, currently the group general counsel and senior vice president (group legal) of automobile conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra, can look back on a career in the legal business world spanning two decades. Always engaged as an in-house lawyer, Raju’s career began in earnest upon moving to Reliance Industries in 2000. Raju spent 14 years there, during which time he was heavily involved in the growth of its oil and gas division from a new business venture to one of the core elements of the company. During this time Raju developed a wealth of expertise in oil and gas law through involvement in a number of large transnational deals and projects. In 2014, however, in what he describes as an ‘opportunity not to be missed’, Raju moved out of the oil and gas sector and on to a more general legal function role at Mahindra & Mahindra. Here, Raju was afforded a chance to put ‘theory into practice’ and develop a department based around his own concept of what a quality legal team should look and act like. To achieve this, Raju made a number of organisational and process changes to the legal department at Mahindra & Mahindra. Raju explains that prior to his involvement, the legal team was a ‘business-driven’ organisation, whereby legal teams were attached to the specific group companies that they represented. He shifted this to a ‘hybrid’ legal system, where some functions are retained with the specific businesses, but a section of legal staff are retained at group level to deal with operational matters such as litigation and M&A work. Raju believes this new structure is paying dividends in efficiency gains across the group. Describing the in-house function in general, Raju says it is necessary to ‘think outside the box in a global world’. Legal professionals, he advises, should not necessarily limit themselves to operating in one in-house legal area, because the skills learned from other business units and practice areas are immensely important. Raju believes that many skills are transferable ‘irrespective of sector’ and that correct ‘application to legal strategies’ can allow an individual to be successful in a range of legal areas.
Pramod Rao’s in-house career began in 1996 at ICICI Bank. In under 10 years at the Indian multinational banking and financial services company, Rao was promoted to the position of general counsel, leading a team of over 400 employees, overseeing the legal function for all segments of the bank and advising on the board of directors of various ICICI group companies. After a brief return to private practice, which saw him set up the Mumbai office of law firm Induslaw, Rao joined Citibank, part of the Citigroup, in 2013. As general counsel for India his role covers both legal and the secretarial functions within Citibank for India, including the Institutional Clients Group which encompasses investment banking, corporate bank, markets and securities services, trade and transaction services, global consumer bank, and other Citibank legal entities. In addition, he oversees Citi Security and Investigative Services (CSIS) and chairs the Citi India Diversity Council, as well as being a member of other committees for internal management and oversight. Rao has utilised his team of 20 in the legal and secretarial functions to consolidate and assess all legal cases against the bank, formalising and applying strategies to reduce future claims. He says ‘the team’s interactions with the business and other functions are at a heightened level, allowing for speedy resolution of legal issues and other business matters’. Rao also believes that the involvement of legal team members in the work of other departments encourages professional learning and career development, ultimately leading to personal growth for each of the lawyers. Outside of Citibank, Rao is involved in philanthropic activities through “Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access”, a grass-root level movement aimed at encouraging and enabling underprivileged children to attend premier law schools in India.
Since 2003 Gautam Rohidekar has held high profile roles such as head of legal at Infosys BPO, the business process outsourcing subsidiary of Infosys, vice president legal at Obopay, a mobile money technology company, and vice president and deputy head of legal at Infosys. In 2014, Rohidekar was selected to to serve as chief legal officer of Cipla, the global pharmaceutical company, which uses cutting edge technology and innovation to meet the everyday needs of patients. In this role, Rohidekar takes ultimate responsibility for all legal matters including contracts, M&A, employment, litigation and compliance. Now managing a team of 32, Rohidekar initially had to bed-in new systems and processes, recruit the right legal talent, and manage demanding internal stakeholders while constructing a world class legal team. During his tenure Rohidekar has worked on many M&As, JVs and divestments and can boast of leading over 10 succesful global acquistions till date. Known as a business enabler, Rohidekar personally led the legal team during the $550 million Invagen acquisition, Cipla’s first US venture. Working on the acquisition for a period of 12 months, he ensured Cipla negotiated a maze of regulatory and financial hurdles, both in US and in India. Rohidekar also led the implementation of the compliance tool in Cipla which enables the senior management to have a real-time, instant snapshot at any given point, of the status of compliance in the organization in India. . Demonstrating the position of esteem he holds in the company, Rohidekar participates in its most important business committees and has a permanent position on the strategic deals committee, risk management committee, ethics committee and other leadership forums in the organization. He identifies the ability to deal with regulators, people management and problem solving by tackling issues above and beyond the legal realm as central to his approach in leading the legal department in Cipla.
With over 40 years of legal professional experience, Ravi Sachdev is one the most experienced in-house lawyers in India. After two years as a legal manager he joined Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) India to head the legal function. He was at the Indian arm of the British chemical company, that was the largest manufacturer in Britain for most of its history, for a total of 23 years and excelled in handling intellectual property, competition, litigation and joint venture matters in the role. When Akzo Nobel completed its acquisition of ICI in 2008 for a$16.2bn, Sachdev was integral to seamlessly facilitating the transition in India. He stayed on under the new administration for four years, maintaining his position of head of legal function in India and Sri Lanka. During this period he handled a number business restructurings, divestments and land acquisitions for manufacturing sites. After nearly two years of rendering legal services as an independent legal consultant Sachdev was headhunted by Fortis Healthcare in 2014. Appointed group general counsel for the India-based integrated healthcare delivery service provider, he draws on his vast experience to provide strategic legal advice and counsel on all legal, regulatory and compliance related matters to the group, its affiliates, associates and subsidiary companies.
Neeta Sanghavi has aspired to be a lawyer since she was a child, and recalls that she was ‘fascinated by lawyers from a very young age’. Now in her current role as head of legal for India at global banking firm Credit Suisse, she has attained a position in the upper echelons of the in-house legal market. Sanghavi has broad experience of legal matters and, prior to moving in-house, she had a noteworthy private practice career, including as a senior associate at UK firm Simmons & Simmons. Her in-house roles have been focused on major players in the financial sector, starting at Lehman Brothers, moving on to UBS and then finally to her current role at Credit Suisse in 2014. In common with other international banks operating in India, Sanghavi’s team is compact but effective in supporting the concerns of the business in the region. During her tenure, Sanghavi has improved the efficiency of the team by streamlining internal processes and creating a matrix of external law firms that could be used for pressing legal matters. Strategically, Sanghavi rates the most positive effect she has had as her successful efforts to enhance the nexus between legal and regional offices at Credit Suisse, which she believes helped ‘build trust through honesty and accountability’. Sanghavi considers the perception of in-house counsel as a ‘conservative’ force as the largest barrier to departmental success, which she measures using feedback from other business units and calculated cost savings. Sanghavi is inherently business-focused, advising that, instead of specifically focusing on the legal issue, she considers this in the context of the ’surrounding legal and regulatory environment in order to deliver the best results for the business’.
Atanu Sarkar currently leads a team of 25 highly skilled legal professionals at Tech Mahindra Group, an Indian information technology provider with over 107,000 professionals operating in 90 countries. Having been in charge of legal affairs at Tech Mahindra for 12 years, Sarkar has encouraged the legal division to evolve into a trusted partner to the company and has earned the department an active role in key business endeavours as well as strategic developments. Sarkar describes the legal department at Tech Mahindra as proficient in the provision of ‘comprehensive legal services in diverse jurisdictions’. He and the legal team have developed a favourable perception throughout the group and are credited for their ability to protect company investments and offer critical advice on how to mitigate legal risks. The versatile Sarkar is fluent in three languages and renowned throughout the industry for his enhanced expertise regarding intellectual property, contract negotiations and business acquisitions. Sarkar is additionally competent in complex litigation, arbitration and corporate governance. The legal expert’s previous endeavours include successful tenures at ICI India and Tata Robins Fraser (TRF).
Prior to joining Wipro, a leading information technology, consulting and outsourcing company, Inderpreet Sawhney gained five year’s in-house experience at ITC, and 14 years at Silicon Valley law firm The Chugh Firm. Her skills were highly valued there with one source describing her as a ‘thorough professional who amalgamates effectively a client's requirement with great value-added inputs’. In November 2011, Wipro announced it had appointed Sawhney as its senior vice president and general counsel with T K Kurien, CEO IT business and executive director, quoted as saying that ‘Inderpreet brings with her a wealth of transnational experience, which I am confident will benefit Wipro immensely. Her experience coupled with a passion for excellence and an unflinching integrity makes her an ideal choice to lead Wipro's legal function’. Heading Wipro's global legal function, Sawhney has upheld the company’s business ethic, in a transparent and responsible manner. Her recent work includes securing the acquisition of Zhongshan Ma Er, a family-run Chinese business, for Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting as it leverages its position in the South China market.
Corporate banking and securities expert Jigar Shah has been among the most influential lawyers in the development of India’s financial services market. He was a member of a committee at the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), advised on the credit derivatives to the Indian market in 2011 and has since led an industry-wide push for regulatory reform in India’s clearing-house rules for off-exchange trading. As general counsel (GC) at JP Morgan India, Shah leads a team of seven lawyers and reports to John Murphy, JP Morgan’s GC for Asia Pacific. He is a member of JP Morgan’s Asia Pacific legal management committee and overall management committee for India. Shah joined JP Morgan as GC in 2013 after more than a decade at Deutsche Bank India, where he had become the bank’s head of legal.
Before joining the global diversified metals and mining group, Vedanta, in 2015, Jasmeet Singh Wadehra gained legal experience in private practice, and with law firm Dua Associates. He went on to hold a series of increasingly senior in-house legal roles across a number of companies and sectors, spending spells at: GE Capital Services International; Deutsche Bank; FedEx; and International Paper. During this period of his career, Wadehra set up various businesses, worked on significant M&A transactions and post-acquisition activities, gained valuable experience of establishing strong sustainable processes in the areas of compliance, documentation and litigation management. Now leading a team of 12 within the power division of Vedanta, Wadehra has focused on three pillars of improvement: cost rationalisation by re-negotiating terms with law firms, documentation augmentation through the creation of an intranet based documentation repository, and effective litigation management strengthened with a centralised review and monitoring system. Despite the short amount of time he has been at the company, Wadehra has already made his mark by negotiating a favourable out of court settlement of a major dispute with a contractor, not only gaining the company $400m but also resulting in the resumption of works to complete a major project worth $1.5bn. A major achievement while working at International Paper was the $25m enforcement action against India’s regulator through litigation in the Supreme Court. In addition to his role at Vedanta, Wadehra has spoken at a number of international conventions on topics such as anti-corruption and litigation risk management. He has also published a number of works on topics such as tax disputes, labour law, sexual harassment and cyber laws in India. Wadehra’s excellence is recognised industry-wide, being the recipient of several industry awards. Commenting on his role as a head of legal, Wadehra says the ‘biggest challenge I have faced is a personal transformation of leadership style in my elevation to GC roles by becoming more engaging, effectively delegating and building strong teams and managing conflicts. I continue to learn these soft skills as I grow into my leadership role’.
Since 2014, Pawan Singhal has served as executive director - legal and general counsel for the Indian subsidiary of US multinational conglomerate 3M. Singhal is a senior legal professional, with a strong legal and finance background corroborated by professional qualifications and vast corporate experience over the last 20 years. He held a number of top legal positions at reputable multinational corproations prior to joining 3M, serving at AstraZeneca Pharma India, Max Bupa Health Insurance and Intel India. Singhal says these experiences helped him hone his ‘leadership and management skills to become a seasoned, strong and versatile professional’. New initiatives that he implemented in the 3M Indian legal team include developing legal competencies through individual development plans, building professional capabilities and skills in the legal and non-legal teams through coaching and mentoring, and developing a solution-based proactive legal engagement mind-set. He has also standardised document templates for different categories of agreements, created a secretarial function with high focus on corporate governance and simplified standard operating procedures for key recurring activities. In achieving the right balance between business strategies for growth objectives and keeping the company on the right side of the laws in multiple jurisdictions, Singhal has crafted a perception of the legal team: now ‘being seen as a business partner and collaborator who is considered to be “with the business, by the business and for the business” and who enables the business to make informed decisions about potential legal and compliance risks, but at the same time without compromising on the aspects of protecting the corporation’. Proactive in the wider legal market, Singhal has been a member of the All India Management Association since 2000 and was on the National Expert Committee on Company Law and Corporate Affairs of The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India in 2005.
Yum! Brands, the largest restaurant chain in the world and the company behind KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, operates around 800 outlets in India. Overseeing legal, compliance and corporate affairs for Yum! Brands across the Indian subcontinent is Priyanka Sinha. While Sinha covers a wide range of areas, she is particularly well-known for her work with the Indian government to help establish a compliant path for Yum! Brands’ expansion in the region. With plans to double the number of restaurants operated by the company in India over the next five years, Sinha has also been busy working with the company’s senior management to identify and scrutinise potential sites. Yum! brands has undergone a reorganisation in India recently, selling more than 300 of its outlets to private equity owned Sapphire Foods India, further diversifying the ownership of its restaurants (some 300 of which are already owned by bottling magnate Ravi Jaipuria’s R.J. Corp). The legal work associated with this reorganisation is described as ‘both extremely complex and rather unique in the Indian market’, with Sinha praised for her ‘outstanding work with counterparties to build commercial solutions’. A significant part of Sinha’s role is harmonising Yum! Brands’ global policies and operating standards with those set out by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). Prior to joining Yum! Brands in 2013, Sinha was senior director of legal and compliance at United Health Group. She has also led the Asia Pacific legal function at customer and information management Convergys.
Before joining Shell India, Mrinal Sinha worked at reputable Mumbai law firms Swarup & Co., Kochhar & Co. and DSK Legal between 1994 and 2006. Since then he has been at Shell India, the Indian operation of Royal Dutch Shell, a multinational oil and gas company that is headquartered in the Netherlands. Serving as its managing counsel, downstream India and legal focal point, downstream Middle East, Sinha has been quoted as saying the focus of his practice has been ‘identifying and dealing with legal and business risks, its mitigation and providing commercial and business options within the legal framework’, to continuously influence and achieve business objectives. Blending over 20 years of law firm and in-house knowledge, Sinha is revered for his extensive experience of dealing with domestic, regional and global leadership teams as well as business teams belonging to diverse nationalities, ethnicities and cultures. As part of this he sits on the board of directors of Shell India, the Shell India Downstream leadership team and the Shell Middle East Downstream leadership team. With Royal Dutch Shell having already invested $1bn in India, and having acquired BG Group in February 2016 for $70bn on a global level, Sinha is set to play a key role in the expected expansion of Shell in India in the coming years.
Nilanjan Sinha has gathered two decades of in-house experience in marketing-leading companies: India’s leading battery manufacturing company (Exide Industries), India’s largest private sector bank (ICICI), India’s fastest growing private bank (Yes Bank), and one of the world’s most prestigious companies (GE Capital). Since 1994 he has had exposure to large projects across a wide array of legal work from litigating, fund raising (both debt and equity), restructuring, project financing, government relations, regulatory issues and being part of the cross-border joint ventures governance team. The projects he is most proud of include trademark litigations and setting up a greenfield factory while he was at Exide; defending a constitutional challenge of the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act (SARFESAI) 2002; and being associated with the setting up of the commercial dispute resolution forum, while at ICICI. He also had the opportunity to build the legal department at Yes Bank, allowing him to lay the foundations for a team that would go on to support one of the fastest growing banks in India. At GE Capital, Sinha was responsible for multiple M&A transactions and strategically important cross-border joint ventures. He has served as member of the board of directors for multiple companies in his career, further demonstrating his commercial nous and business knowledge. In August 2016, Sinha moved to his current role as head of legal, compliance and public affairs for the Indian sub-continent at Marsh, the insurance broking and risk management arm of Marsh & McLennan, which is a Fortune 250 American multinational. Sinha also doubles up as director of government relations for the wider Marsh & McLennan in India. He is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India, and also has a master’s degree in Commercial Laws from the University of Bristol. Whenever he has the bandwidth, you will find him lecturing at law colleges and legal seminars or playing an active role in industry associations and chamber of commerce.
After four years as a practicing litigation advocate and time spent at leading Indian law firms Thakkar & Thakkar and Juris Corp, Madhu Sivaram Muttathi first moved in-house in 2003, taking a role at IBS Software Services, a privately held technology company catering primarily to the travel, transportation and logistics sector. His primary responsibility there was to manage client deals worldwide and to provide human resources advice to the company’s business units. Subsequently, Muttathi joined Sapient Corporation, a US marketing and consulting multinational, where he was mainly responsible for providing legal and commercial support in India and certain business units beyond India. Assuming his current position in 2012 as the regional counsel of Avaya India, a global leader in business communication and collaboration solutions, Muttathi’s work now involves providing legal transactional support and strategic advice to the company’s India and South Asia operations. Illustrating the embedded nature of the legal role at Avaya, Muttathi is also on the company’s India leadership team and is a director on the India Board. During his tenure, Muttathi has been able to help the business generate significant revenue for the South Asia region by structuring, negotiating and successfully closing several high value and complex customer deals. In addition he has provided legal and commercial inputs in connection with several key initiatives such as the realignment of Avaya’s partner strategy in South Asia, the company’s expansion into new jurisdictions such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and has also helped streamline risk mitigation processes and policies. The role that he has played in ‘enhancing ethical awareness via periodic trainings with a focus on doing business with integrity’, has proven valuable to the expanding business. Muttathi’s says his approach in dealing with the internal and external pressures on the business is to ‘consistently collaborate with my clients in understanding the rapidly shifting priorities and core objectives of the company, which have helped to position legal as the trusted advisor to the business and allowed us to add tremendous value’.
After two years at India Aluminium Company as a management trainee, Anand Srivastava joined multinational professional services company PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 1999. Rising through the ranks at one of the “big four” accountants, Srivastava made a gradual progression from associate, to his current level of director. He became company secretary of PwC India in 2007 and associate general counsel in 2015. With a pragmatic approach, some of the key features of his tenure include setting up clear priorities, better research facilities and embedding technological systems in the legal team. With a focus on personal development for his team members Srivastava rotates individuals into different roles whilst ensuring each one develops a core competence, exposing them to public platforms whilst ensuring they are provided freedom to interact at the highest level and take ownership of their actions. For Srivastava, development of a very good internal legal competence especially on critical and high stake projects has furthermore led to greater confidence in his staff and reducing costs in the company. He classes his biggest achievement as successfully leading PwC India’s legal strategy on extremely complex projects that involved multiple territories.n of Ports and Harbours.
Atul Sud is a professional with nearly 25 years of professional experience, both as a practicing advocate and in-house counsel. He has worked with leading counsel and law firms representing diverse and challenging clients in industry sectors covering banking, retail and pharma in India and the Asia Pacific. Sud possesses considerable experience of M&A transactions, public policy and regulatory, human resources and union related issues, real estate and high stake litigation and arbitration across various jurisdictions. He presently manages a team of approximately 70 lawyers and paralegals for Mylan Laboratories, an international pharmaceutical company operating in a highly regulated and competitive industry. On coping with the complexity of legal work, Sud says: ‘The multi-faceted exposure and experience has helped me understand the perspective of not only the client but also of the lawyer and law firm on critical issues and has enabled me to get professional advice, which is not only business-oriented but also in compliance with the applicable laws and regulations’. In a previous position, Sud was part of the core group which identified and dealt with the issue of corruption as one of the most critical issues plaguing the corporate sector; and worked with global agencies like Global Compact Network India, Transparency International and a German trade body to raise awareness around this issue. He also collaborated with such agencies to develop training content for employees on the standards that need to be observed while dealing with government agencies and business partners. ‘The mission is to continue to play the role of a business catalyst and contribute towards scripting many more success stories in the years to come’, says Sud.
Handpicked at university by India’s biggest conglomerate, Reliance Industries, Akshat Sulalit spent his first four years of his career supporting their central legal team and was exposed to the legal complexities on a variety of business verticals such as retail, polymer and polyester, oil and gas, banking and finance, media and telecom. He then moved to law firms Phoenix Legal, to principally work on private equity transactions, and Kaden Boriss, advising both domestic and international corporates on joint ventures, private equity, compliance with Indian data privacy laws, banking laws and dispute resolution as well. Joining the ibibo Group, an online travel organisation, in 2015, Sulalit was tasked with strengthening, developing and leading the in-house legal team. Using his previous experience, he has restructured the in-house team in line with how law firms work, establishing key processes to streamline business operations and simultaneously reducing the reliance on external lawyers. Sulalit confirms his biggest achievement was ‘building a strong, smart, confident, efficient and effective legal team for ibibo Group’, adding that ‘each member is independently capable of being answerable for the work assigned to and delivered by them’. Sulalit has always been a proponent of individuals having their own workload and deliverables, ‘because nothing bestows more responsibility than ownership. If the right people are imparted the right training, direction and motivation - they will deliver’. This training and talent development not only gives ibibo confidence that the team can easily adapt to its new product lines, but also grants stability through heightened structure in the existing business units.
After spending over seven years at the Bar in Coimbatore, covering a wide spectrum of civil law work both in litigation and transactions, K S Suresh joined ITC, an Indian conglomerate with a diversified presence in fast-moving consumer goods, hotels, packaging, paperboards and specialty papers and agri-business. Presented with the opportunity to independently handle an ‘exciting’ variety of work, touching almost every branch of the law, Suresh rose through ranks becoming ITC’s head of legal (later renamed as general counsel) in 1998. Asked to provide strategic management to the company, which has a market capitalisation of over $40bn, since 2009 he has served on the corporate management committee, the company’s highest executive body. In his role Suresh heads a team of 45, which includes 35 qualified lawyers; upon gaining the general counsel, one of his initial objectives was to create a strong team of in-house lawyers, fully capable of delivering end-to-end legal services to the company. ‘This has enabled the creation of a solid bank of legal professionals, each with broad-based knowledge of all business-relevant laws and deep-specialism in at least two subjects’, says Suresh. Other key achievements include the closure of several business, brand acquisitions, the winning of the two major Central Excise disputes involving demands of about ₹2,000 crores, the striking down of the various states’ luxury tax laws by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court and the successful resolution to the several proceedings under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. Suresh has a number of impressive activities outside of his role at ITC, for example previously serving as a member on the Kelkar Task Force set up by the Government of India for indirect tax reforms, chairing of ASSOCHAM’s Indirect Taxes committee, and holding membership to the governing body of the Indian Council of Arbitration. Demonstrating his status in the Indian in-house market, Suresh has also invited to give evidence before parliamentary committees for his views on laws before their enactment.
After working as a litigator at the High Court at Delhi and the Supreme Court of India, Dipali Talwar moved on to handling ‘seminal’ constitutional, civil and criminal law cases. At law firm Arthur Andersen in India she was recognised for her capabilities as a corporate law and regulatory policy advisor to government, international institutions and companies in sectors ranging from infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, media and consumer goods. Talwar’s first in-house counsel position was at Pfizer, a global research-based biopharmaceutical company, as director of legal and general counsel for India and South Asia; this was followed by a promotion to senior director of global business transactions in New York. At Pfizer, Talwar advised on transactions, market entry and expansion strategies with her knowledge of investment structures, joint ventures, regulatory policy and legal assessment of risk and compliance. Talwar is now group general counsel for Tata Steel, the Indian multinational steel-making company headquartered in Mumbai and a subsidiary of the Tata Group. She is also on the panel of the board of directors, member of the Delhi Bar Association, New York State Bar and member of the US India Business Council Legal Executive Committee.
Having worked at law firms Fox Mandal Little and Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan between 2002 and 2012, Ugen Bhutia gained litigation experience in banking and debt recovery laws by advising on a wide range of legal issues. After this exposure, in 2012 Bhutia joined SBI Card, a payment solutions provider created as part of a joint venture between State Bank of India and GE Capital, as general counsel and executive vice president of legal to provide transactional support as well as manage retail litigation across the country. He has been commended for managing the company’s litigation workload, with the help of his team of 16, through strategic changes and technological support, significantly reducing the total inflow of claims and costs in compensatory awards as a result. As part of the senior management team and directly reporting to the CEO, Bhutia has worked tirelessly to overcome negative internal perceptions about the legal function and building its internal brand as a true business enabler. Describing the shift in attitude Bhutia says: ‘Whenever the business encounters a regulatory blockade, the legal team is now looked upon as a problem solver’. Bhutia has advised on some of the most important changes in the payment industry, covering heightened regulation around security measures, introduced by the Reserve Bank of India, for second factor authentication on chip and pin cards and 3D secure online transactions among others. Apart from being the general counsel for SBI Card, Bhutia has also taken additional responsibilities in the international projects of GE Capital, involving issues on data privacy, battle of forms, standardisation of intra-affiliate templates and document management.
Dr Rajeev Uberoi is one of India’s most respected banking and finance lawyers. A specialist in operational risk management with more than 30 years’ experience in the financial services sector, Uberoi has contributed widely to India’s legal and regulatory affairs through both his academic writings and membership of the country’s banking industry bodies. Uberoi joined the Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC) as general counsel and group head of legal and compliance in 2009. Prior to joining IDFC, Uberoi held a number of senior positions at leading international banks including Standard Chartered, Citibank, ANZ Grindlays and the Reserve Bank of India. He has particular expertise in the fields of Indian company law and securities and exchange regulations, and has advised on these matters at various committees of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Bankers Association (IBA). Uberoi is a regular contributor to the financial press and teaches risk management as a visiting faculty member at the Indian Institute of Management. He has drawn on this academic profile and international banking expertise to introduce new governance structures reflecting international best practice at IDFC. These efforts have seen IDFC collaborate with internationally-renowned law schools, including Harvard Law School, allowing students to undertake secondments and academic research at the bank.
Meera Vanjari has almost two decades of legal experience, working at the highest levels of private practice and in-house roles. Initially serving at law firm Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe, she then went on to hold roles at companies including Marico Industries, Kodak India and Bunge India. Between 2008 and 2012 Vanjari was legal director for Johnson & Johnson, heading legal affairs for its medical devices and diagnostic business. She then joined pharmaceutical company Glenmark Pharmaceuticals in 2012, to head the legal and intellectual property (IP) functions for the company globally. In addition to her general counsel role, in which she heads the legal team of 23 people and the IP team of 40 professionals, Vanjari is also part of the Core Operating Group of Glenmark and the Chairman of the Sexual Harassment Committee. One of her mandates when joining was to ensure legal support across the globe with a fairly lean legal team, as well as to encourage proactive legal advice. After assigning legal leads in jurisdictions and by establishing internal processes, the legal team’s position as a business partner has been achieved and stakeholder satisfaction received. Vanjari ensures that the whole team regularly works with the business counterparts to analyse business risks and develop strategies to risk-hedge negative impacts on the company’s operations. She also developed a global compliance code for the organisation and drafted global policies for the key countries where Glenmark operates. Further e-training modules on compliance have helped staff across the global business embrace the high standards that the company requires. A key feature of her time at Glenmark has been launching products when faced with patent challenges; allowing the company to launch innovative new products and continue to build its international brand.
Described by a former colleague as ‘meticulous in his work and well organised’, Chakradhar Varadarajan is a seasoned lawyer with 25 years of in-house legal experience. After spells at Tata Teleservices, ITC, Cargill India and Hindustan Unilever, Varadarajan has gained significant recognition from peers and colleagues. In his role immediately prior to joining Godrej Industries, Varadarajan was senior legal counsel at Hindustan Unilever where he worked closely with senior management and drove down litigation claims significantly. In addition he partnered with the sales and customer development teams in a special project on rural market development for telecom service sales, and championed an all-India mediation institution named “Ombudsman of HUL” in 2011. Since joining Godrej Industries, a fast-moving consumer goods leader with interests in consumer goods, real estate, agriculture and gourmet retail through its subsidiaries and associate companies, Varadarajan has worked on a number of deals that allow the company to increase its market share in strategic segments. As executive vice president for corporate legal, Varadarajan oversaw the acquisition of an additional 25% stake in Creamline Dairy Products, to give Godrej a majority stakeholding. Another deal saw Godrej Properties acquire a 12 acre site in Bangalore for a real estate project crucial to the company’s strategy. Active in the industry, Varadarajan is executive committee member of the Indian Bar Association’s General Counsel Section.
As senior vice president for legal at Piramal, one of the most diversified major conglomerates in India, Anand Vardhan has a particular focus on financial legal matters; including, funds, finance, realty and healthcare funding. Before taking this role in 2013, Vardhan held a series of appointments at high profile financial institutions such as HDFC Venture Capital and ICICI Bank, as well as a position as general counsel of private equity fund SUN-Apollo. Now in charge of 12 individuals across the group of companies that he is responsible for, Vardhan has overseen a positive progression within the legal team that has seen it move from a ‘support function, to a business-enabler, to participation in the business itself’. Vardhan now considers himself part of the strategic element of the company, making sure that his team and the CEOs office have a relationship that enables business partnering and risk management, as they participate ‘in the decision making process from the inception’. Vardhan explains this has had a corresponding positive effect on how the legal team is perceived at the company overall, advising that ‘once your inputs are valued, the reputation of the legal department also benefits’. In terms of barriers to the progress, Vardhan points to necessary adaption in the face of a constantly changing regulatory landscape. This has required continuous updates and proactive steps that have demanded a significant portion of the legal team’s attention.
The extent of Bharat Vasani’s role at Tata Sons – the principal investment holding company and promoter of Tata companies, commonly known as Tata Group – is broad enough to impress even the most experienced general counsel. As adviser to the senior management of one of the world’s largest conglomerates, he oversees the legal affairs of 30 publicly-listed enterprises with a combined market capitalisation of well over $100bn and employing more than half a million people. An additional test of Vasani’s skills as general counsel (GC) comes from the diversity of the group’s holdings. With leading companies in sectors ranging from engineering and industrial products to consumer goods and services, whose operations span more than 100 jurisdictions his role is one that requires an unusually broad understanding of both macroeconomic drivers of risk and international legal systems. Vasani joined the Tata Group in 2000 and made an instant impact by restructuring of the legal department. Working with a small team of four lawyers in the early years of his reign, Vasani implemented a centralised database, allowing counsel across the group to access the legal advice issued to other group entities in past situations. Since that time he has helped to guide Tata Group’s strategy and cemented his reputation as one of India’s leading GCs. While the workload Vasani faces at Tata Group is difficult to comprehend, he has also found time over the years to serve a number of non-executive directorships and directorships, both within the Tata Group of companies and elsewhere. Prior to joining Tata, Vasani held a number of senior counsel positions at Philips, Nocil and Dow Chemicals. He is a member of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India and was recently among those recognised for their contribution to global law, receiving the Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession’s (CLP) Award for Professional Excellence.
Yogesh Wadhwa, vice president and lead counsel at General Motors India (GM India), possess a wealth of experience gleaned from a career that has encompassed a variety of roles and sectors. Beginning his career with India’s oldest law firm, Fox Mandal, Wadhwa spent the next decade moving through the in-house legal teams at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Halliburton and Cairn India. Now in place at GM India, Wadhwa has developed a delegative leadership style, prioritising ‘empowerment’ and ‘teamwork’ that ‘allows [legal team staff] to take more responsibility’ when completing their workload. Over the past year, much of the work of GM India’s legal team has focused on regulatory matters, and they have been involved in a number of lobbying efforts – an area that Wadhwa points to as being particularly challenging. Wadhwa believes that ‘legal is integral to any business decision done’ company-wide, and indeed he occupies a place near the top of the company hierarchy. A part of senior management, he has direct contact with the overall group GC, who is based in America, and engages in ‘dotted line’ reporting with the CEO. This allows Wadhwa ample opportunity to show his business credentials, and he considers that the ‘right balance of business and legal acumen’ is what makes a top quality in-house lawyer. Evaluating his success, Wadhwa is grateful for his time working as a consultant before moving to a legal role; where he was provided with ‘exposure to deadlines [and] presentations’, which has proven invaluable in his later career.
CMS is delighted to support the GC Powerlist India, and applauds the role that the in-house community plays in the success of India’s thriving legal market. CMS has long supported the international expansion of leading Indian companies through strategic growth and entry into key markets.
So far, 2016 has proven to be an interesting year. In the context of some of the largest consolidations ever seen, with pricing pressures consuming firms and technological innovation driving industrial growth, the liberalisation of India’s market appears to be gaining much more momentum.
General counsels have long been invested in India’s liberalisation agenda. They have promoted the advantages of easier access to international legal expertise, opportunities for enhanced legal training and opportunities for career development, and the potential to bring overseas work to India which previously had been handled by international lawyers.
The campaign for liberalisation of India’s heavily regulated legal market has resulted in proposed amendments to India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) regime. Union Law Secretary Suresh Chandra called a meeting in New Delhi to formally discuss proposed rules which will govern the entry of international lawyers into the Indian legal market. The tabled reforms will affect a range of sectors from real estate to defence, telecoms to the pharmaceutical industry. The latest reforms chime with the government’s stated objective to ‘attract and promote foreign direct investment in order to supplement domestic capital, technology and skills for accelerated economic growth’.
Change of this magnitude has been driven by impressive economic growth. India saw major interest from private equity and venture capital investors in 2015, resulting in a record $22.4 billion in investments. This trend has continued throughout 2016. Examples of India’s increased economic dynamism include: Vodafone’s $7.2 billion investment into its India division; Wal-Mart Stores Inc. potential investment of up to $1 billion into India’s Flipkart Online Services; and the entry into the market of prominent retailers Muji, Massimo Dutti and Armani Exchange, among others.
In the light of this international confidence and the growing complexity of regulatory compliance, GCs are becoming crucial to the success of a modern Indian company. CMS is delighted to see the inaugural GC Powerlist India by The Legal 500 recognise this importance.
Luthra & Luthra
Having said that, I would also like to wish the large number who did not make it to the list this time round, all the very best for next year.
It is heartening to note the increasingly important role played by corporate General Counsels [GC] in India, which has witnessed a drastic change in the last twenty odd years.
The role of a GC is extremely challenging as being an officer of court, they need to enable that each action of the company is not only in compliance with law but also meets the commercial objectives of the company. Often, a GC needs to act not only as a deal enabler, but be creative so that the legal risks are contained.
In today’s ever changing world, the role of a GC has been redefined and the qualities of a good GC includes – possessing the knowledge of law and adhering to time lines; understand the intricate details about the deal, idea or the context and to be completely involved in the functioning of a company.
Not many lawyers have all of the skills required to play this role well, and those on this list are all individuals who have perfected this art, while being great managers of people.
The GC Powerlist team has worked tirelessly in collating the information received through numerous nominations, and then conducting an extensive independent research to shortlist and reach these results. Heartiest congratulations to them as well as the GCs who made it to the Powerlist.
Managing Partner, Johannesburg
In our experience, while in-house legal teams are most often appreciated for their risk management functions and compliance activities, the best in-house legal teams deepen their value by taking this further and fulfilling a corporate advisory, policy development and business strategy role.
The general counsel (GC) who have been acknowledged in The Legal 500’s GC Powerlist India all demonstrate this depth of value, and are heartily congratulated by all of us at Bowmans for the contributions they have made to the growth and success of their companies.
The importance of GCs in organisations operating in emerging economies, such as India and those in Africa, cannot be overstated. Foreign investors, local players and state institutions embark on significant projects within these markets, driving often fast-paced and ambitious projects and strategies for growth.
Bowmans sees an increased number of Indian companies who are actively expanding in a variety of sectors in African economies, among them automobiles, services (mainly telecommunications and finance), pharmaceuticals, construction and resources.
It often falls to GCs to tease out the legal planning for projects, to ensure that they are monitored, and ultimately implemented, with speed, efficiency, low legal risk and commercial savvy. A tall order at the best of times. It is with a confident, experienced GC at the helm that projects and strategies in emerging markets such as India and those in Africa will find sustainable and scalable success.
There is no doubt that the talent pool of GCs is, year-on-year, deeper and broader than ever before. At Bowmans we aim to find synergies with, and augment the natural talent of, the in-house legal counsel of our clients to assist them to demonstrate to their organisations the value that they bring, to increase that value, and to be appreciated for that value.
As a leading pan-African law firm, we support in-house legal counsel teams operating in Africa with their most important and complex projects, by providing both domestic and cross-border specialist legal services in the fields of corporate law, banking and finance law and dispute resolution.
With over 400 specialised lawyers operating from six offices in four African countries (Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa and Uganda), and our close relationship with Nigerian leading firm Udo Udoma & Belo Osagie, we are set apart by our geographical reach, independence and the quality of legal services we provide.
Ultimately, it is our aim to assist our clients, and in particular their in-house legal teams, to achieve their objectives – smoothly and efficiently – while minimising the legal and regulatory risks they face. This enables our clients’ GCs and their teams to be confident in their contributions and certain of their respected value.
Partner, Co-Founder and CEO
As the leading legal recruiters in India, we regular recruit for roles and also engage with GC’s on recruitment and consulting mandates. Since 2007, we’ve witnessed first-hand the rapid evolution of the GC role in India. Some of the key changes in the last decade include:
- Change of reporting from CFO to CEO
- Size of legal teams has grown rapidly
- The GC is now more often than not, a member of the Executive Committee
- Compensation has significantly increased
These changes have been brought about by the excellent work done by the leading GCs and the clear value that they bring to their organisations. The GC in India today, has a seat at the corporate table, and is an important advisor to management. The success stories of these GCs, is inspiring bright lawyers at all levels to move in-house. All of this signals an elevation in the role of the GC, within the corporate structure and the legal profession.
The future promises to be interesting and challenging for the GC. Increased ‘internationalisation’ is one such area. The GC has to shepherd their company through the laws and compliance requirements of multiple jurisdictions. With increased regulation and as businesses expand to international markets, having the right GC becomes a competitive advantage for the business.
The GC is increasingly viewed as a ‘key employee’ of the organisation, along with the CEO and CFO. With higher corporate governance standards and compliance norms, the regulators will start scrutinising the GC as the Chief Legal Officer of the company. The challenge for the GC will be balancing one’s roles of enabling business, with that of championing the law. The two are not mutually exclusive, but successful and disrupting businesses, often operate in the grey zones of regulation. The best GCs will not only captain the company through choppy regulatory waters, but also find a new route or improve the system as a whole.
We have many examples of GC’s who play this role admirably. We would once again like to congratulate, each of the GC’s featured here, and wish them the very best for the future.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.