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For 30 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)
General counsel and global head - legal
Senior counsel, development and operations - India
Executive director, legal and corporate affairs and company secretary
Senior vice president of legal and group counsel
General counsel, India
General Counsel - Cairn oil and gas
Head - contracts and legal
Sterling and Wilson
Director - legal and regulatory
Sanjit Kaur Batra
Legal head (South Asia)
E.I. DuPont India
IL&FS Financial Services
Ugen Tashi Bhutia
Executive vice president, head legal
Shujath Bin Ali
Senior director- legal and risk management and company secretary, India compliance officer
PAREXEL International - India
General counsel (India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka)
India general counsel and ethics officer
Jones Lang LaSalle - India
Managing director – legal and senior legal business partner
Director - legal
OLA (ANI Technologies)
Head – legal
Yum! Restaurants India
General counsel and director - legal and regulatory
Chief legal officer
Group general counsel, chief data privacy officer and senior vice-president
Dr. Reddy's Laboratories
Head - legal and secretarial
ISS Facility Services India
Company secretary and corporate general counsel
P M Devaiah
Partner and group general counsel
Everstone Capital Advisors
Country counsel and executive vice presient – legal
Chief executive - special situations group and group general counsel
L&T Finance Holdings
Executive director, head of legal - India
Senior general manager - group legal
Mahindra & Mahindra (Mahindra Automotive)
Manager - legal
India legal counsel
Mars International India
Director – legal
Bharti Enterprises (Bharti Airtel Group)
Aditya Birla Group
Group general counsel
Viacom 18 Media
Prarabdha R. Jaipuriar
General counsel - Indian subcontinent
General counsel - legal and compliance
Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) India
Atul Gopalkrishna Juvle
General counsel, compliance officer and company secretary - India and South Asia
Sabira Amjad Kadri
Vice president legal
The Phoenix Mills
Head legal, company secretary and compliance officer
Dr Lal PathLabs
Company secretary and head of legal and governance for risk and compliance
Volkswagen Group Sales India
Assistant vice president legal
Vistra ITCL (India)
Mani Kant Mehta
Assistant vice president - legal
Sequoia Capital India Advisors
Lokanath P. Kar
Chief legal and principal compliance officer
ICICI Lombard General Insurance
Senior vice president (country head – legal)
Head legal - EPC and Solar
Assistant general counsel (legal head), South Asia, Middle East and North Africa
Levi Strauss & Co.
Senior legal and compliance director
Senior vice president - legal
HDFC Property Ventures
K Satish Kumar
Global head legal and chief data protection officer
Ashok Kumar Maheshwary
Vice president and group head - legal
KCT Management Services
Group general counsel
Pujarini Guha Maulik
Vice president legal
Priya Mehra Dewan
InterGlobe Aviation (IndiGo)
Pooja Sehgal Mehtani
Head - legal and secretarial
Sun Life India Service Centre
Executive vice president and general counsel
The Indian Hotels Company
Subir Bikas Mitra
Executive director (law and HR)
Market head of legal, compliance and company secretary – Indian subcontinent
Philips Lighting India
President legal and regulatory affairs
Zee Entertainment Enterprises
Director of legal affairs - India operations
Ford Motor Company
President (legal) and general counsel (Europe)
Assistant general counsel
Associate general counsel – India, Asia Pacific and Japan (Personal Systems)
Group president and general counsel
Senior executive vice president and general counsel
Kotak Mahindra Bank
GE South Asia
General manager – legal and company secretary
Patibandla Satya Narayana Prasad
Reserve Bank of India
Director - legal, emerging Asia
Country counsel India
Boeing International Corporation
Senior managing legal director
Dell International Services India
Head legal - India, Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Group general counsel and senior vice president
Mahindra & Mahindra
Group general counsel
Director - legal
OLA (ANI Technologies)
Madhav Rao Uppulur
Group head - legal
CK Birla Group
General counsel, India Geo market (India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka)
Baker Hughes, a GE Company
Group general counsel and chief compliance officer
Managing director, India legal and compliance
Vice president legal
Associate general counsel
Head of legal
Shell India Markets
Head of legal, India and Southeast Asia
Rakesh Chandra Sinha
Associate vice president - legal and compliance (head legal and compliance)
Sun Pharmaceutical Industries
Madhu Sivaram Muttathil
Chief legal officer, India and SAARC
Vice president - legal
RP Sanjiv Goenka Group
Associate general counsel and company secretary
National director (legal) and general counsel – India and Bangladesh
Group general counsel
Chief general counsel
IDFC (Infrastructure Development Finance Company)
Chief legal and compliance officer
Kotak Mahindra Bank
Head – corporate legal
President - legal
Piramal Capital & Housing Finance
Senior vice president - legal
General manager - legal
Alliance General Counsel
Renault Nissan India
Country group head - law, patents and compliance (South Asia)
Since its founding in 1945, Indian company Wipro has developed into a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company. Amongst the company’s 160,000 employees is general counsel and global head – legal, Deepak Acharya who plays drives ethics and statutory compliance across the numerous jurisdictions that Wipro operates in. Acharya joined the firm in February 2018 and has already made an impact by overseeing a number of key deals such as a 10 year strategic partnership with Alight solutions worth around US$1.6bn as well as winning a contract from Falck to transform the healthcare company’s finance operations. Acharya is a well-respected and highly experienced Indian in-house lawyer having spent 26 years in the legal department of global consumer products company P&G. Holding senior legal positions there, he managed legal teams covering various markets and regions from P&G’s offices in India, Switzerland and Singapore. Now at Wipro, Acharya is recognised for continuing to demonstrate the hallmarks of a top in-house counsel with a strong business focus.
Anubhuti Agrawal joined Hilton in 2015 as counsel, development and operations (India), and was promoted to the senior counsel role in 2018. She is now part of the larger Asia Pacific legal team, and in addition to India, she also looks after the legal functions of Hilton in Nepal and Bhutan and is a part of the Hilton’s executive committee for India. Her role within the global Hilton legal team is unique as she is the only lawyer within Hilton’s global legal department, of over 100 lawyers, managing over 100 countries that handles development such as signing new contracts with owners which help in expanding the business, managing existing owner relationships and the renewals of agreements. For a global organisation like Hilton, the India office is relatively small in terms of head count. This necessitates that Agrawal develop an in-depth understanding of how different departments function across the globe, as the implementation of these projects often requires close coordination with global teams. This was demonstrated when changes to goods, services and tax law came into force in India in July 2017 and was further changed in 2018. While the change was merely to indirect tax laws, Argawal worked with departments such as IT, finance, tax, and revenue management to ensure that systems were updated in time and all teams were geared up for adapting to the changes. Since Hilton do not employ lawyers at the hotel level, in order to ensure that hotels management and staff operate in compliance with all applicable laws and company policies, Agrawal has organised extensive training sessions for hotel executives and staff. Agrawal and her team have worked on many major transactions including a large deal in India with the Embassy Group. The transaction was the largest of its kind in India and was completed in 18 months in what Agrawal identifies as a highlight of her early tenure at Hilton. Discussing her approach, she says her ‘attitude and approach of being a problem solver has helped me secure and retain my position as a business executive of the organisation and not merely their legal advisor. I think, my experience at Hilton has moulded me into a better legal professional’.
Having a presence in India for over 80 years, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is currently India’s largest fast moving consumer goods company selling over 35 brands and employing around 18,000 individuals. At the helm of HUL’s legal function is executive director, legal and corporate affairs and company secretary Dev Bajpai. He has been with the organisation for a number of years now and in January 2017 was inducted on the board of directors, exemplifying his business-focused and strategic mind-set. Nominators during this year’s research were quick to highlight Bajpai’s vital contribution towards HUL’s battle against trademark violations by smaller Indian firms. His extensive knowledge of IP law and the company’s business strategy being key contributors to HUL further safeguarding its IP rights this year. Bajpai is highly experienced and well respected among peers, having over 30 years of in-house legal experience in a diverse range of Indian industries.
Rajiv Bakshi continues to serve as the senior vice president of legal and group counsel at JSW Steel Limited, part of the JSW conglomerate worth close to US$9bn. JSW Steel has the largest steel portfolio in India and its largest exporter with trade to over 100 countries. It has plants in Karnataka, Tamil Nandu and Maharashtra producing 18 million tons per annum with plans to increase investment and expansion of its portfolio to produce 40 million tons per annum. With his 33 years of experience in the industry, Bakshi has helped drive this success since joining the company and continues to provide excellent legal coverage enabling the firm’s continued project growth. For instance in 2018, he assisted in overseeing a deal that saw JSW build Swedish multinational furniture company IKEA’s its first ever and flagship store in India.
After around a decade in private practice in corporate M&A, private equity and other financial law, Preeti Balwani moved in-house in 2016 and has been in her current role at Heinz India since 2017. Balwani’s role comprises all of the ethics and compliance matters as well as all other legal matters in the day-to-day running of the business. After the company received an anonymous complaint on its ethics and compliance hotline Balwani led an investigation which exposed a series of distributor malpractices. The forensic investigation was cross functional which posed a host of challenges including a potential data privacy breach, a cyber-security threat and reputational risk. On this issue Balwani says that, ‘this investigation helped groom my ability to have a streamlined approach to problem-solving and being decisive. My understanding of the rules and the processes helped me simplify the processes and risks involved to the business team which helped us take decisions quicker. We were eventually able to blacklist the culprit quickly and effectively prevented loss of reputation’. The legal department under Balwani’s direction also initiated and under-took a company-wide legal, regulatory, corporate secretarial audit for the first time in the history of the organisation. The audit helped identify current and potential company risks, compliance gaps and helped the team to be pro-active in areas that could have a business impact. The department transitioned the compliance process to technology to ensure timely alerts and efficient management of the company’s over-all statutory compliances which in turn helped the business plan other activities better. When Balwani joined Heinz there was a very high volume of litigations and under her direction, the legal department undertook a task to handle all cases expertly. So far it has been successful in reducing the number of legal vendors, closing long pending litigations and in turn saving the company recurring costs of litigation. This has also contributed to reducing the contingent liabilities of the company by successfully closing out litigations. Additionally, the legal department made and is executing a plan to buy back the brands. The legal department recommended that cash balances in the company could be used to purchase the brands from the shareholder at an efficient tax rate which would assist the Indian entity to repatriate cash as well as give the Indian entity independence with respect to dealing with the IPR. Having assisted the company on these important matters among many others, Balwani has impressed a number of peers in India’s legal market.
Nitin Banerjee, general counsel of Cairn, a major oil and gas company affiliate of Vedanta Group, has been in the role since November 2017 and is responsible for the legal and compliance affairs of this major industry that responsible for around 27% of domestic crude oil production in India in 2017-2018. As a senior lawyer with over 20 years of legal private practice and in-house experience and dual qualification in India and England and Wales, Banerjee brings his considerable skill in energy and infrastructure projects, M&A in the oil and gas sector, commercial and regulatory company law, as well as litigation and arbitration management, corporate governance and policy in the up, down and mid-stream oil and gas industry. Banerjee is also involved in the Vedanta Group legal counsel team. During his tenure at Cairn, the company has expanded and opened new facilities in India and South Africa and increased its portfolio of energy offerings.
Joydeep Banerjee is an astute legal professional as well as a proactive, positive and proficient in-house counsel with expertise in contracts and legal affairs. Banerjee is not one to shy away from taking tough decisions on matters and is known to adopt a pro-business approach. As a specialist resource supporting the business teams, Banerjee is extremely sensitive to commercial sentiments and with a highly confident outlook, his practical approach has helped corporates implement their business plan very successfully and within minimal time. Banerjee has a demonstrated history of working in the finance, retail, real estate, mechanical and industrial engineering sector with 20 years of experience demonstrating his aptitude in dealing with and resolving longstanding litigation matters and particularly the handling of high value transactions with litigation acumen and a fast response level. Banerjee has climbed the corporate ladder via a consistent interaction with senior management, key stakeholders and effective leadership skills, all underpinned by his passion for quality work and result oriented output. The contracts and legal team that Banerjee now leads at Sterling and Wilson, deals with a variety of litigation and non-litigation matters within India and overseas pertaining to various business verticals and associated advice in the projects and infrastructure sectors. A nominator says that they have ‘witnessed the positive transformation ushered in by Banerjee at Sterling and Wilson in a relatively short period of time’. Adding, ‘Banerjee’s vision, as we see it, is to ensure strong commitment, flexibility coupled with the confidence to take risks’.
Shahana Basu has served as director of legal and regulatory affairs at Max India, a multi-business corporate that forms part of the US$2bn Max Group, since 2016. She provides strategic direction and leadership to the legal and regulatory functions of Max India Limited, Max Financial Services and Max Ventures and Industries. As director of legal and regulatory, she gives advice and management on all legal, regulatory and commercial activities. Basu also anticipates, identifies and analyses legal issues and subsequently develops legal strategies; handles litigation and enforcement proceedings against the company in addition to acting as the company’s compliance officer and corporate citizenship officer. Since 2016, her top highlights have included dealing with complex legal and regulatory issues, advising legal and business teams of various operational companies on complex corporate transactions and litigation issues. She is also credited for working on Group policies and compliance and harmonising the same across different operational companies in diverse sectors. She uses her extensive educational and professional in-house and litigation experience to facilitate a collaborative working culture among legal teams across different operational companies for more efficient handling of policy and regulatory issues leading to better corporate governance and compliance.
Sanjit Kaur Batra started her career as a litigating attorney working at law firms and international agencies for several years before joining DuPont in 2012 as an in-house counsel. She became the legal head in 2014 and is actively involved in the country leadership team. She fulfils her role by going beyond the purely general counsel role; working on some very complicated M&A transactions in addition to being actively involved in policy advocacy for the organisation as a part of the broader industry forums. Batra highlights that, ‘all of these profiles have helped me become a holistic lawyer and work with my organisation to provide solutions while being able to comprehend the short term and long term risks’. She has worked on all of DuPont’s most important M&A activities as well as divestures and IP litigations. She approaches her role with a philosophy of digitisation, clear accountability for each member of the legal team and giving exposure to the team to meet their developmental needs. She says that, ‘this has helped the team become a more efficient and effective business enabler for the organisation’.
Vinay Bhatia is general counsel at IL&FS Financial Services an infrastructure development financial services company in India. Affiliated to the Central Bank of India (CBI) and the Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) and the Unit Trust of India, the Group has the mandate to create private investment into infrastructure projects and offer value added financial services. Bhatia as general counsel is responsible for the smooth operation on all regulatory and legal matters pertaining to these offerings and for the overall legal facilities of the company. He brings his considerable commercial legal talent and financial acumen to the role following his almost 18 years of legal experience. He joined IL&FS in Novemeber 2016 after almost six-and-a-half successful years at SunEdison, the world’s largest global renewable energy development company, where he was director of legal and general counsel for India.
With exposure in both litigation and the transactional side of law through his experience in private practice as litigation counsel, Ugen Tashi Bhutia joined SBI Card as head of the legal team in January 2012. ‘Given the fact that this was a B2C kind of business and especially credit card being a push product in the Indian Market, we did see a plethora of consumer litigation – the number of cases filed against the company was almost about 3.5 times the present cases’, explains Bhutia. With the help of able team members and some changes in case strategy coupled with the technological support, his legal team was able to bring down the total number and even reduced the total inflow of cases by almost 150% whilst increasing the win ratio substantially. ‘The total amount of compensation claimed compared to the actual amount of compensation paid decreased tremendously’, he adds. As regards the transactional side, the turn-around time for finalising an agreement decreased from days to a few hours. The team leveraged technology and also adopted digitization. Bhutia’s team started having sessions with the business team and partnered with them to understand what the essential elements in a contract were, what are the terms which are negotiable and such terms and conditions which are not negotiable. The overall team is divided into the litigation team which has its expertise on handling matters which are filed against the company, the corporate advisory team who take care of all the regulatory, transaction and the corporate side of law, the collection legal team who use legal tools for recovery and fraud risk management (FRM) litigation who deal with the prosecution of cases where fraud has been detected. In the last three years there has been a phenomenal growth of SBI Card as the Company is now the second largest issuer of credit cards in India and investment has increased drastically. This resulted in substantial increase in the marketing tie ups, co-brand partnerships and aggressive sales, thereby impacting the overall volume of the legal team’s work. Bhutia and his legal team have ably partnered with the business to achieve such numbers and to enable creative marketing and sales initiatives, at the same time strengthening the risk profiling and know your client (KYC) management in compliance with applicable laws. Bhutia’s leadership has been critical in this development. He describes his role and transition to in-house counsel work as challenging. He says, ‘it’s through experience that I have seen that the general counsel’s role has evolved over a period of time. It is expected that the general counsel should not be engaged in advisory capacity in various facets of law, but also guide the company in achieving the growth of the company in a sustainable manner’.
Shujath Bin Ali joined PAREXEL International – India in 2016 as senior director of legal and risk management and company secretary before adding the India compliance officer role the following year. He has established and developed the legal team to be a pro-active, business oriented, adaptive team that is constantly pursuing the latest legal research to optimise the department. He has created a governance and compliance program, and training programs making it a priority within the firm as well as launching a “global contracting centre of excellence” to support global contract management. Ali has also conducted multiple trainings to various teams in India, organised workshops on legal orientation to managers covering general guidance on policies, confidentiality, flow down obligations of contracts and intellectual property licensing requirements. In addition he developed training programs, modules, communications campaign on Ethics and Compliance for all India entities in all locations covering 4,000 employees which was emulated at other regions around the world. A nominator describes Ali as ‘an experienced legal and company secretarial professional. He has wide range of experience on legal, compliance and risk matters, having worked for several multinationals in leadership roles. He continuously strives for knowledge and loves learning and sharing knowledge with industry colleagues. He is an active member in various industry and legal forums and a regular speaker at several such events. He is well networked and has gained considerable visibility in the in-house legal community, not just in Hyderabad but across the country’.
Citi has a long and established history in India having first begun its financial operations in the country in 1902 and today organises its products and services under two major segments: Institutional Clients Group (ICG) and Global Consumer Bank (GCB). In August 2018, the firm recruited Padmaja Chakravarty as general counsel for India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka to head-up legal affairs in the region. Chakravarty has an extensive knowledge of Citi’s operations and the international financial market having been with the financial services company since 2012. From 2016 onwards she was based in Hong Kong and head of Capital Markets Origination (CMO) legal for Asia Pacific where she was responsible for legal matters Investment Banking and Capital Markets businesses, including all public takeover and private M&A transactions originating from Asia. She gained extensive knowledge of investment banking activities such as securities offerings and cross-border M&As whilst working in private practice at Sullivan & Cromwell and Linklaters before embarking on her in-house career.
Tushar Chawla is India general counsel and ethics officer at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), India’s largest professional services firm focused on real estate with locations and businesses across 10 cities and over 10,000 employees. The company offers advice to investors, buyers, sellers both corporate and individual, public and private sector on all elements of real estate from market analysis, strategic planning, transaction management, consultancy service and more. A nominator commends Chawla’s leadership of the legal function and its relationship with the rest of the firm: ‘Heading up JLL India Group’s legal and compliance function since 2013, [Chawla] has tirelessly worked to create an innovative law department that is “more than just legal” and spheres into areas of ethics, risk management, compliance and corporate governance, and is an integral function that works as “business partner” and is consistently involved at the front-end of strategic decision making’.
Rajeev Chopra has continued to impress a number of peers since being featured in the inaugural GC Powerlist: India in 2016. As managing director – legal and senior legal business partner he holds ultimate responsibility for legal support to Accenture Global Delivery Centers whilst also being head of legal for India, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for the global management consulting and professional services firm. A key feature of his successful in-house career, which began in 2003, has been considering the sensitivity of business realities while rendering legal support and strategizing risk mitigation for the long term sustained growth and business development of his employers. This strong business mind-set combined with his technical legal expertise and collaborative outlook has ensured he remains one of India’s most respected in-house counsel. These features of his management style also contribute to his ability to develop robust legal teams who have significant input on business affairs at Accenture. In this regard, Chopra had the following to say: ‘I believe that the involvement and contribution of every legal team member in the work of other departments within the organisation encourages not only professional learning and career development, but also fosters a sense of empowerment and inclusion. This has helped strengthen our support to the local business areas and our stakeholders through a strong, robust, strategic and well collaborated approach to [providing solutions] and to ensure that the business receives the best of legal every day’. Prior to joining Accenture in 2007, Chopra enjoyed in-house spells at Dell, Bharti Airtel and LG Electronics.
Following the departure of the previous general counsel, Chetan Chopra has co-led the legal function at OLA (ANI Technologies), one of the world’s largest ride-sharing companies, since April 2018. He joined OLA in February 2017 but began his in-house career at PepsiCo India as general manager of legal for almost three years after successful private practice spells at Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co as well as J. Sagar Associates between 2008 and 2013. For OLA, he played a crucial role on complex shareholder agreements and negotiations, international business expansion in the UK and Australia, the preparation of court pleadings and all-round litigation strategy, managing day-to-day advice to business teams on operational issues, ensuring 100% compliance with the applicable laws in addition to the other urgent matters that OLA’s business units need addressing. Chopra obtained his LLB from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Navdeep Choudhary has served as general counsel and head of the legal department at Yum! since 2016 and has in that time modernised and brought many changes to the department. He has brought in digital means and rolled out a comprehensive contract management system, litigation management system, and lease management system for easing out the process and for better control. He has also put in place litigation management, secretarial audit and regulatory compliance processes as well as implemented a new risk policy in accordance with the Companies Act 2013 and conducted a risk assessment over the entire company. Choudhary has also started training the business teams on implications of different Indian laws such as the Contract Act, IT Act, Labour laws, and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace among others. These changes and innovations have greatly increased the productivity of the legal department. Under Choudhary’s guidance, the team worked on the sale of company stores to franchises and dealt with any litigations resulting including a litigation in Turkey over a labour matter. Closer to home, the team has succeeded in a writ position with the Bombay High court against MIAL, and against authorities over the Food Safety Act and Metrology Act. The team has also worked on an arbitration against a silicon group and against a landlord in Chennai. Their work has also supported the Pizza Hut business of the company across the entire Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan from the India office. Choudhary says that this gave ‘great insights in civil law jurisdictions versus common law jurisdiction.’ He also adds that, ‘handling the company liquidation and various litigations in Turkey’, has been a highlight of his tenure at Yum!.
After a successful career in law firms and working on various large transactions, Sameer Chugh moved in-house in 2001 joining NCR as their India counsel. He then enjoyed roles at BT (British Telecom), the Essar Group and Cummins before taking his current role as general counsel and director – legal and regulatory with Bharti Airtel in 2014. He has handled over US$21bn worth of transactions in his career, and has been involved in cross-border deals in several countries including, the US, the UK, South Africa, Germany, Indonesia and Singapore. Currently he manages a large team of approximately 70 people which includes 60 lawyers based across India and Sri Lanka. The legal department has been instrumental in driving savings of about of INR8.43bn through successful litigation in the last 12 months. Some of the notable cases are the favourable Bombay High Court judgment against a CCI order on allegations of “cartelisation” and anti-competitive agreements, the Supreme Court judgment in the call-drop matter, a Delhi High Court judgment on TDS on interconnect-usage-charges and a Punjab and Haryana High Court judgment, among others. The solution oriented approach introduced by Chugh has also driven the start of a range of services for enriching the subscriber’s network as well as digital experience. Some of the salient initiatives include implementation of the “Open Network” program, which focused on involving customers in identifying network issues and then resolving them; closing important deals for the implementation of core business intelligence platforms that enable targeting customers with customised offers; leading closure of contracts with multiple partners for implementing projects, enabling customers to have greater visibility and control of their services and consumption. On his leadership and success as an in-house lawyer, Chugh identifies qualities that have helped him: ‘the in-house counsel has the end-to-end responsibility of not stating what the law says but also how the same is to be applied and implemented. Further, while being fully cognizant and alive to the needs of the business and the customers, compliance is also a key critical requirement. In a nutshell, it is not just about giving advice but also being responsible for the outcome – good or bad’!
When Vodafone completed the merger of its Indian mobile business in August 2018 with Idea Cellular, the biggest telecommunications operator in the country was created with more than 400 million customers. Prior to this landmark deal, Kumar Das was general counsel for Vodafone’s Indian subsidiary for eight years and played a leading role on various important transactions during that time, which led to him being featured in the inaugural GC Powerlist: India in 2016. Das, along with his legal function gained significant recognition for ensuring the deal with Idea Celluar overcame a number regulatory hurdles and by leading the legal function of the newly formed organisation, known as Vodafone Idea, he is set to continue his prolific and much respected legal work going forward. Well known in the industry, Das had highly successful in-house spells at Hindustan Unilever and Nokia Group prior to joining Vodafone.
Since taking over as group general counsel, chief data privacy officer and senior vice president at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, Suprio Dasgupta has led a redesign of internal functions to create a global structure in the company that aligns and combines the legal, compliance and data privacy teams with geographies, businesses and practice areas for the very first time. Renamed as the global legal and compliance department (GLC), the current structure has a remit divided between various international regions led by a regional general counsel, while each business is now supported by a lead business general counsel. Dasgupta’s role in initiating this newly structured function demonstrates his business management skills and willingness to take on new challenges whilst his legal expertise remain unquestionable. One of Dasgupta’s other many successes has been the set-up, of a legal operations function entirely focused on building enhanced engagement with stakeholders. Dasgupta says that, ‘counsels need to devote time to priorities, and this is where the legal operations team steps in’. With the use of technology, this team supports counsels globally in non-legal and non-strategic matters, like creating and managing tools for digital contracts workflow management, contract performance and audit management, case management, trademark database, performance and audit management, notice management, document retention and archival management, and e-billing, to name the few. The legal operations team also manages costs, budgets, and legal metrics and provides project management support. In fact, the impact created by this team now has GLC operating in an almost paperless manner with more transparency and predictive performance management. Dasgupta identifies that, ‘the job of a GC is demanding and requires some solid personal traits apart from knowledge and skills. For instance, only legal expertise is not totally effective when it comes to leading cross-cultural teams or managing stakeholders with varying temperaments and expectations. From my personal experience, I would say that being resilient, perseverant, fairness and coming to work with a positive perspective are all immensely helpful’.
One of the world’s leading facility services companies with global revenues in 2017 amounting to Kr.79.9bn, Danish firm ISS Facility Services employs over 55,000 employees in India alone. Being dedicated to delivering high quality support services and doing business the right way by being actively involved in corporate responsibility and sustainability initiatives, Ajay D’Cruz has a highly important role to play internally as ISS’s head of legal and secretarial since 2017. Fortunately he has a rich and diverse experience having held prominent positions for 16 years in the field of legal, compliance, regulatory and secretarial functions encompassing corporate laws, joint ventures, IT laws, litigation and contract management as well as board, shareholder and governance matters. ‘I also possess strong IT skills in web development and when combined with my past experience of driving technology adoption in the legal domain, [it] has been an essential recipe to “getting IT right” the first time’, he says. Since joining ISS, D’Cruz has been commended for developing its legal function by formulating and enforcing several legally binding policies and frameworks and introducing the legal business partner structure in ISS India for different business verticals. D’Cruz has also facilitated employee job rotation from time to time within the department to help employees to broaden their experience in addition to giving temporary projects to legal team members in other cross-functional departments within the company – both of which has benefitted the company in numerous ways. D’Cruz says that working closely with the business and its transactional and operational teams has widened his ‘horizon of business understanding and the mechanics around it’, adding, ‘my involvement in digital transformation projects has made me an integral part of the business and legal software development life cycle’. He also highlights his experience of working with ISS’s c-suite and multinationals as key highlights of his in-house career. Prior to joining ISS India, D’Cruz enjoyed working at notable companies such as Jones Lang LaSalle Property Consultants India (JLL India) and GKB Carl- Zeiss India in prominent legal and secretarial positions, receiving the prestigious Magna Carta award during his seven-and-a-half year tenure at JLL India. His philosophy, he says, ‘is driven and I ensure I continuously learn something new and I believe that sharing of knowledge is important so I have addressed audiences from different backgrounds at various forums as a speaker or key note speaker on topics like the Companies Act and other legal topics’.
Amit Deshpande is the company secretary and the corporate general counsel of Sterlite Technologies, a Vedanta Group company. Sterlite is India’s only integrated optical fibre producer and one of the largest suppliers of optical fibres to overseas markets in China, Europe and Southeast Asia. Deshpande is a senior legal professional having extensive experience of over 15 years in various areas including corporate laws, M&As, corporate restructuring, financial closures, legal due diligences, statutory compliances, international commercial contracts, arbitrations, land acquisitions and more. At Sterlite, he plays active role in secretarial, corporate legal, ethics and compliances and inorganic initiatives among others. Prior to Sterlite, he worked with companies like Vishay Components (India), Kirloskar Oil Engines and Tata Auto Comp. In July 2014, Deshpande was involved in boarding a new investor in the company’s power business who invested around US$41m. He handled the 2015 acquisition of Elitecore Technologies subsequently merging the same with Sterlite Technologies, and spearheaded a complex demerger of the power business of the company into a separate unlisted company requiring multiple regulatory approvals. A nominator has identified that, Deshpande ‘had led one of the most complex schemes undertaken in the history of corporate India’. In 2014 to 2015 he and his team arrived at an amicable settlement in a dispute with a Spanish customer under a complex ICC London Arbitration with a claim amount of over US$8.1m. Internally, Deshpande has also made innovations including the setting up of a comprehensive online statutory compliance framework system in the organisation covering over 10 manufacturing and office locations in India and abroad and having a responsibility matrix of over 100 employees. On his leadership, another nominator said, ‘Deshpande is a fine lawyer with a sound secretarial background, [and] a good understanding of the business aspects of the company’.
In addition to being a Partner of Everstone Capital Advisors, P M Devaiah is primarily responsible at a group level for legal, secretarial and compliance functions at the firm as well as its buy-out and platform investments. He has transformed the legal department into an “in-house law firm” by hiring the right talent with excellent capabilities relevant to the industry whilst providing good training and empowerment with responsibility. With this effective on-the-job training backed by empowerment, Devaiah says that, ‘members of my team have gained huge experience making the team a value enhancer to the organisation’, by achieving business goals while not compromising legal and governance standards. Additionally, he has donned the role of a mentor and a statesman to bring to the table a function that supports the business, to achieve their goals in a most transparent, legal and compliant manner. Devaiah says that, ‘this process of bridging the relationship between the business and law has provided me an edge to be an important conscience keeper and a solution provider to the organisation’. As a leading private equity investor in India, the company conducts a lot deals and M&A is its main business. At any point of time it is engaged in several of acquisitions concurrently and Devaiah’s team is constantly engaged in negotiating term sheets, negotiating shareholders agreements, diligence of various types and negating insurance contracts. Similarly, in the last two years it conducted a couple of buy-outs, minority investments, took the portfolio company public with a very successful listing, and secured a high profile joint venture with a UK based organisation where government of UK and government of India were anchor investors. The team is structured to provide the guidance in all matters that concern law and regulations to cater to effective compliance, sound legal practices and robust paper work on transactions, attention to reputational risk, investor management and internal training. All of these matters Devaiah identifies as important aspects of his work and the strategic direction of the company.
Having experience of 24 years in leadership positions in two of the largest multinational companies in their respective sectors, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) and Vodafone India Limited (VIL), Saswata Dhar is highly respected in-house lawyer. He is currently the country counsel and executive vice president of legal at Vodafone India which is a 100% fully owned subsidiary of the Vodafone Group Plc having pan India operations serving over 210 million customers (over 114 million in rural areas). Over the course of his career, Dhar has developed expertise in multiple sectors such as fast moving consumer goods, chemicals and fertilisers, telecom, financial services, e-commerce, retail, plantation and property development while working in a global organisation. In addition to sector-specific laws, he has keen interest in the specialised and emerging laws such as competition laws, indirect tax laws and privacy laws etc. His area of responsibilities include managing and leading a large team of around 48 in-house legal professionals in providing strategic and proactive legal support organic growth of business of Vodafone India and its group companies for all its business operations including the financial services business which has a turnover of nearly US$6bn. Dhar has run his team to be proactive and effective risk managers through identification of risks on broad complex issues and advising on mitigation plans which has resulted in a positive impact on the business. The team has managed the merger of several subsidiaries to collapse the corporate structure into a single entity through a M&A process involving approvals from multiple regulators and High Court resulting in significant business flexibility and savings through the rationalisation of resources. He also led the team to achieve the successful closure of high value transactions including an IT outsourcing deal having financial commitment in excess of US$1bn. The team he leads also supported the largest ever Indian M&A Transaction, being the most complex and regulated sector merger of India’s second and third largest telecoms companies to form the India’s largest and the world’s second largest telecommunication operator, upon obtaining necessary approvals including those from the Competition Commission India (CCI) & National Company law tribunal (NCLT). His efforts on these deals have not gone unnoticed as nominators were quick to highlight Dhar’s performance during this year’s research.
Raju Dodti is chief executive – Special Situations Group and group general counsel at L&T Finance Holdings, one of India’s largest non-bank financial services companies. L&T Finance Holdings focuses on investments in retail, mid-market finance including microfinance, personal vehicle finance, many different kinds of loan and property finance, and is equipped with asset management products in mutual funds, private equity funds and other wealth management tools for individuals and corporations. Nominated for his expertise and diversified experience in financial law particularly relating to stressed assets resolution, corporate banking, private equity and project and infrastructure finance, Dodti has continued to impress private practice peers since his department was featured in the GC Powerlist: India Teams 2017.
Prior to joining Morgan Stanley in November 2016, Ipsita Dutta spent over eleven years in private practice having worked at Amarchand & Mangaldas Suresh A. Shroff & Co and thereafter at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, as partner and head of the financial regulatory practice group. Morgan Stanley’s legal and compliance department is a diverse and accomplished team with colleagues who have worked in reputed law firms globally before moving in-house with Morgan Stanley. As such, the level of sophistication that goes into each decision making process is very high and it’s a well-oiled machine in terms of processes and controls. Dutta enjoys collaborating meaningfully with regional and global teams to apply the same standard of global best practices in a seamless manner across all India businesses and also leverage the best know-how within the Firm. Dealing closely with the legal and regulatory framework of different jurisdictions and getting a deeper and real time understanding of financial products and underlying commercial rationale for business decisions enhances her ability to refine the legal input in a way that syncs with the firm’s values and culture of doing business globally. She identifies that, ‘it has also sharpened my ability to look at the bigger picture in any discussion and not miss the forest for the trees’. Dutta has rebuilt the legal coverage team for India since she assumed this position. Significantly, the team now has two private practitioners with number of years of experience in one of India’s leading law firm. This has strengthened the team with more local expertise and knowledge of the Indian market. She says that she ‘would like to believe that this is a key differentiator for any in-house function as it enable is to leverage on localised know-how and connections in a way that improves legal support and risk assessment that we are able to provide to the firm and the different businesses’. As general counsel for India, Dutta’s coverage ranges from investment banking, global capital markets, institutional equities broking, and investment management as well our global in-house centres. Given the breadth of my coverage, there are a wide range of issues that come her way on a daily basis. Some key assignments include capital markets transactions such as: the secondary block sale of TCS shares by Tata Sons; IPO of HDFC Standard Life Insurance; HDFC Asset Management Company Limited IPO; IPO of IndoStar Capital Finance Limited; QIP+ADS by HDFC Bank. Additionally, assisting with intra group transactions such as schemes of amalgamations and capital raising through NCD issuances and assisting with the setting up and first close of MS’ first Cat II AIF Fund focused on infrastructure and advising on on-going regulatory changes to the FPI/ODI and swap regime. Dutta is also part of Morgan Stanley India’s corporate social responsibility implementation committee which works towards identifying the partners and projects to implement our CSR initiatives and give back to communities around us and also chair the sexual harassment committee for one of our offices in Mumbai.
After completing his graduation in law from the University of Pune in 1989, Girish Gadgil practiced law for about four years in civil and labour industrial courts before moving into the public sector with Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) in 1994. After 13 years in different legal department management positions across India, Gadgil moved to the commercial sector first with Larsen & Toubro, and then JSW Steel. He joined Mahindra & Mahindra as general manager of corporate legal in April 2011, at a time when there were only three verticals in its corporate legal department, including the company’s auto sector. Following a company restructuring in 2015, Gadgil took on responsibility for litigation, M&A and compliance by becoming senior general manager and group legal head of the auto-sector. Gadgil was responsible for getting Mahindra’s corporate legal department, independently certified under ISO Certification in 2014 and started a practice of sending detailed replies to all legal notices received from customers. This has helped the department to bring down the number of legal notices that convert into consumer complaints filed in different consumer forums all over India. Gadgil led the creation of a portal for the group legal department called “MLexOasis”, which contains legal opinions, knowledge management alerts, a tab for responding to the personal legal queries of employees, profiles of the members of group legal department, directory of lawyers and law firms in India and abroad and standard formats for various agreements among other capabilities. Other major achievements for Gadgil include the handling of US$100m in settlements of suits through mediation in the US, and a successful challenge to the ban on diesel fuelled cars in Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) at the Supreme Court of India.
Chandan Garg started his career in 2003 as an independent advocate in the district courts of Sangrur (Punjab) involved in civil, criminal and consumer litigation. Then he joined Jindal Steel and Power, one of the biggest steel manufacturers in India. He managed the legal affairs of three companies within the Jindhal Group, including two manufacturing plants, a coal mine and a power plant. In his 10 years at Jindal Group, Garg had great exposure to contracts, agreements, and litigation which primed him for his March 2016 move to Petronet LNG as manager – legal. Petronet LNG has two re-gasification terminals, 15MT in Gujrat and 5MT located in Kochi. At Petronet LNG, Garg works mostly on long term liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales and purchase agreements (SPAs) through which LNG is imported from RasGas in Qatar and ExxonMobil in Australia and after regasification is sold to major oil and gas marketing companies as well as a major price negotiation deal with Exxon Mobil Australia. Garg has particular experience in writ petitions and arbitrations having completed a successful petition against the government of Chhattsigarh for capping the investment subsidy to around 10% from original notification and an arbitration and writ petitions against a port trust under the Major Port Trust Act. Garg identifies that his successes have come from his career in litigation bringing composure and experience in these matters in-house. He says that, ‘I had very good exposure to writ jurisdictions of high courts [during] my tenure in Jindal Steel and a massive exposure to international contracts of LNG SPA in Petronet LNG’.
Sameer Guha joined Mars in August 2014 as general counsel responsible for the chocolate and petcare segments after previous stints in private practice at Trilegal focusing on litigation and commercial law. In the past few years, his role has grown to include the Wrigley Gums and Mints, Mars Foods and Mars Edge segments. He is now also a director on the board of both Mars International India and Wrigley India. Steering the integration of the Mars Chocolate and Wrigley Gums and Mints segments in 2017 is a particular achievement of Guha’s career at Mars. Moving in-house from a robust M&A practice (that included advising multiple Fortune 500 clients), he has worked on corporate acquisitions and integration projects for years. Yet he says that ‘nothing in private practice compares to the experience of having lived through and driven such a transaction as in-house counsel’. This was a remarkable achievement given that the transaction set out to achieve the systems integration of three factories, teams of more than 500 employees in competing roles on either side, changes in supply chain logistics, route-to-market and product artwork that usually has lead times in excess of 6 months and, over and above all that, a multitude of legal compliances given the FMGC and manufacturing regulatory landscape. During his tenure Guha has spent a significant amount of time establishing systems and processes that identify the legal requirements of each function or department, providing them with the tools necessary to deal with their issues independently and an escalation and notification matrix that allows for critical matters to be referred to legal automatically. On the firm’s relationships with external counsel, Guha has strongly driven an agenda to reduce the number of external firms used in order to receive better consistency in quality of service as well as establish stronger connections with firms that understand the business and its culture deeply. He has also worked hard to raise the profile and awareness about the legal department within the company by instituting various trainings and e-modules on a variety of subjects ranging from data privacy, prevention of sexual harassment, contract law negotiations to ethics and compliance. This has been possible through a combination of developing content in the context of local conditions while simultaneously mining international best practices through Guha’s network of international attorneys in the Mars global legal team.
Following a highly successful private practice career Vidyut Gulati joined Cairn as the general counsel and a member of its executive committee. She joined her current employers, Bharti, in July 2017, at the group level as director of legal. In terms of the legal function at the group level, she focuses her time on strategic transactions and decisions of the Group, with a special emphasis on M&A transactions across our various businesses, including in Africa. Gulati’s approach to leadership within her legal team is to be in constant proximity to business realities and risks looking beyond the legal issues and acting as a business partner and as a stakeholder by driving critical business decisions. Working on some very high-stake, marque matters both on the corporate and the litigation side, have provided her with tremendous perspective influencing her manner and style of leadership. She links these factors as being intrinsic to an in-house role. Gulati identifies that, ‘the Indian telecom sector is witnessing a phenomenal phase, where equations are being re-set very quickly. Any upheaval brings tremendous scope for expansion and consolidation. I have been closely involved with and have led several business critical decisions and consolidation transactions in the telecom and tower sectors, both domestically and cross-border’.
Aditya Birla is a US$44.3bn multinational Indian corporation operating in 35 countries with over 120,000 employees worldwide. Amongst its workforce is the highly respected general counsel Ashok Gupta. Having led legal affairs at the company since 2009, Gupta has an in-depth knowledge of the company and plays a key role on the Group’s M&A extensive work. Since being recognised in the GC Powerlist: India 2018 for, among other things, working on Aditya Birla’s landmark deals, Gupta has continued to impress peers and has added to his credentials as one of India’s best in-house counsel. Most recently he worked on the acquisition of Aleris by Hindalco Industries, the metals flagship company of the Aditya Birla Group, for US$2.58bn in July 2018 as well as the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, India’s leading telecom service provider and an Aditya Birla Group and Vodafone Group partnership, in August 2018. Gupta is commended and recognised for overseeing these high profile deals as well as many more throughout his in-house career.
Over the last 20 years, Sujeet Jain has mainly worked with three organisations. From 1998 to 2003 he worked with Hutchison Telecom India (now Vodafone India) as senior manager legal and company secretary. From 2005 to 2007 he worked with People Group as vice president legal and corporate affairs where he was a part of the leadership team and played various senior management roles. Jain joined Viacom18 (V18) in 2008 as head of legal and currently is group general counsel and part of the leadership team. At Viacom18, he was the first lawyer and had set up 55 member team from the scratch which has since been consistently rewarded in the industry as one of the best in-house teams in India. V18 has grown from a single business to multiple businesses and has grown exponentially in the last 10 years, and Jain has been part of that journey from inception as a leadership team member. Jain structured his legal department in line with the high-growth nature of our businesses and aligned it to the overall organisation structure. He has also incorporated a centre of excellence model within the structure of legal department so that it can minimise dependence on external counsel. There are five critical clusters within the legal department with each one headed by a senior lawyer. This has enabled the department to not only add value for every aspect of business but also enabled faster delivery without compromising quality. In the last year, the V18 legal team has been busy with matters relating to the release of the company’s film Padmaavat, which suffered lots of controversy. Jain explains that, despite the CBFC certification, the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana issued statutory prohibition orders against the exhibition of the film even before the release date of the film was announced. ‘Viacom18 challenged such prohibitions by filing petitions against all these states before the Supreme Court of India claiming the prohibitions to be not only in violation of the fundamental right of free speech and expression granted to the producers and the viewers of the film as citizens of India but also an assault to the very federal structure of the country where the states were disobeying the clearance granted to the film by the CBFC, a statutory authority established under the central laws of India. In our opinion this was the most publicised legal case in the history of Indian cinema’. The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement, declared the prohibition imposed by states on the release of the film as unconstitutional. This was a major victory for the team and for Jain personally as it represents an important change in the Bollywood industry.
Prarabdha R. Jaipuriar joined the legal profession in the year 2007. After working with several law firms, he joined the erstwhile SUEZ Environment India in November 2013 as an in-house counsel. In 2014, he was asked to lead the legal team for the unified legal organisation of the group companies in India, including Degrémont India. Subsequently, his scope was expanded to the Indian subcontinent. As the group made acquisitions in this region, his scope kept on evolving. In May 2017, he was also appointed the ethics officer and presently leads a team of eight lawyers, in charge of legal affairs, corporate compliance, contract compliance and ethics. Jaipuriar plays a key role in the group’s growth activities of the business targeted at industrial clients in the region. For example the group acquired Driplex, an industrial treatment solutions company, in 2016 and globally acquired GE’s water and process technologies division and consolidated all industrial businesses in a common vertical in 2017. Jaipuriar’s legal team in India is actively involved in all these activities, providing legal and secretarial support. The legal team has also been actively supporting the growth of the group’s business in the water services segment where the group recently got major long-term contracts in Coimbatore, Davanagere and Kolkata. Jaipuriar has been actively involved in capacity building activities inside and outside of the company. He has conducted several trainings for employees cutting across functions on topics ranging from contract management, legal risk analysis, ethics and laws relating to prevention of sexual harassment (POSH). Within the legal team, he has focussed greatly on continuous knowledge accretion of team members, encouraging them to participate in seminars, conferences and webinars, conducting regular sessions on legal updates, developing a good library and online resources and developing an e-platform for the sharing of legal news and updates. Jaipuriar sums up his approach to managing the legal team and legal issues at SUEZ by saying, ‘In the complicated business environment where we service municipal and industrial clients, challenges are unique and so are their solutions. The lawyers in the team are encouraged to have a hands-on approach. This has helped [the] business gain more confidence on the legal front and be more risk-ready’.
As the general counsel – legal and compliance of GIP India since 2016, Vinod Joseph has earned industry credit for his role in overseeing various projects at the company. He explains how he landed the role: ‘I started working for IDFC Alternatives Limited as general counsel – legal and compliance in October 2016. IDFC Alternatives used to be a multi-class asset manager and the legal team I headed was responsible for its infrastructure, private equity and real estate verticals. In July 2016, the infrastructure asset management vertical, which was the largest vertical, was acquired by GIP, a very large, global infrastructure asset manager and I transitioned into a GIP India employee, doing almost the same job I was doing at IDFC Alternatives’. Joseph identifies working on the aforementioned transaction as a particular highlight in his career, saying, ‘there were many lessons to be learnt as I was a “conflicted party”’, the party (buyer) on the other side would become my employer’. He is commended for expertly preparing new compliance policies for GIP India by managing expectations, acting quickly whilst meeting international standards. Joseph has also been involved in a number of significant deals in the last three years for both GIP and IDFC such as the acquisition of an equity stake in four solar power SPVs from First Solar India by a fund managed by GIP India as well as the acquisition of a 30.34% equity stake in Ascend Telecom Infrastructure from IL&FS and N K Tele Systems and a 90% equity stake in two road SPVs from GR Infraprojects by a fund managed by IDFC Alternatives.
Atul Gopalkrishna Juvle joined Schindler India in July 2014 with over 30 years of experience including 18 years as a general counsel, and has achieved great successes during his time at the company. Leading a young vibrant team of eight qualified lawyers covering contract, commercial, compliance, legal, code of conduct and company secretarial responsibilities. Juvle and his team have assisted in the growth of the business by 30% during Juvle’s tenure. The team has won almost all litigations, with the remainder still active and have not been issued any compliance related fines in two years. The team also recently successfully concluded one critical IP action recently which was a major success in 2018. Juvle has introduced several cultural changes in the legal department, adapting the philosophy of the legal team from “No to Know and Go”. He identifies that, ‘initially we were believing only in risk identification so the business was sceptical in referring matters to us. This was changed and now there are improvements [on a yearly] basis. Now no one is afraid to connect as the business has the confidence that solutions will come with problems’. A second cultural change successfully introduced in the department is the concept of having zero lead time in advance of problems. Juvle says that ‘the legal department is like a family doctor and hence can’t work on a concept of lead time. The response has to be within one day or interim response with an exact date of final response’. He also supports his team by organising training every six months helping them with their career and keeping his team up to date. These cultural changes have led to the team excelling in productivity demonstrated by the quantity of deals and successful projects. For example, the team worked to get clearance to set up a factory in Chakan putting it into commercial production. With such achievements under his belt, it is no surprise that nominators were keen to highlight Juvle’s credentials as a top in-house lawyer during this year’s research.
Sabira Amjad Kadri joined The Phoenix Mills in 2012 and assumed her current position of vice president legal in 2016. Prior to joining she worked at Mahindra & Mahindra and has also served as head of legal at Vidyut Metallic (Supermax Blade Group). During her tenure at The Phoenix Mills, Kadri has negotiated high value contracts which have earned him significant praise by peers. She has also formulated detailed standard operating procedures for documentation, record keeping and approval processes and conducted in-house training whilst also mentoring team members on how to achieve greater roles in the organisation. ‘To achieve closure of documentation with a win-win strategy is only possible with great support [from the] business team and understanding the nuances of business’, she says. She identifies that, ‘it is very important to identify the talent within the team and prepare the team for future goals. Success only comes with a team and not alone. As I believe that behind every successful in-house counsel there is hardworking team’. Despite this modesty, nominators were keen to highlight Kadri’s business-focused legal skills during this year’s research process.
Rajat Kalra, is the head legal, company secretary and compliance officer at Dr Lal PathLabs, one of India’s largest pathology laboratories as well as one of its top diagnostics chains. Kalra is an Indian qualified company secretary, chartered secretary in the UK and lawyer with over 17 years of experience. Particularly experienced in healthcare regulation, compliance risk and governance standards. He provides guidance on all legal matters which management require on a corporate legal level. Kalra has expertise in IPO’s, M&A, commercial contract, investor relations, compliance monitoring and intellectual property rights which have aided the company in its continued expansion and dominance in the clinical laboratory service industry in India.
In 2008 Vijay Kamath joined Volkswagen Group Sales India, as head of legal and company secretary after previous private practice experience and in-house roles at Fiat, Blue Dark Express (part of DHL) and Uhde India (now part of ThyssenKrupp Group). In 2011, he took over additional functions of governance, risk and compliance (GRC) which is now fully integrated with the legal functions. Being the first to join Volkswagen’s legal department, he had the unique opportunity of building up the legal department from scratch. To Kamath, legal is not only a risk and advisory function but is also looked at by the business as a strategic business partner and a trusted advisor to the managing director and the Board. Kamath works very closely with the business in strategizing business policies, pricing mechanisms, network plans, and has succeeded in achieving the required business objectives. He has trained his team to embrace the “business first policy” and as such solutions are tailor-made to keep the end customer in mind and work in tandem with dealers and distributors. Kamath has also worked to save the company money on external legal fees by renegotiating rates and moving more of the legal work in-house. Kamath has also developed contract templates, litigation MIS, contract reports, information summaries to management, contract lifecycle management system, regulatory compliance framework and a litigation landscape among others. The contracts management system which also acts as a repository is built in-house in a simple spreadsheet format which provides prompts for contracts nearing expiry and is also hyperlinked to scanned copies of contracts. The present system monitors over 2,000 contracts and is even being replicated in other group companies. Kamath’s team is involved with the business teams’ right at the beginning rather than at the end of the projects and is an integral part of the business’ strategies. Kamath has been successful in mitigating the risks arising out of dealer closures by getting involved with the business well ahead in time before the actual decision to part ways is made. His team is involved in managing critical communication and documenting meetings with the said business partners and helps the business teams in carving out every strategy to stay ahead, should any litigation take place. On his in-house career Kamath says that, ‘Volkswagen has been my best experience so far and it has contributed a lot in chiselling out a multifaceted professional out of me. It is true that the 10 years that I have spent in Volkswagen have moulded me into an astute legal professional’.
After qualifying with an LLM from the University of Pune, Shashi Kant has since gained vast legal experience within a number of financial organisations, spending 11 years at companies that include SEBI (as legal officer for three years), Bank of Baroda (as legal manager for almost three years) MCX (as assistant vice president of legal for almost four years) and currently with Vistra ITCL, erstwhile known as IL&FS Trust Company. Kant is the assistant vice president of legal at the organisation, which is a trustee services company offering services related to debentures, bonds, private equity, alternate funds and bank lending. The company also offers corporate services such as formation and market entry advice as well as due diligence, enforcement and monitoring services for a companies, non-profits and high net worth individuals. Since arriving to the position in April 2016, Kant has assisted with legal support on these matters as well as leading a legal team for debt products which includes structured debt products, security trustee transaction, escrow arrangements and more.
Being a practising lawyer in the initial years of his career, Mani Kant Mehta is able to appreciate the position of an outside counsel and able to put-in senior management’s concern as a general counsel while giving briefs. This gives him an advantage to balance between the legal as well as the commercial issues, thus giving comfort to both the sides. Mehta highlights that, ‘it is rightly said that if the input is right, then output will surely be right. It has always been my efforts to provide solutions to the management rather than being a bottleneck to the growth of an organisation and it is with this approach I have been able to earn a respect for the legal department, which generally is an ignored branch in an organisational structure in many corporates’. By following a two-step approach, Mehta has successfully made the legal department into a robust support system and ensured that there are zero leakages in fighting or defending a case. As a solution provider he says that his approach has always been to use preventive measures so as to mitigate risks and stop further harm to the interest of the organisation if a situation does occur. He says, that ‘I have tried to adopt [a way] of thinking from a commercial angle while appreciating the legal limitations. With my tone and language like a commercial person, people in my organisation started approaching legal’. In addition to promoting the legal function internally, Mehta is commended for implementing a contract management system and other standard operating procedures to maximise his department’s potential efficiency.
Sandeep Kapoor has over 20 years of legal experience including in-house counsel and general counsel positions with companies such as Intel, Intel Capital and Sequoia Capital India. He has been in the tech and venture capital investment legal space for over 10 years. In his current role at Sequoia Kapoor has created tech-based systems, processes and tools that allow Sequoia in India to manage over 100 transaction closings every year, and keep sight of, and make positive contributions to, over 200 portfolio companies. Kapoor created the legal team at Sequoia from scratch and modernised the processes of the company to include technology enabling the company to work quicker, smarter and with more impact. On this Kapoor says, ‘I am a firm believer in technology. I believe technology can bring about great value addition in the legal practice. I have invested considerable time with external service providers to standardise and automate numerous functions of the legal team (including documents management, compliance and drafting of agreements.). Consequently, the legal function at Sequoia is now neither dependent on any individual nor location’. Kapoor runs the department with a business focused strategy and takes pride in his department and his team members adding value to the firm and not acting as a cost centre. In 2017, Kapoor led a transaction involving a 100% acquisition of the Faces Group by funds advised by Sequoia Capital from Everstone Capital. This was the first buy-out deal by Sequoia Capital globally and involved the jurisdictions of Canada, India and Singapore, and a multitude of issues involving structuring and diligence. Such a deal structure was relatively new for a venture capital firm, and Kapoor led this from the front, from managing the complex diligence of various jurisdictions, to helping the investment team take and execute business decisions such as the closing down of business undertakings in certain jurisdictions to creating legal solutions and managing the trust of all parties involved.
In 2006, Lokanath P. Kar joined ICICI Lombard General Insurance, the largest private sector non-life insurance companies of India, as chief of legal and principle compliance officer after over 20 years of experience on the bar council in Delhi and in-house roles in the financial and corporate sectors. When Kar joined ICICI Lombard he established the legal department which is the first formal legal department of any non-life insurance company in India. Subsequently the department under Kar’s leadership has implemented new management technology tools in the areas of compliance, litigation and administration management, three systems that have been emulated across the industry to increase productivity and to manage the changes in regulation within the Indian insurance sector since 2000. In order to tackle the problem of less than half of private vehicles being insured at time of registration and at the behest of the General Insurance Council of India, Kar orchestrated a preferred a writ before the Supreme Court of India demanding long term compulsory insurance coverage for vehicles at the time of registration. The Supreme Court having taken cognizance of the matter had referred it to a judicial committee for examination and suggestion. Recently, on the basis of the recommendations of the committee, the Supreme Court of India has made a direction making it compulsory for private cars and two wheelers to obtain motor third party insurance for three years and five years respectively at the time of registration. On this major achievement Kar highlights that, ‘this judgement will have a very significant impact on the collection of motor premiums for the industry vis-à-vis the claim entitlement of the road accident victims of the country’. In September 2017, the legal department listed ICICI Lombard General Insurance as the first non-life company in India to be listed on the stock exchanges of India. The company being a regulated financial institution, it required a number of regulatory approvals before being able to be listed and Kar played a key role on this complex and lengthy process. In fact, Kar and his team managed the process expertly, even getting the company listed in record time. On his approach to protecting the company, Kar says ‘I have realised that legal risk or litigation risk do not behave differently than any other inherent risk categories the organisations are exposed to and that such risks can be mitigated or minimised like any other risks through proactive interventions’.
After a career in litigation at the highest level in India and the UK and in-house roles at firms such as at Bechtel Group, Rashmi Kathpalia joined Technip India (now TechnipFMC Group) in early 2015. She serves as its senior vice president, country head of its legal department. Her department looks after legal, corporate secretarial, risk, insurance, ethics, compliance and contract management matters among others. On her role Kathpalia says, ‘as compared to Bechtel’s work, my role here is far wider as a senior vice president, since I am part of the leadership team of India and a direct stakeholder in not just the management but also the growth of the company. In the past three-plus years, I have found myself in situations wherein I have had to utilise almost all the skills I have inculcated in the past 27 years. I am now developing new ones to deal with situations that arise out of my current role’. Kathpalia takes responsibility for advising and directing on legal issues raised in commercial transactions or the contract negotiation process; supervises counsel on transactions, litigations, deals and compliance related matters and provides advice to the local board of directors. She is responsible for several initiatives to drive operational efficiency for the legal department, including, currently working on setting-up a captive offshore legal shared services centre. As the country compliance officer, Kathpalia advises on governance and assurance issues and drafts Technip India’s internal policies to maintain excellent standards of corporate governance including advising on M&A and joint venture activity. Recent projects she has closed include contracts for revamps of two full EPC Fertilizer (ammonia-urea) projects for Technip India and Technip France, a consortium with L&T, a first in the fertiliser industry for TechnipFMC valued at US$700m. She also closed the recently awarded LEPCC project to Technip India and Technip Italy, the largest grass root Hydrogen Generation Unit of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation in Visakhapatnam valued at US$300m. Prior to these two colossal projects she worked on another large project for Technip France and Technip India, for ENI Ghana, now under execution in the western coast of Ghana for US$210m. Kathpalia runs her department with the philosophy of ‘instilling 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/project, the easier it is to unravel the legal issues, [then] draft, review and negotiate related contracts’.
Parvesh Kheterpal continues to impress peers by excelling in his role as head legal for EPC and solar at Lanco Group, a large private power provider in India. Kheterpal is a very experienced in-house counsel with strong business acumen. He has over 15 years of experience in the solar power and infrastructure industry handling litigation, deal negotiation, arbitration and due diligence across multiple jurisdictions including India, the US and South Africa. He is known for his insight into the industry and his writing and public speaking ability to which he is a regular contributor to various legal publications, associations and committees. Immediately prior to joining Lanco Group in 2010, Kheterpal was head of legal and company secretary at Future Axiom Telecom where he managed a team of six legal professional and played an instrumental role in successfully settling various legal disputes in a short space of time.
Shelly Kohli is a legal and compliance professional with over 16 years of rich and well-rounded experience spanning across the industrial and consumer goods sectors, and covering a broad spectrum of legal and compliance practices, risk assessment and strategic advisory. She has developed strong skills in in negotiating complex commercial contracts, M&A and business dilution, setting up efficient compliance processes, litigation and external counsel management as well as interfacing with regulators. Kohli has been the assistant general counsel, for South Asia, Middle East and North Africa and a member of the executive team of the company since September 2015. Working with different functions, she has developed a work philosophy of finding solutions to legal and quasi-legal issues such that allows commercial teams to focus on growing the business. She says that, ‘this has helped me be a professional who is perceived by functional stakeholders as pragmatic, solution-oriented, approachable and collaborative, and someone who looks at issues with a strategic and commercial lens’. Through her approach and implementation, the Levi in-house legal department is considered to be a strategic adviser, business partner and a team that works from the front. Kohli has also spearheaded several initiatives on simplifying and standardising company’s legal processes and contracts to enable efficiency and speed of execution.
Pulin Kumar has almost three decades of in-house legal experience with the large corporations engaged in manufacturing cement, heavy earth movers, life science and electronics, and sporting goods. In his current role as senior legal and compliance director for the global sportswear company adidas, he provides the India team with comprehensive support for all legal and compliance topics. When asked to comment on his greatest career achievement, Kumar shares that he is particularly proud of laying ‘the foundation stone to restrict parallel imports—an important menace to many industries in India—which is still currently awaiting the final outcome from the Apex court’. Kumar’s outstanding track record also includes various cross-jurisdictional issues. Of note is his successful defense of a patent case for dual sim card cell phone technology. The patent holder had the dual sim card phones interdicted at customs, even though the technology was already known. Kumar played an important role in getting the patent for the dual sim technology rectified by the IPAB (Intellectual Property Apellate Board), an important outcome for the entire mobile phone industry. Kumar notes the change within the legal industry during his career, explaining how ‘over a period of time [he has] witnessed a paradigm shift from typical litigation handling to business support and evolved along with this’, noting how ‘as a continuous support to the business, the legal team has come quite close to the board’.
Rajeev Kumar joined HDFC Property Ventures, a leading Indian the venture capital and private equity company, as senior vice president legal in 2008. He is responsible for managing the complexities of negotiations including the legal documentation during the company’s international fund raising, demonstrating his insight over market practices and understanding of legal risks and jurisdictional issues. He manages and handles the entire gambit of legal aspects of real estate investment transactions, over two dozen, understanding the micro issues of the industry and legalities involved in various jurisdictions of the country for regulations. Kumar has been involved in transactions on investments worth over US$500m as well as the divestment of over US$350m in the last three years. In terms of litigation, he has been involved in the winding up of a portfolio company in the High Court and the initiation of IBC proceedings against another portfolio company in NCLT in the last three years. Kumar identifies that his long tenure and stability at the company has helped him see the full life cycle of a typical fund, which ranges from 8 to 12 years, and has given him in-depth knowledge of the practical issues being faced by the investors, regulators and portfolio companies. It also gives him insight to understand the range of issues from a litigators’ perspective. Kumar runs the legal department with a philosophy of mutual freedom of expression to allow critique and evaluation to neutralise any potential issues within the organisation and uses a robust management information system to save valuable time and ensure deliverables are achieved on time in order to make the legal team as commercially enabling as possible. Kumar identifies that venture capital and private equity is, ‘in [its] budding phase in the country and [has] lots to evolve. My experience and expertise [accumulated] over a decade in this industry gives me an edge over others to opine and give optimum solutions to my organisation’.
K Satish Kumar, an attorney by profession, has over 25 years of rich work experience in various leading corporates. He had worked as senior counsel in HCL Technologies and head legal in Polaris Software (now Intellect Design Arena) apart from being the senior legal advisor to Zawawi. He is currently global head legal and chief data protection officer of a major multinational software product company - Ramco Systems from 2015. He is a tactful negotiator and during his stint with Polaris he had negotiated and finalised a prestigious US$250m worth contract with a major global banking company. He is also fondly known as the “deal maker”. At Ramco he has overseen the implementation of GDPR and other global privacy laws across the organisation. He says that ‘privacy law is booming and corporates are now spending millions in privacy law and I feel privileged to be heading the privacy implementation across the organisation. I must confess that I am learning something new every-day interacting with various stakeholders across the geography’. He had introduced a contract compliance system in HCL Technologies, being the first of its kind in the industry. Kumar is a prolific writer and has various publications to his name including on GDPR, Open Source Software, Insurance as a risk mitigation tool, Blockchain. He is a vociferous speaker in various ASSOCHAM and CII platforms. He is a pro bono activist and believes in giving back to the society. On this he says, ‘I am active in social media and I have amassed huge followers who regularly ask legal queries which they face in their day-to-day life. I give a piece of genuine advice, counselling, direction, opinion which will make a world of difference to these people. For me it doesn't really cost much. But it gives me immense satisfaction when I see the smiling face at the other end after my counselling or legal advice’. Kumar has also received various prestigious awards: He was recognised as a social activist by Deccan Chronicle in the year 2016 and recently has been conferred with the coveted “General Counsel of the Year - IT Sector - 2018” by Indian National Bar Association.
Ashok Kumar Maheshwary has worked at various large companies over the course an in-house career that spans over 30 years. The ‘real game changer’ according to Maheshwary came after joining SpiceJet, India’s second no-frill airline in 2001. He was part of the core team which launched this airline and left it after 11 years as its vice president – legal and company secretary. While there he also handled domestic and international airport related work at GMR Group as its general counsel – airport vertical. Since March 2017, he has been vice president and group head – legal at KCT Group, which has diversified his interest in power logistics, renewable energy, manufacturing, and commercial real-estate. In terms of restructuring he has introduced the “business partner concept” to the company wherein each business vertical of KCT Group has been allocated dedicated legal resource with the overarching corporate team. This, he says, ‘will help create legal resources who will be industry experts in the legal domain over a period through their exposure which will help improve delivery process and deliverables’. Maheshwary has worked on important transactions and litigations during last three years, which partly covers his GMR as well as his KCT tenures. These include a litigation for airport and wind energy tariff fixation and other regulatory issues; a private equity investor dispute over the conversion of convertible instruments; a service tax demand on airport operators under airport concessions granted by the Airports Authority of India; numerous airport biddings – domestic and international; divestment of a renewable power project; and recovery cases under the insolvency and bankruptcy code. Maheshwary describes his role as an in-house counsel as, ‘as much a business function as any other corporate function who should know how to apply legal principles to business situations for desired corporate objectives’.
Appointed in July 2017, Shuva Mandal is the group general counsel of TATA Sons, one of India’s largest conglomerates. He joined with over 17 years of legal experience, and has a specialty in advising major multinationals, private equity firms and Fortune 500 companies in corporate legal strategy, M&A, deal structuring, and securities law. TATA Sons was founded by Jamsetji Tata in 1868 and has grown into one of the world’s largest conglomerate businesses, headquartered in India, with over 100 independent companies within its group across 100 countries. Given his experience and the prominence of the company, Mandal occupies a distinguished position in India’s in-house market and is well known and highly respected by peers.
Since its founding in 2007, InMobi has grown into a world-leading mobile marketing and advertising platform provider present in around 16 countries. Pujarini Guha Maulik joined the firm in 2012 and today as vice president legal heads a team of eight in-house lawyers and oversees the legal and privacy portfolios across the all jurisdictions InMobi operates in. In addition to heading the overall commercial contracting and employment portfolios, she also oversees commercial negotiations, IP matters, investor relations, acquisitions, joint venture agreements and claims related matters besides other legal advisory work. A key feature of her tenure at the company includes setting up a legal team from inception which involved ‘transforming a reactive heterogeneous legal department into an intuitive, mature function which is well organised into sub functions, regions and practice areas based on respective expertise and business needs’, she says. Maulik is also commended for setting up a strong privacy practice, spearheading the company’s steady drive towards privacy compliance as it gears up to implement GDPR compliance in a timely manner. This involved creating InMobi’s charter for privacy and GDPR compliance and penning a strategic partnership with Microsoft. Her work in this area has not gone unnoticed by senior management as she will soon be a member of InMobi’s privacy committee. Maulik has also been recognised for handling complex commercial deals and key strategic partnerships unique to the industry such as the aforementioned deal with Microsoft as well as the acquisition of a US-based SSP which propelled InMobi’s endeavours to provide a unified marketing hub with connected platforms. Prior to InMobi, Maulik worked in the legal team at Infosys focusing on commercial contracting, post integration, deal structuring, licensing and employment practice areas. Summing up her 13 years of experience as an in-house counsel, she had the following to say: ‘My exposure has been diverse starting with compliances in the pharmaceutical industry, to complex outsourcing deal structuring to heading a legal team overall involving commercial-legal, disputes, corporate governance, employment, privacy and acquisitions. Having worked at both large and mid-sized organisations, I have learnt the fine balance [of adapting] to both environments’.
Priya Mehra Dewan started her career as a corporate lawyer with Ajay Bahl & Co. (now, AZB & Partners) in 2002 focusing on M&A, private equity and related transactions. In 2007, she moved to be part of the India team at Jones Day in Singapore working on IPO’s and qualifying as a UK solicitor before moving to Gibson Dunn. Dewan then moved in-house joining IndiGo in 2017 as general counsel. She had the task of building a “law-firm” within the organisation providing each department within the company with international quality advice and documents. The team had 10 lawyers and within a year of joining, she had transformed the department into a “mini law-firm” with 22 lawyers. She explains that her, ‘philosophy for the change [was] to make the department into thinking like a law-firm and treating each department of the company as a client’. Dewan adds that, ‘with this frame of mind, the quality of advice and documents being drafted is akin to an international law firm, incorporating what I have learnt from my time at law-firms in India and outside. Our dependency on outside counsel has reduced drastically and we tend to use them only for litigation matters and matters outside India’. Dewan identified that the purchase of the turboprop aircraft (the ATR) in mid-2017 by IndiGo was the one of the most exciting projects she have ever worked on in her career given her involvement in the project from negotiating the term sheet to actually seeing the first ATR land at the Delhi airport. Dewan adds that, ‘seeing this through from the beginning to end is something you would never get to experience in a law firm, i.e., the “reality” of the deal’. As general counsel, she is part of the compliance committee and chairs the sexual harassment committee. If that wasn’t enough Dewan is also part of IndiGo’s executive committee and sits-in at the board and its committee meetings. In addition, Dewan is credited for promoting the role of the legal department internally, as they are now involved in every large transaction that the company undertakes. She says, ‘there has been a change in working closely with departments to make a project or decision reach a logical conclusion. Working closely with all departments across the company ensures that decisions from the very beginning are within the parameters of the law’. Dewan talking about her enjoyment at IndiGo says that, ‘There is never a dull day at IndiGo. I believe that the recent changes that I have managed to implement have raised the “happiness quotient”’ amongst the legal department’.
In May, 2017, Pooja Sehgal Mehtani joined Sun Life Financial, Asia Services Centre, bringing with her around 20 years of experience in corporate governance, commercial law, regulatory matters and in-house experience. She is currently head of the legal and secretarial team and a core member of the company’s India management team. Her role involves the entire gamut of legal, corporate and secretarial affairs. Along with her team she works very closely with the business as a business enabler by providing guidance and legal support to each business function. She is currently involved in the automation of legal processes, standardisation of documents, legal support for digitisation initiatives within the organisation, legal awareness and trainings, POSH and code of conduct matters. Mehtani says that in this age of innovation-led organisations, advancements in technology have been changing and will further change the face of the legal sector. Her legal department is focussing on smarter use of technology and automation for improvisation and enhancement of legal processes and driving digitisation initiatives. Mehtani offers advice not just on law and related matters but helps shape discussion and debate on business issues as she acknowledges the evolving role of the legal department – from traditional, reactive lawyers to a strategic business unit composed of top legal minds and strategic, process-savvy operators. She says that, ‘corporate counsels leading legal and corporate teams need to inspire their teams to always enhance and augment their legal expertise and upscale with the changing business needs. They also have the critical role of an ethical watchdog, tasked with ensuring corporate compliance in accordance with the law’.
With more than 30 years of experience providing expert legal advice in-house and in private practice Gopal Menghani, is president of legal at Lodha Developers, a multibillion-pound property developer with a wide range of high end commercial and residential property in Mumbai, Pune and London, UK. Menghani heads the legal function and advises the group on all legal matters related to their corporate strategy, projects, governance and regulation. He has extensive litigation and dispute resolution experience, and prior in-house corporate experience and is adept at handling matters on constitution, excise, customs, property, labour issues and criminal issues. He is well versed in both Indian and international arbitration as well as IP and due diligence work. In the least year he has been involved in some of the group’s biggest transactions such as the purchase of five acres of land parcel in Mumbai and the completion of financing for both of the firm’s active London property developments.
Rajendra Misra commenced his legal career as a counsel at the Calcutta High Court in 1991 but soon moved in-house. Ever since, he has worked for some of the leading and iconic companies in the country, acquiring experience across several industries. He assumed his current role as the executive vice president and general counsel and member of the executive committee of The Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) in December 2015 and is now also a director on the board of TajGVK Hotels & Resorts, a listed company which is a joint venture between IHCL and the GVK Group. As the general counsel, Misra is responsible for advising senior management on the legal aspects of business issues and decisions, formulating legal strategy for the organisation, managing strategic legal issues, identifying and mitigating legal risks and providing strategic guidance to his team in managing legal issues. One of Misra’s greatest successes is the successful battle to trade mark the image of the Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, the iconic flagship of IHCL and a defining structure of Mumbai’s skyline. After getting the trademark applications filed, they were pursued on top priority, and his team was able to secure the registration in seven months becoming the first Indian building to have secured image trademark registration. Only a few iconic buildings across the world have been able to secure such registration – the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the Sydney Opera House to name some. In addition to trade mark protection, Misra and his legal department have been involved in a number of legal challenges to benefit the company and the hospitality industry as a whole. The team successfully led the legal challenge to establish the legal position in the Supreme Court that packaged commodities could be sold in luxury hotels at prices above the market rate price printed on the product. Misra says that, ‘this was a huge relief for the industry, which was otherwise constantly under scrutiny from authorities on this count’. Misra also led the legal challenge against the restriction imposed on the sale of liquor at hotels located within 500 metres of highways. After a prolonged battle in court and many representations with several state governments, the legal team was able to obtain clarification and establish the position that liquor could be sold in hotels and restaurants which were located within 500 meters of highways passing through municipal areas, which came as a big relief to the entire industry. Within the company he has transformed its in-house operational style by introducing digital efficiency measures, automation and standardisation. Additionally, he has developed e-learning modules for employees on five crucial subjects – data privacy and protection, Posh, competition law, insider trading, and related party transactions. These are interactive e-learning modules which explain legal topics in very simple terms and with examples for the non-legal employees.
Over the years GAIL has grown by leaps and bounds and has achieved the coveted status of being a Maharatna company. At the direction of Dr. Subir Bikas Mitra, executive director for law and HR, the legal department has put in place new polices to reduce litigation and increase efficiency as is necessary in a public sector enterprise company. As such, it has introduced a conciliation mechanism that has been a huge success and has helped GAIL in bringing down the pendency of disputes considerably thereby making great savings in reducing the number of frivolous litigations and arriving at a tenable settlement agreements without straining business relations. Mitra highlights that, ‘the mechanism that has been devised is a fool proof mechanism which covers each and every aspect of the conciliation process in order to ensure effective settlement of disputes within the shortest span of time. Unlike litigation, conciliation has proved to be a cost-effective and time-bound mechanism which could only ensure finality in the disputes’. The success of the conciliatory mechanism developed in GAIL has been shared over various public platforms, which has been widely appreciated and various organisations have sought details of the same to implement at their organisational level. To strengthen the litigation mechanism in the company, Mitra has overseen taking on numerous initiatives to develop a robust dispute resolution mechanism in the organisation, which could overcome the shortcomings attached with the term litigations. This has been achieved by addressing problems of fee structures of outside counsel, internal staffing and arbitration payments. The introduction of these initiatives in the company has fetched huge success in streamlining the functionality of not only the in-house legal department, but also other process departments in managing disputes within the organisation. Various other organisations are now copying the procedures and policies developed in GAIL to strengthen their dispute resolution mechanism.
Nitin Mittal currently heads the legal and compliance team for Philips Lighting India in the Indian subcontinent with responsibilities including corporate legal advisory, litigation, corporate governance and compliance. Prior to Philips Lighting, Mittal had a ten-year stint at OSRAM India, where he was head of legal, compliance and company secretary. Over the last 16 years, Mittal has handled a range functions while leading teams on M&A restructurings, the integration of acquired companies, civil and criminal litigations and high-stake arbitrations. He has also set up new plants, established contract management processes, implemented compliance programs and managed complex projects with regional and global implications. When creating the legal team from scratch, Mittal took the initiative to also leverage technology to digitise legal and business tasks. Some of the technology Mittal implemented was a contract management tool, a compliance management system, and a board process management tool. Demonstrating his value to the company, Mittal has been prominent in Philip’s expansion into Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the resolution of a real estate stamp duty title dispute which was in abeyance for around a decade, as well as the assistance on several multi-million dollar deals. Working with the internal corporate social responsibility (CSR) team, he has also helped devise and implement the company CSR plan wherein the company strives to change lives through making people aware on energy efficiency, innovative lighting solutions, empowering rural women and also enhancing sports development in the country. He says that, ‘the role of a corporate counsel is to give strategic and corrective direction to the company to ensure that all legal and compliance risks are adequately addressed. The idea is not only to safeguard the company and its reputation, but also to ring-fence it from all possible litigation and non-compliance issues. A corporate counsel is the company’s conscience-keeper’.
Avnindra Mohan has served as president of legal and regulatory affairs at Zee Entertainment Enterprises since 2003 and has expertly led its legal affairs into its dominant market position as the leading television content provider in India, and for the Indian diaspora around the world. This popular domestic company offers an impressive variety of television channels, movies, live theatre and other media content. Mohan is an expert in telecom and broadcasting laws, copyright and IP matters as well as dealing with regulatory bodies including the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, DIPP, and The Ministries of Finance and of Information and Broadcasting. He brings all of his 33 years of industry experience and media acumen to the role and has helped Zee Entertainment Enterprises thrive.
Since entering the Indian market in 1995, US automobile manufacturer Ford has invested over US$2bn to grow its business by expanding its manufacturing facilities and sales and service footprint in the country. The company also invest in its human resources as evidenced by its recruitment of the well respected and experienced in-house lawyer Rajesh Mukhija in July 2017. In the capacity of director of legal affairs, Mukhija is responsible for overseeing all of the car manufacturer’s operations in India including Ford Credit India, the company’s retail financing subsidiary. Since joining, he has impressed peers by overseeing, from a legal standpoint, the inauguration of a number of centres and products in the highly regulated market. In an exciting move, Mukhija was involved on Ford’s memorandum of understanding with Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority to explore integrated mobility solutions to improve the commuter experience in the city. Mukhija has occupied high profile in-house legal positions for over a decade now, having been vice president – general counsel and company secretary for JCB India, the domestic subsidiary of a UK multinational machine manufacturer, for almost four years immediately prior to joining Ford.
A leading light among Indian general counsel, Abhijit Mukhopadhyay has racked up an impressive succession of career highlights and personal accolades, and is involved in a number of international organisations on the back of his exploits in the legal field. A company secretary by age 24, Mukhopadhyay went through a succession of chief legal roles with HMT, Indian Aluminium, Dunlop India, Maruti Suzuki and Ranbaxy Laboratories before originally joining the US$15bn-rated Hinduja Group at its global headquarters in London in 2001. Over the course of his extensive career, Mukhopadhyay has perfected the art of constructing and maintaining a top quality legal department, which time and again ‘improved the knowledge of law and its application considering the commercial requirements of the business’, and has had a similarly positive impact on the Hinduja Group legal department. As he explains, ‘in my present role in the Hinduja Group, I have shifted the working of the legal department from being a legal service provider to someone caring for the businesses by providing value added services to the satisfaction of our businesses. Today, the legal department works for the businesses and not the other way round. There are many occasions where the department worked hand-in-hand with the business verticals and came out with solutions helpful to the businesses to achieve their commercial objectives’. He has also had a direct impact on the strategic direction of the company on multiple occasions, picking one instance out in particular: ‘One of the large Group companies was getting substantial orders from countries placed under sanctions which they had to refuse because of this. I took the initiative of convincing the company to enter into a dialogue with the regulatory authorities which we did and eventually persuaded the regulatory authorities to allow the Group company to export into those countries under sanction by obtaining quick approvals from the regulatory authorities which immensely helped the top line and bottom line of the company’. Outside of his in-house role with Hinduja, Mukhopadhyay lists a number of external appointments as among his premier career highlights: ‘taking the position of global vice chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Commission of Arbitration and Alternative Dispute Resolution as also a member of their Steering Committee, as well as joining in the Advisory Board of ICC’s Indian Arbitration to promote arbitration in India; became a member of the European Advisory Board of CPR Mediation and Arbitration; becoming an executive committee member of the Confederation of Indian Industry; and becoming an advisory council member of the Post Graduate and Doctoral Faculty of Law in The Queen Mary University of London’.
Smitha Murthy has been assistant general counsel at Monsanto India since December 2014. In 19 plus years of professional legal experience her focus has been on advice, contract drafting and negotiations, and compliance processes, as well as supervising litigation and arbitrations over the last four years. Providing strategic legal inputs to resolve key freedom-to-operate related issues, Murthy oversees a range of matters such as documentation, agreements and litigations including actively participating in critical litigation involving commercial disputes including arbitrations, competition law and IP issues. Murthy is also a member of the company’s anti-sexual harassment committee and other cross functional teams including the India issue response team.
Rajeev Nair joined HP in January 2012 as director of legal for India, supporting HP’s business and global delivery centres in India. Rajeev has an experience of over 22 years and prior to joining HP, Nair worked with the legal teams of Unilever, ING and HSBC’s India Insurance joint venture. After HP’s separation in 2015, Nair took the role of associate general counsel India as well as Asia Pacific and Japan in Personal Systems. In his current role he also supports the employment law portfolio for HP Inc. for the Asia Pacific and Japan region. In his career he has gained experience setting up legal and compliance teams from scratch depending on the organisation’s risk profile and legal support requirements, maintaining a healthy balance of in-house and external counsel support along with exposure to multiple industry sectors including fast moving consumer goods, retail, financial services and IT. He also has experience in supporting business units across countries and sub-regions beyond India. Nair has encouraged the teams that he has led to continuously pursue learning, not just on areas of law, but also the nuances of the business that they support. He believes such knowledge forms the foundation of an effective legal team. He identifies that, ‘given the general tendency of legal teams to be pulled into support on a wide range of areas, it is important to define the scope and picking areas of support for the team considering the risk and exposure to the organisation and value to the business. This is particularly relevant for in-house teams in the present day when most organisations are able to afford limited headcount. Being in a position to partner with the business and being business enablers is yet another attribute that I consider is extremely crucial for any in-house legal team’.
One of India’s largest private sector banks, Yes Bank was founded in 2004. Since December 2010, the company’s legal affairs have been managed by the well respected and highly experienced group president and general counsel, Sanjay Nambiar. Having served the Bank for almost eight years, he has played a key role on the company’s recent deals many of which are crucial to Yes Bank’s growth strategy. Among these include the 2018 memorandum of understanding signed with Assam Rifles for offering banking solutions to armed forces personnel and the 2017 memorandum of understanding with the Indian government to provide Rs 1,000 crore in financing for food processing projects. Immediately prior to Yes Bank, Nambiar spent over four years at ICICI Banks as deputy general manager, before which he was assistant general manager at IDBI Bank.
Kotak Mahindra Bank was converted as a Bank from an existing non-banking financial company (NBFC). The existing businesses of the NBFC continued in the bank and new businesses like branch banking and retail liabilities, treasury desk, and some priority sector lending businesses, as prescribed by regulation, were added. At this point there were separate legal teams and Bhargesh Ojha, as head of the corporate legal team, led them and their work on the new business areas of the Bank and some group companies. In 2015, ING Vysya Bank merged with Kotak and their legal team was also absorbed. At this juncture it was decided that all diverse legal teams at Kotak Bank (including the ING Vysya legal team) would be merged into one legal function effective in September 2015, creating a legal team of about 125 team members. Ojha was assigned the job of creating the organisation structure for this unified legal department and achieving it in 45 days which he achieved. He created five teams each headed by a deputy for distinct areas of businesses to service consisting of consumer, commercial, corporate, investment and treasury, branch banking, and recoveries and resolution. This consolidation has helped in scaling efficiencies at the Bank through the streamlining of processes, heightened service quality to the internal clients as this one team is able to provide more knowledge and better execution abilities in its service. Ojha’s restructuring has also enabled efficient distribution via a digitised platform for the department’s internal workings and acquiring a contract management system, a litigation management system both being centralised repositories and alert monitoring systems, and an external lawyer appointment system. All these helping to save cost, and increase speed and quality from the legal team. Ojha also created a common mortgage platform across all businesses and constituted a “Crack Team” to supervise all cases against the Bank so that there is a unified and converged approach. These changes have led to process streamlining, scaling efficiencies, reduction in costs, introducing digitisation, enabling the legal team to service its internal clients with shorter TATs, wider and specialised knowledge, high quality of services and focussed execution of business centric solutions. Major transactions the newly consolidated team has tackled include the Kotak Manhindra Old Mutual Life Insurance Company (Kotak Life) which involved a termination of the joint venture and its legal implications, and the acquisition of BSS Microfinance which involved quick thinking due to unexpected complications showing the resilience of the team under Ojha’s leadership. He identifies that, ‘as general counsel, I am not only the leader but also a mentor to my team. Leading the legal function requires me to extend this leadership to the entire Kotak Group by being a strategic advisor to all business groups by giving comprehensive and in- depth legal advice, initiating and implementing sound and innovative legal processes and giving business centric solutions’.
Debolina Partap has been at Wockhardt since 2006 and continues to excel at India’s largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. Wockhardt operates three research centres and 12 manufacturing centres across India producing a whole host of bio-pharmaceutical formulations, active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), vaccines and Super Speciality Hospitals. Employing 86,000 people, the company is one of the largest of its kind in India. Nominated by peers, general counsel Partap supervises all legal and compliance matters for the company in this heavily regulated, scrutinised and competitive industry, such as the IP protection of new drugs and ingredients. Over the course of her legal career spanning approximately 20 years in banking, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, she has gained considerable recognition and praise from peers having held senior legal positions and seamlessly overseeing key projects for her various employers.
Nominated by peers, Tejal Patil is general counsel at GE South Asia and continues to go from strength to strength at the helm of a large multinational conglomerate with a multi-jurisdictional responsibility. Patil leads a team of over 50 legal and compliance professionals in the South Asia region bringing with her almost 20 years of experience at GE and legal qualifications in India and the UK. She is also the co-leader of the GE Women’s Network for Asia Pacific. Recent project highlights include, among many, the opening of a new state of the art national electric grid control system in Sri Lanka at its high tech operations centre in Colombo in partnership with the Ceylon Electricity Board, the announcement of a new commission to deliver the first part of a mega grid stabilisation project with the world’s largest wide area monitoring system (WAMS) to rejuvenate India’s northern grid in connection with the Power Grid Corporation of India.
In 2013, Anoop Pillai joined Volkswagen India, the local subsidiary of the multinational German automotive giant which manufactures passenger cars in the Pune region, as general manager of legal and company secretary. Pillai brings more than 25 years of experience in civil and criminal litigation and labour law expertise to his role and has, during his time with Volkswagen, transformed its litigation strategy and taken on its entire compliance systems to optimise performance. Pillai has conducted legal audits through his department and installed and fortified the “Legatrix” compliance management system. In the last four years since he started this program, Pillai highlights that, ‘there have been no hardly any violations reported by any statutory authority such as a factory inspector or labour commissioner’. In 2016, Pillai was instrumental in legally supporting the de-hiving of the IT business of Volkswagen India , to another Group company for handling all of the IT needs of the global company. He ran the drafting of the BTA, novation document, facilitating the valuation of business, transfer of employees, incorporating a new company for acquiring the IT business, structuring the legal department and all other incidental matters. Pillai has been critical in the legal defence of the company in major employment matters as well as arbitrations with a vendor of effluent treatment at Volkswagen’s Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).
P.S.N. Prasad occupies a unique and prominent position in India’s in-house market as legal advisor in the rank of chief general manager to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central banking institution. He has had an impressive academic career including a LLM, post-graduate diplomas from UNITAR, a fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, Germany and is currently working on a PhD at Mumbai University. Prasad joined RBI in December 1998 and has worked his way up to his current role in January 2016. He supervises a team of 40 law officers and works in conjunction with the legal department at the Central Bank of the Nation, India. Prasad operates his team with a collaborative work ethic and without a sense of hierarchy which he credits with the success of his team covering all legal matters for the Bank and helping it apply critical monetary regulatory policies for the state.
Anuranjan Prasad has been director – legal, emerging Asia at Baxter since 2014 and brings almost 20 years of experience as an in-house counsel to the role. He has previously worked in the infrastructure, fast moving consumer goods, telecom and real estate industry, but has since transitioned smoothly to the healthcare sector. He specialises in pro-active support contracts and negotiations, regulatory compliance, IP, dispute resolution and litigation. Baxter India is a wholly owned subsidiary of Baxter International a multinational pharmaceutical company specialising. According to nominators Prasad provides excellent legal coverage across the entire emerging Asia region which includes India, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Having held senior legal positions at various high profile domestic and multinational firms in India since the late 1990s, he is highly respected among peers in India’s legal market.
Akhil Prasad is among the best-known figures in the global in-house community. ‘Truly a member of India’s legal elite’, he received multiple citations from both in-house and private practice nominators. While Prasad’s instrumental role in a range of specific matters were commented on, his qualities as a leader and deep expertise in managing a commercial legal function stood out to those we spoke to. His more than 20 years in-house has seen him work in a number of different companies and sectors, marking him out as, ‘one of the most versatile and highly talented corporate counsel working anywhere in the world today’. For the last five years Prasad has served as country counsel and company secretary of Boeing International Corporation – India and has previously served as senior legal counsel to a range of businesses, including Fidelity Worldwide Investment and Fidelity Business Services, The Walt Disney Company, General Motors, Modicorp and Essar. Prasad’s versatility is underscored by the wide range of commitments he maintains outside work. He is a visiting faculty member of the National Law University – Delhi and Jodhpur (NLU) and holds titles from several prestigious academic institutions globally. He is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (FCS) and the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, UK (FCIS).
Smita Priyadarshini was working for Perot Systems in 2009 when it was acquired by Dell and she was elevated soon thereafter to Dell’s senior management team. Presently, she serves as the lead commercial lawyer for Dell in the Asia Pacific, Japan and China (APJC) region and also supports several regional profiles. Her team is spread across various locations in APJC and helps support a gamut of functions for the Dell legal team. Priyadarshini was a pioneer in the inception of a global team within Dell, going by the name “Global CLaaSS”. Global CLaaSS was based on hiring legal talent locally in India to provide support to the various international businesses of Dell. Convinced by the success of this model, other regions are following suit, which Priyadarshini identifies ‘brings about huge cost savings to the company and also, harnesses on the expertise and skill set of the local talent pool. Currently, I am focused on promoting and expanding the team, which is thriving due to the team’s strong work ethic in [delivering] quality performance each time, every time’. As a leader Priyadarshini has brought in a significant change to the working model of the team, by diversifying the work undertaken by the team to multiple business units across Dell. To implement the change, she handpicked the best lawyers with relevant international qualifications and experience to ensure that the team could provide services across boundaries. One of most impressive innovations created in the last two years has been the introduction of the concept of “hybrid resources” within the team. This concept was envisaged to provide a workable solution to reduce the budget constraints of regional legal teams for hiring additional legal resources especially during the peak business time. In this model, a legal resource having relevant expertise in multiple jurisdictions is used as a “hybrid resource” to provide legal support to multiple regions on a shared cost basis. This is not only monetarily beneficial but brings in additional benefits of keeping the regional teams up-and-running around the clock, leading to increased customer satisfaction due to quick turnarounds. Priyadarshini and her team have been involved in several multi-million complex transactions; each one of which has been unique and challenging. Helping the company win business and increase its revenue whilst at the same time ensuring that it is legally protected has been, ‘my overarching driving force’, Priyadarshini explains. She identifies that, ‘the most important “deal” to date (in the real form of the word) has been the inception, growth and success of Global CLaaSS. In addition, CLaaSS team members have worked on many significant transactions for the business. In general, the team has provided end-to-end support on various key projects and initiatives of varied nature’.
In his current role as company secretary at Cyient, Sudheendhra Putty has assiduously tried to metamorphose, instil and imbibe in his department and thence in the company equity and solidarity in its interaction with associates, customers and other stakeholders to provide an even-handed environment irrespective of cultural backgrounds. Putty identifies that, ‘amongst the key learnings I have imbibed in the department is the understanding that the legal and governance functions need to essentially function as business enablers and facilitators. This is the bulwark and ethos of our working’. He has provided an encouraging and motivating ambience which enables the associates to meet their personal and organisational objectives. Whether it was enabling e-voting for shareholders several years before it became mandatory or using state-of-the-art apps for board related correspondence or compliance management solutions or contract review process, optimum usage and leveraging of technology has been a major feature of his tenure. This has helped in increasing effectiveness and efficiency, cut down on carbon foot print and enabled a seamless interface between the management and the board and amongst the board itself. The adoption and implementation of “Ariba”, a SAP based contract management software tool and “Compliance Manager” tool for tracking and monitoring legal and statutory compliances were two watershed events according to Putty. Additionally, Putty has implemented “Diligent Board Book” a software portal for board related communication. Putty’s has designed and implemented numerous initiatives on a voluntary basis much before they were mandated by law demonstrating his innovation. Some examples include the adoption of secretarial standards, secretarial audit, vigil mechanism, publication of triple bottom lines (business responsibility reporting), evaluation of auditors, external rating of corporate governance practices, electronic voting at general meetings and Corporate Social Responsibility spending.
Bringing over a decade of private practice and telecoms experience, Sudhanshu Rai has served as AkzoNobel’s head legal for India, Thailand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh since May 2016 handling all legal affairs and compliances for the region. To proactively de-risk various businesses in the region, he supported the compliance, ethics and integrity initiatives of AkzoNobel by implementing global compliance programs in the region including anti-trust, export control, privacy and anti-bribery, and more recently, the implementation of the new GDPR regime. He is also the designated privacy manager for the region, in which capacity he ensures the business remains compliant to GDPR and also to their local privacy laws in various activities and projects. When Rai joined,the team was relatively new. Under his guidance the team has successfully handled and is handling multiple jurisdictional issues, undertaking new responsibilities and resolving complex challenges with its hard work and integrity. He identifies that, ‘we worked towards empowering the business to handle their routine business processes with minimal day-to-day legal involvement’. The team has been involved in standardising contracts, created various SOPs as a checklist and guidance notes for the business to follow for their regular activities, enabling the business to analyse and close their low value recovery matters by themselves. In line with AkzoNobel Group’s strategy for the establishment of two “focused, high-performing businesses” with sustainable growth plans, Rai has handled and successfully closed separation of the company’s specialty chemical business in India. This was a high value and complex restructuring exercise, AkzoNobel being a listed entity in India. In past two years at AkzoNobel, Rai has been involved in various expansion projects including helping in the setting up phase of AkzoNobel’s Powder Coating plant in Maharashtra and a first of its kind specialty coatings production facility and colour laboratory in Noida to service its customers in different sectors. Rai, describing his role, identifies that, ‘the role of an in-house counsel is being both, a conscience keeper and a business enabler and the success is all about the balance one is able to create. As an in-house counsel it is equally important to be approachable, collaborative and prompt in providing solutions to the business, which can only [operate] by not only understanding the position in law, but also placing equal importance on understanding the industry, the business, the products and the market forces affecting the business’.
Naveen Raju continues to excel as the group general counsel and senior vice president of Mahindra & Mahindra, one of the largest conglomerate companies in India, having been in the role since 2014 bringing with him his extensive in-house legal experience and commercial acumen. Mahindra & Mahindra’s companies cover 20 industries from IT, automotive, agricultural machinery, defence, financial services, hospitality and clean energy and many more with an annual revenue of over US$20bn. Nominated by a number of peers during this year’s research, Raju monitors the legal affairs of the group as a whole and its composite companies and has continued to contribute to the company’s success. The company is going from strength to strength and investing in new industries and expanding particularly in terms of innovative technology. All of this has been aided by the stability offered by its highly respected and most senior lawyer and his steering of the legal function.
Pramod Rao returned to the bank where he launched his career, ICICI, as group general counsel in August 2018 after spending five years at Citibank India. While at Citi, Rao served as general counsel, India, and was responsible for the legal function as a whole including advising the board on its corporate governance and the bank’s regulatory commitments. ICICI Bank is India’s largest private sector bank with assets of over US$170bn as of March 2018, and currently has 4,867 branches across India. Nominated by peers, Rao is a powerful player in the in-house legal field within the banking industry in India and will continue to excel in his new role at ICICI as group general counsel, where he hold responsible for the legal affairs of the bank and its affiliated companies and partnerships.
Following the departure of the previous general counsel, Lopamudra Rao has co-led the legal function at OLA (ANI Technologies), one of the world’s largest ride-sharing companies. She joined the organisation in January 2017, after serving as legal counsel for over three years at C-Quest Capital where she gained recognition for working closely with the finance and operations team in addition to managing and resolving commercial disputes and closing various business transactions and contractual negotiations. At OLA, she has led the legal efforts in key strategic projects including acquisitions such as Food Panda, Riddlr, HolaChef, was instrumental in the launch of Mission Electric and Ola Play, led the international business expansion in the UK and Australia, implemented GDPR and related privacy compliance, has played a crucial role in complex commercial agreements and negotiations, managing day-to-day advice to business and tech teams on operational and regulatory issues, ensuring compliance with the applicable laws in addition other urgent matters that OLA’s business and tech units need addressing. She is also the chairperson of the Internal Committee (set up under the POSH Act). Prior to moving in-house, Rao enjoyed successful private practice spells at Luthra & Luthra Law Offices and Trilegal.
Already present across five continents, employing over 20,000 individuals, with 41 manufacturing facilities and 21 service delivery locations, the CK Birla Group is a growing US$1.8bn Indian conglomerate. Overseeing legal affairs at the Group is Madhav Rao Uppulur, an extremely well respected lawyer in his field. Despite being at CK Birla for some time now, a previous colleague was keen to highlight Rao’s credentials during the research process having the following to say about him: ‘Madhav [had] been a colleague with me at GE… he was my colleague in GMR and GE. He is an outstanding lawyer, commercially focused, a true business partner and is valued for his work and his leadership’. Rao is recognised for assisting his employers on the partnership between Birlasoft, a digital business IT services company owned by the CK Birla Group, and KPIT Technologies, which focuses on IT consulting and product engineering. This April 2018 deal was lauded in industry press for its novel and complex nature.
Lubinisha Saha is the general counsel for Baker Hughes, a full stream oil and gas company in India and part of the US conglomerate GE. She has more than 14 years of experience with leading global organisations and law firms and has handled a variety of commercial issues with a focus on infrastructure, commercial contracting, structuring, financing, M&A, compliance, trainings and policy making. She is known to be a business partner who owns issues and collaborates effectively with varied stakeholders to provide risk abated yet business enabling solutions. She has been with GE for over seven years and in addition to enabling business has led various strategic initiatives for the India region including the simplification of commercial processes, channel partner management, product segmentation risk mapping and commercial trainings. During her time as general counsel Saha has developed a philosophy of working as a business partner to enable business by providing risk abated solutions, and working across multiple stakeholders across regions, functions and businesses in a coherent and informed fashion. She places great value in the education of her team and has developed a training module which she regularly conducts to train commercial people on legal issues, structures, and negotiation tactics. During her tenure, she has led on a number of key developments for the company including its incorporation with GE which involved a large amount of restructuring at the regional level, competition approvals, alignment of processes, due diligence and overall integration. She has also worked on the simplification of processes such as channel partner management, past due management, product segmentation risk mapping, dispute resolution, labour and employment, IP repositories and product regulatory compliance. About her time as an in-house lawyer, Saha says ‘the “grass is greener on the side you water” so don’t sit on the side lines as legal. Some lessons you learn the hard way and an in-house counsel has to always be a business partner’.
A global leader in technology services and consulting, Infosys provides a range of digital solutions to clients in more than 50 countries. At the helm of the legal function of this very profitable Indian firm is group general counsel and chief compliance officer Inderpreet Sawhney. Well known among peers in the legal industry for her high calibre legal advice and strong business focus over the years, Sawhney joined Infosys in July 2017 following a highly successful tenure as senior vice president and general counsel for almost six years at another Indian tech giant, Wipro. As a business partner supporting Infosys’ business in her current role, Sawhney has already assisted the company on establishing a partnership with Siemens to develop advanced IoT engineering solutions as well as renewing Infosys’ global partnership with ATP World Tour, a major tennis tournament hosted by the Association of Tennis Professionals. In addition to her purely legal role, Sawhney also directs the development and execution of the compliance and ethics program at Infosys.
With over 17 years of experience, Anurag Sharma has worked with litigators, law firms, Indian and multinational companies throughout his career. Having handled strategic litigation, several key M&As and joint venture transactions, his strength in the last few years has been building strong legal teams capable of delivering results. Sharma has recently joined RIVIGO as the general counsel. Prior to this he was the first general counsel of OLA, where he built the legal function and drove business models through unchartered regulatory areas. He also drove investment rounds of approximately US$1bn and supported the acquisitions of Foodpanda and Ridlr. He also led OLA’s initiative in electric vehicles and its international expansion. Prior to Ola, he was leading the legal teams at Abbott, Biocon and DSM. He supported initiatives on government policy and regulatory framework in the pharmaceutical sector and also managed strategic litigation around pharmaceutical regulations and patents such as the litigation around Phensydyl, a codeine based cough syrup, ensuring business continuity by obtaining an injunction on the ban of the product. Prior to moving in-house, Sharma worked with law firms managing corporate transactions as well as key litigations. On his in in-house career and enthusiasm for legal practice in general Sharma had the following to say: ‘What excites me about practising law is the ability to shape it through analysis and use. Starting my career as a litigator at different levels of courts in India, I have honed my legal and leadership skills over a period of 17 years working with litigators, law firms, Indian and multinational companies. While some of my key achievements include handling successful litigations, M&As, joint ventures, establishing new entities; my strength in the last few years has been building strong legal teams capable of delivering results’.
Mohit Shukla first took a leadership position in a legal function in 2001, and with 11 years of in-house experience he rose to his current position as managing director India legal with Barclays Bank in 2010, adding the compliance function to his responsibilities in 2017. In previous roles, Shukla created legal functions from scratch and modelled them as a working partner to businesses. He has applied this methodology to his current role. At Barclays, Shukla is a member of the Asia Pacific regional leadership team for legal, the Asia Pacific compliance management team. He represents legal and compliance on the India country management committee, and on the executive committee of the India operations and technology services company. His role is to manage the legal function in India comprising of 10 lawyers, and the compliance functions with a team of 70 compliance professionals as well as all cross-border transactions, regulatory matters and the implementation of policies relating to legal changes. Shukla values leading from the front and being an integral part of the enterprise, and considers this to be what makes in-house counsel not only successful but credible, and the one key element that provides a significant wealth of experiential learning and growth. Shukla identifies that, ‘challenges are best dealt with rather than avoided, and they come in all forms and shapes, but each one of them only adds to what you learn from them, and all of it in the aggregate gives you the tools you need to deal with the new ones that come your way’. He adds that ‘the ability to adapt is a habit that has to remain a primary constant in this context and with it comes the attendant requirements of continuous up-skilling, and investment in learning, enhancement of delivery as [well as] the speed and the quality of delivery’.
Suraj Singh is a lawyer who has climbed every step of the in-house career ladder. He started as an assistant manager and, over the years, rose to become the manager, senior manager, deputy general manager and finally, as the head of legal department of some of the best multinational companies of the world. In fact, he started as a litigation lawyer before donning purely in-house roles, and practiced extensively in the civil courts and high courts. This experience helped him understand the actual working of the courts in India, and helps him use the external law firm mentality effectively. One of the important changes he has made to the working of the legal department is the adoption of technology, whether for contract review or for replacing paper-based records with electronic ones. The e-archiving system that he implemented helps the team retrieve and leverage the historical knowledge effectively in providing the legal support to its partners and to address many challenges faced by the law departments. He also developed robust “business continuity”’ planning for the legal department. Another important change was the implementation “dawn raid” guidelines in the company to address any unannounced inspection or visit by authorities or police. These guidelines implemented across the company by the legal department helps the company manage any such visits without causing interruptions to the business and ensure that the legal department handles issues before they become too big to manage. On the nature of his role, Singh says, ‘the in-house counsel today works in an office environment where [the] business utilises cutting edge technology to produce results. This change in my perception towards technology has helped me “stay relevant” and also become much more productive by using the new tools and devices supported by information and communication technology’.
Jacobs Engineering is one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of technical, professional and construction services including all aspects of architecture, engineering and construction, operations and maintenance as well as scientific and specialty consulting. Legal support in India at the company is led by Bharat Singh, associate general counsel and legal head for petroleum and chemicals in the Asia region. He joined Jacobs in 2010 – as one of the youngest lead counsels in the country – with the specific mandate to set up an in-house legal function within Jacobs India. Today, as part of the regional leadership team, his role involves advising senior management on various legal issues, managing legal claims, lending acquisition support and negotiating complex business contracts across all lines of business. In the past, he has also served as the company’s compliance officer for India, overseeing the implementation of various compliance initiatives within the Asia region. The India legal team at Jacobs, led by Singh, also provides acquisition and post-acquisition integration support on various transactions. Jacobs recently announced the acquisition of a world-renowned design, engineering and program management firm – and the India team is lending support to complete this transaction. Other significant transactions this year involved negotiations with public and private sector clients in the various sectors. On making the move in-house, Singh highlights the difficult yet rewarding process saying, ‘if one transitions to an in-house counsel role from a law firm, as I did, the early days are a steep learning curve in terms of the nature of issues one must tackle every day. A specialist mind-set must quickly adapt to familiarity with a variety of areas of the law, including contracts, intellectual property, labour, litigation, tax, competition, corporate and privacy matters, among others’.
Suhani Singh is the general counsel for Delhivery, one of the largest e-commerce fulfilment companies in India. Founded in 2011, Delhivery provides an end to end logistical support service across the digital commerce value chain from transportation, fulfilment including warehouse services, operations management and commercial analysis and metrics across India. In the last two years the company has grown from 16 fulfilment centres to its current 24 and has completed over 100 million deliveries. Singh has been credited for facilitating Delhivery’s growth since joining the company in 2015. And with the market for e-commerce supply chain logistics predicted to increase to US$100bn in the next five years, according to Delhivery, it is in pole position to take advantage and with Singh’s support and expertise, it can continue its upward trajectory.
Mrinal Sinha has been head of legal for Shell companies in India since 2006, and leads the legal country-wide function. He leads his team with the philosophy of understanding the commercial and larger business perspective or objectives and how to make the legal advice and solutions fit into it. He says that, ‘with better appreciation and being more sensitive to people issues in [the] local, regional and global context including diversity and culture, the legal team can deliver maximum value to the business and handle legal issues in multijurisdictional scenarios’. Sinha has standardised several contractual matters and developed legal processes, minimised outsourcing of legal work whilst maximising the use of the internal legal team in miscellaneous contexts including M&A activities which has reduced legal costs. During his time at Shell, he has overseen a tax case worth US$1.3bn against the investment of US$400m and the merger of British Gas into Shell, which took considerable work. Other transactions Sinha has been recognised for include licensing issues, restructuring of businesses and investment vehicles, investment in start-up and new energy, various M&A and the expansion of a retail business in India and the Middle East.
In May 2018 Nilanjan Sinha re-joined ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank with total consolidated assets of US$172.5bn. He originally left the Bank in 2005 after five successful years of serving it as chief manager – corporate legal, where he impressed peers by handling project finance and restructurings of large exposure cases as well as managing the global IP portfolio of the Bank. Since then he has gained substantial industry credit as one of India’s finest Indian in-house legal professionals in the financial sector having held general counsel positions at Yes Bank and GE Capital India as well as being head of legal, compliance and public affairs for the Indian subcontinent at Marsh & McLennan. Between 2017 and 2018, and immediately prior to returning to ICICI Bank, he was head of corporate advisory at Godrej & Boyce, one of India’s most trusted consumer goods brands. Upon returning to ICICI, Sinha took up the role of head of legal for India and Southeast Asia. Already he has contributed to the strategic goals of the company by providing advice on the Bank’s partnerships with leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) company Marg ERP, Australian bank Westpac Banking Corporation and the world renowned football club Manchester United.
Rakesh Chandra Sinha joined Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, a major Indian multinational pharmaceutical company, in March 2016 to head its legal and compliance functions in the capacity of associate vice president – legal and compliance. He is recognised for managing his legal department of over 20 lawyers across multiple jurisdictions by implementing the concept of legal business partnering to empower them within the business as well as implementing an extensive use of technology to create greater efficiencies in the legal team. Sinha says these changes have positively impacted the approach of business teams towards the legal functions, adding, ‘there were multiple tiers of appreciation by the business in last two years, positive reports from business about legal in monthly management reviews [and] our turnaround time reduced drastically by approximately 40%’. Sinha is also commended for working on a number of important company projects recently such as India’s first international arbitration referred by the Supreme Court to Bombay International Arbitration Centre, high value and high risk drug price control litigations with the Indian government, commercial disputes in several countries (including Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey, Hong Kong and China among others) as well as various high value acquisitions in Russia, Japan and the US.
Madhu Sivaram Muttathil started off as a litigator back in 1997 before switching to an in-house corporate career a couple of years later. He debuted in-house with IBS Software Services, a privately held entity catering primarily to the travel, transportation and logistics sector where his primary responsibility was to manage client deals worldwide. Post IBS, he took a sabbatical to pursue an LLM and subsequently joined Sapient, a major US consulting firm supporting India, Asia Pacific and the UK. In February 2012, Muttathil joined Avaya and took on his current role as senior corporate counsel, India and SAARC. At Avaya, a communication and collaboration company, his mandate is to provide legal, transactional and strategic support to India and South Asia operations. He also serves on the India board and India leadership team (ILT) and supporting them with corporate secretarial governance and region-wide strategic initiatives respectively. Some of his key endeavours have been to simplify processes and empower the business to drive certain decisions with little or no reliance on legal and reduce financial exposure. This has involved being responsive and approachable to enabling the business to negotiate certain contracts and forms using standard templates to proactively diffuse potential disputes. He has also driven an initiative to facilitate recovery of outstanding receivables by the company. Muttathil has led on many critical transactions over the past three years such as a multi-million dollar customer deal with one of the largest telecom players in Asia, and divestitures and acquisitions. The deal was completed in the face of a turbulent financial situation at the company, a potential Chapter 11 filing, which was headed off successfully with the help of Muttathil’s team. On his team’s success, Muttathil says, ‘while law and commerce often dominate contract negotiations, one should also endeavour to build enduring relationships that may well prove to be the clincher. Another key learning was that strategic use of leverage helps meeting the ultimate objective especially when you have a cast-in-stone deadline’.
G.R. Srikkanth, joined RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group after 9 years of experience within the public sector at the Housing and Urban Development Corporation. He has 13 years of in-house experience with RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, serving as vice president legal and heading the legal department of the retail side of the business which covers Spencer’s Retail, a historic and popular Indian multi-format retailer, amongst other key brands. Having experience in a range of sectors and practice areas, he brings this copious experience as well as his post-graduate education to good use in his current role. Srikkanth is an expert in framing legal strategies for the business and advises the management expertly on legal issues. During his tenure at the Group he has been instrumental in the opening of 1,000 outlets for various formats varying from 600 square feet to 100,000 square feet. During his time at the company has acquired over five million square feet on either lease or license from reputed developers and builders in standalone projects, mall, multiplexes, and commercial complexes across the country. He has established a world class factory for Au Bon Pain in Bangalore. Similarly, he is responsible for ensuring the statutory compliances of all outsourced manufacturing activities and has successfully achieved 68 acquittals in Food Adulteration Act litigations and defended the company against matters of consumer protection, trademarks and labour cases. Achievements such as these among many others make him standout in India’s in-house community as a top legal professional.
Anand Srivastava started his career as a management trainee with India Aluminium Company (or Indal, the then subsidiary of Alcan) in 1997. After working for about a year and half with Indal, he joined PwC India in 1999 and made a gradual progression from associate to manager roles, and then from manager to director roles before attaining his current level as a senior director since April 2018. In addition to his associate general counsel role Srivastava has been in the role of company secretary since April 2007. He leads key domestic and international projects on corporate compliance, shares and shareholder issues, the operation of general meetings, M&A and sales, the governance of joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries in India as well as abroad. He has also handled civil and criminal litigation strategy in his role. Srivastava is an expert in the drafting and review of a variety of contracts and agreements including: purchase orders, HR and CSR policy, litigation policy, prevention of sexual harassment policy, data privacy, memorandum and articles of association, LLP agreements and leadership-level notes on legal issues. He can also provide strategic inputs in freezing the overall business framework in accordance with local law requirements. Srivastava describes his leadership as being ‘focused on getting basics rights [because] if the basics are right, most of the things automatically fall in place’. For the legal function he has set up clear priorities, and rotates individuals in different roles whilst ensuring that each one develops a core competence. This exposes them to public platforms, ensures they take ownership of their actions and provides them with the freedom to interact at the highest level. He adds that she ‘has been able to develop very good internal legal competence which has resulted in less reliance on external opinions. This includes critical and high stake projects. This has not only reduced cost but also resulted in a belief in the ability of own staff’.
As the general counsel of multinational consultancy firm EY’s Indian and Bangladeshi operations, since September 2012 Amar Sundram is involved in all major and critical decision making which can have an impact on the sustenance and growth of the organisation from a regulatory, compliance and legal perspective. Sundram describes the changes he’s made to the legal function during his time at EY India and the positive impact this has had on the business: ‘When I joined the current organisation, it was a small team of just two in-house junior lawyers and after six years of my journey with EY, today we are 12 lawyers and growing. We are handling approximately 15,000 employees [across] India including approximately 400 partners. The biggest professional satisfaction that I draw is the fact that the employees treat the entire members of the legal department as their trusted and reliable advisors for all their business – legal problems. They don’t hesitate to come to us, at the first instance of a problem, fully confident that they [will] get a solution. Instilling this confidence in a large work force required a collaborative approach, inspiring trust through integrity and dependability and today, with pride, I can say that my legal team have delivered on the promises. It was equally important, as a leader of the team, to keep the team charged, energised with complete legal updates and knowledge. Today, almost all of our legal work is handled in-house with [much] less dependency on external counsel’. The overall impact of the above changes overseen by Sundram has been almost negligible litigation, full compliance with ethical practices and zero tolerance towards breaches, clear successes for such a vast organisation as EY.
Part of the Tata Group, Tata Steel is one of the world’s largest steel producers with operations in 26 countries and a commercial presence in over 50 countries. As the company’s group general counsel, Dipali Talwar occupies a prominent position in India’s in-house legal sector and covers a wide remit and since being featured in the GC Powerlist: India 2016, she has continued to impress peers by sustaining her high quality legal advice and contribution on important company agreements. These include the recent landmark agreement with Tata Workers’ Union on extension of service, the signing of definitive joint venture agreements to create new steel champion in Europe and the acquisition of Bhushan Steel to name a few. Talwar’s first experience of in-house life was as director of legal and general counsel for India and South Asia at multinational pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. Showing the same expert technical legal skill on company deals there as she does now, Talwar was quickly promoted to the position of senior director for Pfizer’s Global Business Transactions division in New York. Her outstanding work over the course of 20 years of experience in law, policy and governance are well known to peers in the profession.
As chief general counsel at IDFC, Rajeev Uberoi has an important responsibility of serving the company as general counsel and group head of legal and compliance. He joined IDFC in 2009 with over 30 years of legal experience covering multiple jurisdictions, cross-border regulations, and all the elements relating to commercial and corporate law and regulation from M&A, contracts, litigation, property matters, stock market listing and evaluations, tax and all corporate governance concerns. His expert knowledge in the legal field as well as his PhD in Economics makes him an invaluable member of the organisation. Nominated for his expertise for the third year running, Uberoi has created collaborations with Harvard Law School and Jindal Global Law school as well as facilitated M&A transactions such as IDFC’s January 2018 merger with Capital First Bank, and a partnership with MobiKwik to provide online pre-paid cards through MobiKwik’s Visa enabled payment app, the largest project of its kind reaching 65 million users.
Since being launched in 1985, Kotak Mahindra Bank has experienced exponential growth earning over US$3bn in revenue in 2017 and ranking as among the top 50 companies in the Fortune India 500 list. This and the diverse operations of the Bank means its chief legal and compliance officer, Ajay Vaidya, woks on a number of high-value and complex deals and projects. Being a long serving lawyer at Kotak Mahindra, Vaidya has extensive knowledge of the company’s operations and has played an integral role on its high-value acquisitions as well as a host of large capital transactions. Most recently he worked on Kotak Mahindra’s acquisition of BSS Microfinance in 2017 and the buyout of Old Mutual’s 26% stake in Kotak Mahindra Old Mutual Life Insurance in 2018. Having worked on these large-scale deals, among many others over a number of years, Vaidya is rightly considered amongst the top Indian in-house professionals in the financial sector.
Chakradhar Varadarajan, has served as head of corporate legal at Godrej Industries since March 2013. The path leading up to his current position is a 27 year journey as in-house counsel and three years as a practising advocate from 1988-1991. He enjoyed successful stints at Unilever India, Cargill India, ITC and Tata Cellular starting with the Nagarjuna Investment Trust’s in-house legal team. In his current role, Varadarajan makes a point of ‘celebrating the success of individuals while emphasising team-work, creating a culture of “we-achieved-it-together” despite some team members being located offshore in Indonesia, Africa and South America’. During the last 3 years, major achievements for Varadarajan and his team include working on the acquisition of a Chile based joint venture by Godrej Consumer Products, the acquisition of Frika’s dry-hair braids and weaves business in South Africa as well as the Darling brand in South Africa, Mozambique and Tanzania. In addition Varadarajan also worked on the acquisition of Strength of Nature in the US and the recovery of significant sums through litigation and due diligence.
Anand Vardhan joined Piramal Group in 2013 taking care of the legal function of its private equity, NBFC and realty business arm which in last 5 years have been consolidated as Piramal Capital & Housing Finance (Piramal Capital). Piramal Capital is the financial services platform of Piramal Group following the merger of Piramal Finance & Piramal Capital into Piramal Housing Finance. It is engaged in various financial services businesses providing both wholesale and retail funding opportunities across sectors. He had held several managerial positions in the legal function at leading businesses like Tata Housing and ICICI Bank before joining HDFC Venture Capital as assistant vice president and head of legal and prior to joining Piramal, he was the general counsel of SUN-Apollo Ventures. In his time at Primal, Vardhan has standardised transaction documents, set up a centralised litigation team, and integrated the 25-member legal team of the entire financial services platform as one team. He identifies that these initiatives have helped improve overall performance ‘and reduced dependence on external lawyers’, adding, ‘the involvement of the litigation team is yielding positive results, as counterparties are willing to come to the table to settle their dues, rather than bear the risk of litigation’. Recently, Vardhan and his team have worked on strategic partnerships with leading global pension funds such as CPPIB, APG and Ivanhoe Cambridge and orchestrated one of the largest equity fund raisings worth US$450m from Warburg Pincus and Goldman Sachs for Piramal Realty. Vardhan’s leadership and prompt legal support has contributed in making Piramal Capital the leading lender of the country achieving a book size of more than INR 50,000 crores in the last 3 years. He identifies the changing nature of the in-house counsel saying, ‘the role of in-house legal has metamorphosed from proffering a purely advisory role on risk mitigation into a more strategic and central role, where they are expected to provide thought leadership on new business initiatives and contribute to the company’s bottom-line’.
With over 27 years of in-house experience, out of which five years were in an international regional role for Asia Pacific and Middle East covering over 14 countries, Rajagopal Venkatakrishnan serves Reliance Industries as senior vice president of legal bringing his significant exposure across old and new economy businesses. During his tenure from 2015 onwards, Venkatakrishnan has implemented periodical reviews and efficient cross functional collaboration with the rest of the business, and ensured efficient monitoring and optimised results leading to the disposal of around 50% of cases. In the last three years this efficiency has translated into significant achievements such as litigation wins in the High Courts and Supreme Court of India, key technology procurement transactions involving Fortune 500 companies, and key acquisitions in a range of sectors. With a formidable career and currently serving one of India’s largest companies, Venkatakrishnan occupies a prominent position in India’s in-house market and is highly respected among the country’s corporate counsel.
Online Indian marketplace ShopClues has enjoyed exponential success since launching in 2011 with a team of five. Today the company receives 100 million monthly visits, delivering a whole range of products to virtually every part of India and employing 1,000 staff. Among its dedicated personnel is general counsel Tripti Vini who has enjoyed 18 years of practical legal experience across a range of sectors. Since joining ShopClues in December 2015, Vini has earned praise from peers by being involved on the company’s major milestones such as its 2016 acquisition of payment platform Momoe. Before ShopClues, Vini was India senior legal counsel at Mahindra Comviva for two and a half years before which she was India legal counsel for Aircel, one of India’s leading innovative mobile service providers, between 2009 and 2013.
Since July 2017, Yogesh Wadhwa has served as Alliance general counsel at Renault Nissan - India, the Indian subsidiaries of the French -Japanese strategic partnership between the two global automobile manufacturers and monitors the legal affairs of Renault and Nissan entities in India. In a short space of time he has already impressed peers ensuring the legal department remains a true business partner to support on business decisions with a fine balance to ensure that the company’s interests are maintained in a compliant manner. Wadhwa works very closely with the business in strategising business policies, network plans and risk mitigation for long term sustained growth. He has trained his team to embrace the business first policy. Regarding his philosophy towards managing a legal team and the skills counsel require, Wadhwa says, ‘It is important to empower and allow the team to take more responsibility – It is the right balance of business and legal acumen which is very important for an in-house lawyer to be successful’. Wadhwa started his career with Fox Mandal and moved to be a part of Tax and Regulatory Services at PwC. His journey to in-house role started with Halliburton. Immediately prior to joining Renault Nissan India, he served as a General Counsel at General Motors India where, he also supported compliance and investigations team and managed government relations. He says that while working at General Motors, ‘working on government relations issues, gave me a different perspective and helped me to support [the] business in a more efficient manner in terms of policy framework and long term company perspective’. Wadhwa notes that legal function has evolved as a true business partner and acts as a continuous support to the business acting as a trusted advisor to the managing directors of the company to secure company’s interest. They also have the task of being an ethical watchdog, tasked with ensuring corporate compliance in accordance with law.
Bayer CropScience is a global agricultural input provider with a range of environmental solutions to the farming and agricultural demands drawing on the scientific prowess of the Bayer global company. Based in Mumbai, Rajiv Wani, country group head – law patents and compliance (South Asia) administers the company’s guidance on its compliance and legal matters specialising in the IP of its products and processes. Last year, Bayer CropScience announced a new variety of chilli, called the “Indus” in Andhra Pradesh and Telagana contributing a new variety to this region’s large domestic and export market in hot chilli peppers. In addition to the IP protection of products such as Indus, Wani also contributes to the company’s partnerships across different elements of the food chain – farming, manufacturing, commercialising and consuming – and operates programs to help food security with partnerships in the industry and government entities to help world food security.
CMS is proud to support the 2018 edition of ‘GC Powerlist: India’, recognising the talent and achievements of in-house legal advisers at India’s top corporates.
As India’s reforms encourage foreign investment, improve the business climate and monetary policy framework, the country’s corporate general counsels are faced with ever more complex challenges.
The IMF has predicted that India’s GDP will grow by 7.3% during the current financial year to March 2019, and by 7.5% the following year. This extraordinary level of growth clearly brings economic benefits – but also presents new demands for GCs.
In an increasingly globalised economy, complicated as always by international political risks and constant technological evolution, companies are exposed to more and more challenges. They are reliant on their in-house lawyers to deliver market-relevant and strategic advice and steer them through the various opportunities and challenges presented by this rapidly evolving world. To make the most of new opportunities, GCs are expected to play a proactive role in corporate decision-making and risk mitigation and management. Compliance issues of course remain part of the staple responsibilities. A consequence of the growing outward focus of Indian corporates is that GCs are having to be mindful of the domestic legal framework and consider the implications and effect of their advice at home and in foreign jurisdictions.
During our more than 20 years of advising on India-related deals and disputes, we have had the pleasure of working and interacting with many of those featured in this year’s powerlist. The characteristics that set them apart include their commercial awareness, legal expertise and forward thinking.
Whether on inbound or outbound investments, regulatory investigations, disputes management and resolution, or capital markets-related work, we have been struck by their adaptability and instinctive flair for business.
We congratulate all the individual GCs and teams included in GC Powerlist: India.
At the outset, I, along with everyone at L&L Partners, take this opportunity to wish each one of you, who has been recognised in the GC Powerlist, my heartiest congratulations. The GC role is one of continuous change and evolution, which has been shifting from purely legal work to more business focused responsibilities.
General counsels (GCs) today are like those acrobats who walk on a thin rope, balancing themselves perfectly, while shouldering the responsibility of the entire organisation’s legal risk, as well as making decisions that could have far reaching impacts on its operations and effectively the bottom line.
From my interactions with head honchos at major corporations in India and overseas, I am led to believe that business leaders are asking their GCs more than ever to assume added responsibility in order to propel business growth and progress. With corporate leaders looking to GCs to assume additional responsibility, their position is becoming increasingly demanding. GCs today are expected to provide strategic advice and unique legal perspective which top management can rely upon.
Whenever a GC makes a decision, they are expected to appropriately weigh the legal risk of their choice, alongside its potential future benefit to the business. Therefore, a GC needs to anticipate that all business decisions contain some degree of underlying risk. Then, the GC must use his or her business knowledge and experience to reach an informed perspective based on both their legal and commercial backgrounds. These expectations of the GC are only part of a more extensive list of responsibilities, which also includes litigation, regulation, compliance, and ethics, among others.
The GC position is becoming one of the most critical roles within an organisation, and its importance and benefit to the company cannot be understated. This trend of increasing authority of the GC will most likely continue into the future, making the GC position one of the most demanding roles in executive management.
I am sure the GC Powerlist team must have had a very difficult time in putting together the final cut, given the accomplishments of my esteemed friends and colleagues who were being assessed to be included in the list. Kudos to the team on conducting diligent independent research and arriving at the result. This is a commendable initiative by The Legal 500 group for acknowledging the precarious position GCs are in and how they navigate through business complexities swiftly and with aplomb.
Vahura is proud to support the GC Powerlist: India for the third year running. Our heartiest congratulations to the leading general counsel recognised in this Powerlist. It is wonderful to see this appreciation of your important work and innovation.
The role being played by general counsel (GC) in India continues to rapidly evolve. Some of the trends we’ve seen in the last few years include:
GC and the board of directors
Research undertaken by Vahura OnBoard – our board search and consulting practice, reveals the growing demand for lawyers on boards of large corporates. As listed companies look to rejuvenate their board of directors, they often turn to their GC, or bringing in proficient GCs from other companies. The GC searches that Vahura have undertaken have resulted in the GC being brought on to the board, or is an observer or invitee to the board. The GC is seen as an important value addition and advisor to the board of directors.
Shaping future law and policy
The public policy and government relations function is, more often than not, a part of the GC’s portfolio. We observe the increased active role GCs play in industry bodies and chambers, that help shape future law and policy. The law makers are also inducting more GCs into committees that are tasked with moulding future law and policy.
Technology and process innovators
Innovations in professional services are today more client led, thanks to innovative GCs that are looking to add greater value, while reducing cost and time. Our recently launched secondment offering – Counselect – is the result of demand and encouragement from GCs, who require more flexible talent options to proficiently execute short term requirements at a reasonable expense. Innovative GCs are embracing these new models, and also adopting technology and process changes that help the legal department to do more, with less.
GCs as change makers
So many GCs are also playing an important role in furthering the development of the profession by teaching students, recruiting and mentoring young lawyers and supporting underprivileged students. Some GCs are also incorporating social metrics such as diversity and inclusion as factors in selecting external counsel. The GC today is a harbinger of change at the corporation and industry level and on the wider profession and society.
Every professional featured in this Powerlist represents the best of our profession and are an inspiration to others. Kudos to you all for the important role that you play within your organisations and beyond. Congratulations once again and best wishes for the future.
Blackstone Chambers congratulates all the in-house legal teams recognised by The Legal 500's GC Powerlist: India 2018.
Blackstone Chambers is a leading set of barristers based in London. Members of Chambers offer expertise in the international arena across a range of specialist areas, including arbitration, commercial litigation, financial services, public & regulatory law and international law.
India is the second largest country in the world by population, the world's largest democracy and the largest English speaking nation in the world. It is a vibrant, diverse and rapidly expanding nation, predicted to be in the top three global economies by 2030. The government of India has placed a significant focus on the reform agenda and ongoing relaxation of the limits of foreign direct investment to some of India's core sectors such as airlines, retail, railways and construction continues to attract foreign investment.
India's performance in the latest World Bank's "ease of doing business" rankings made a historic jump, moving from 130th to 100th posisiton overall. Such developments strengthen India's position as a global investment destination and encourage greater opportunities for domestic and international business. India recognizes FinTech as a major priority for the development of its financial and digital infrastructure, based on recent in-country reforms such as demonetization of Indian currencyand implementation of fiscal forms.
The flagship Indian initiatives of Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and Smart India (amoungst others) have been widely promoted to invite foreign investment and innovation. Against this overall positive outlook, the legal industry is vitally important in the development of economic growth and partnerships within India on a domestic and global level. Through our collaborative work with the Indian legal profession, we continue to facilitate a diverse range of business opportunities between the UK, EU and India markets.
The India Business Group is delighted to support the GC Powerlist India for the third consecutive year as Knowledge Partner to The Legal 500 for the Indian market. On behalf of IBG's entire team, i extend our hearty congratulations to all of the general counsels included in the top 100 and wish them every success for the future.
GC Powerlist is a trading name of The Legal 500 Series and Legalease Ltd, and operates in multiple legal jurisdictions worldwide.