Date of birth
1 June 1975
The name of the law school from which you received your first law degree
National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
Your current law firm and office
Position within the firm:
Founder and Managing Partner
Details of any past law firms that you have worked for:
1997-2000: Mulla & Mulla & Craigie Blunt & Caroe
2000-2006: Nishith Desai Associates.
Key practice areas:
Mergers & Acquisitions, Private Equity, Venture Capital, Infrastructure Projects, Technology-Media-Telecom, Structuring of FDI.
Why you chose to focus in these areas:
When I started my career in the mid-nineties, India was a recently liberalised economy. Naturally, there was a major buzz in the air on account of foreign investments coming in, and the need for good corporate lawyers assumed boomtown proportions! The entire nation was on the cusp of momentous transformation, and to me, as a young, energetic and ambitious lawyer, focusing on corporate transactional work seemed a logical and exciting way to be a small but important contributor to that transformation.
It turned out to be a good bet, as the inflow of FDI into the country (and the legal complexities surrounding the same) just kept growing. I focused on areas where huge investments were expected to be made from foreign and Indian investors – infrastructure projects, cellular telephony, technology and so on. Simultaneously, I also decided to focus on sources of financing these sectors, and eventually found myself doing more and more equity financing work (and enjoying it immensely).
With the turn of the new millennium, as a mid-level lawyer hungry to differentiate myself from the pack, I decided to be more choosy about my focus. Accordingly, I chose PE/VC, M&A and Infrastructure projects as my key focus competencies. That is pretty much all that I have been focusing on for the past 12 years or so, though I did continue to work on the odd ADR issuance deal or the occasional project finance deal.
Details of the matter that you have worked on in your career to date that you are most proud of, and why:
While several transactions that I have advised on come to mind as very compelling candidates, I would name the below two as being the most special:
Advising the Government of the State of Andhra Pradesh on the structure and negotiating the project documentation on the GoAP's behalf in connection with the development of the Hyderabad International Airport, which was the first greenfield airport developed on a PPP basis to go operational in India. I am proud of my role in this project because as the external legal counsel to the Government, I had to work closely with the teams from the Government of AP and the Airports Authority of India – often working against heavily stacked political and bureaucratic hurdles and come up with a documentation package that would be acceptable to the private sector partner, while at the same time being protective of the welfare of the people of the State of Andhra Pradesh. This project tested not only my skills as a lawyer and a negotiator, but as a patient consensus-builder. And of course, the biggest satisfaction to me of having been involved in bringing this project to closure comes from the immense pride I feel every time I fly to Hyderabad and land at the state-of-the-art airport!
Advising General Atlantic and Oak Hill Capital, two reputable private equity firms, on their acquisition from GE of a controlling stake in Genpact (one of the largest outsourcing companies in the world). The deal was worth $500 million, which was way larger than any other private equity transaction seen in India back then. More significantly, this was one of the very first leveraged buyouts in India. On account of a web of legal restrictions, LBOs are almost impossible to do in India. In this context, only a handful of LBO deals have successfully closed till date in India, which all have involved rather complex structuring and legal and tax analysis. The Genpact buyout was one of the pioneering LBO deals that could be made to work in the Indian context.
The name of any more senior lawyers that you look up to or consider to be mentors:
Mr E A K Faizullabhoy, Senior Partner, Mulla & Mulla. Mr Nishith Desai, Founder, Nishith Desai Associates.