Legal director, South Asia
Formerly Heidelberg Cement’s legal and compliance head, Surabhi Agarwal now takes on legal directorship responsibilities for the whole of South Asia (covering 15 countries in the Southeast Asia Pacific region) at AkzoNobel, and was recently – in October 2018 – admitted into the global legal leadership team with a direct reporting line into to global general counsel and member of executive committee Isabelle Deschamps. She regards this milestone as her foremost career highlight. Her work as team lead has been complex and has required a multi-faceted approach to management. ‘The team has consistently contracted in size in recent years and we have had to do more with less’, says Agarwal. ‘We have overcome the challenges by ensuring that synergy, helping each other succeed and working transparently got embedded in the team ethos. An important aspect of leading a high-performance team has been identifying and leveraging on each individual’s strengths and making the most of those strengths to bring about high productivity and maintain quality’. Having successfully honed the team’s skills to a high level, Agarwal and her team have been at the forefront of a number of critical transactions for the company. These have ranged from defending high-value product liability claims, supporting high-value disputes further afield, leading the discrimination and harassment work stream of the AkzoNobel human rights program, the separation of AkzoNobel’s specialty chemicals business from the paints and coatings business in South Asia and the acquisition of a decorative paints and powder coatings businesses in the region. The complexity of these deals and projects, as well as their variety, highlight the excellent quality of work Agarwal’s team consistently produces.