Assistant Editor, LAWyersClubIndia - Mr. Raghav Arora on sets with Mr. Navodit Mehra - Senior Vice President Legal at Sterlite Power, talked about various nuances of the legal corporate world. The conversation revealed surprising facts about the practice, the pros and cons, the way that one should go about in the corporate practice and even internships, and of course, about the exciting journey of Mr. Navodit Mehra. We were stupefied to know that Mr. Mehra was perhaps the first one to author a guide book for competitive examinations like CLAT. He was also the person who first floated the idea of advertising on the body of airplanes. In addition to that he is a great painter and a philosophical speaker.
All the questions and answers are below! Happy Reading!
Sir, how did you decide to pursue law and how do you define yourslef as a student in your erstwhile?
Law as a career has always been a passion for me which was decided when I was right in my school in Scindia. And when I looked at the senior lawyers and the judges, I was in awe and thought why not to join the profession and today here I am. As far as 'how I was as a student' is concerned, I was a mediocre student but passionate about certain subjects - certain subjects like history and law.
Did you have an inclination to something else other than law?
If you ask me that question, that question is very tricky in a sense that, I really wanted to be an aviator but I landed up being a aviation lawyer and I joined AIR Sahara and then AIR Deccan. So, yes! Law and aviation joined together to a large extent, but yes I was passionate about the legal profession and here I am today.
Wow, you might have enjoyed your work at AIR Sahara a lot.
So, you were at Air Deccan, then Air Sahara, Havells, Samsung and now Sterlite Power! They are corporates, but different companies - very different fields. So, how do you like Sterlite or any other company you have worked at, better than the other companies that you had worked at?
See, when you work in different industries, that gives you a different persona all together. Then you understand the nuances of the law involved in different industries, such as you rightly said aviation, then financing, then electronics, then electronics, then transmission business. So, when you are working in various industries, you come to know the capabilities and nuances of the law and how to solve the complexities of those laws. So, that gives you a list of experiences, it's just like a bouquet of flowers - the flower alone does not look good, when you have a bouquet of flowers, the experience of various industries - you are a cherished person.
Please tell us something about Sterlite and how you go about transacting with people and the institutions?
See, Power industry is a regulating industry. Whenever any industry which is regulating industry, there are a lot of legal aspects involved in it. In particular, I have been working in the regulated industry for long; be it aviation, be it finance or be this industry in particular. Laws involved in this industry are many. Particularly, we have laws like the Electricity Act and the Telegraph Act, because we are into transmission service.
What we really do is, we transport energy from generators to the discoms and this is what our business is all about. We are in the business of transporting power so we get projects under TVCV and then we complete the project and that is how it is under the Ministry of Powers - those projects come to us.
Ok, so this sounds more complicated than what I had really thought about power industries. So, discoms and generators would love to know more about them?
In simple terms, I would tell you that generators are the company which produces power. For e.g. MTPC is a generator of power. Discoms like BSES in Delhi is a distribution company of the power from where the retailers get the power - The electricity that comes to our homes or offices, that comes through BCS and you are aware of the BCS. But in between, generator and the BCS, we are there; we are the cord between these two lines and if we are not there, perhaps the power will not come to you.
So, how does this transmission in physical sense take place?
See, it's a very complex issue of technology and science. When the power is generated, there are certain cable lines which are being created and through those cables, the power comes to us.
What are the technical laws involved in Sterlite?
They are Electricity Laws in particular and Telegraph Act is the second law which is involved otherwise whenever you deal in any business, there are various laws coming to picture. For e.g. Contract Act is one of the laws which is very important in any business. The Limitation Act is important in business. Arbitration laws are important in business. So, there are a plethora of laws which come into industry but if you talk about industry specific, the industry specific laws are related to the Electricity Act and the Telegraph Act.
As the chair which leads the legal department here, how do you add value to Sterlite Power?
When you talk about the early 70's and 80's, the General Counsel or the Legal Person in a company was more of an external source. But today, in the 2000's since the late 90's, the inhouse counsel has become a part of decision making for the organization.
So, that is a shift which has taken place from External Counsel to Inhouse Counsel. So today, General Counsel is part of advising the board, advising the CEO. We are very much part of decision making for the organization; we are not only consulting external people, we are part of the company.
So, this is how the legal department functions, and what are the roles and responsibilities? - Roles and responsibilities are quite vast in the sense that whenever you have a contract, whenever we give a contract or whenever we are the contractor, there are contracts to be drafted, our duty begins right from there. From when the Contract got formed, if it goes to litigation, till litigation and the execution of that litigation.
And then Compliance Laws comes, whether we are doing things in the right manner and fashion, what is there in Contract, number 1 and what is there in statutes, number 2. So, the legal department has to take care about all these things and I consider lawyers, in house counsels in particular, we are watch-dogs for the company, we are the risk dog of the company. We should know that these are the contractual risks which are coming, we should know as in house counsels that these are statutory risks which are to the company and we should have enough resources and measures that how those risks are going to be mitigated and advised according to the CEO and the board.
Great. So. talking about the lawyers and legal head of the company, the main objective of making the business compliant is to maximize their profit. In the end it is all about profit and reducing the losses to minimum. So, when a legal department is working with decision making people and so intrinsically with the business, how much is the management part of it and how much is the pure legal part, when you are working on it?
See, I would disagree to the concept that every business operates with legal departments to make the maximum profit; it is not about making maximum profit, it is certainly about making profits, should not go into losses but today the business scenarios have changed quite a lot. What was there in early 60's and late 70's and today the companies do think that we should be legally compliant. Today the concept of business has changed. I am not saying that businesses are not there to run profit, they are there for profit, but, yes at the same time, they are also looking at the legal aspects of the business, so that we are into compliant business. We are doing profitable business but we are also doing compliant business and this is what our duty is there. We should make sure and inform the board and the CEO that how business can be compliant at the same time making profits.
So there is this notion that, corporate sector is for girls. Do you think this is right?
I don't agree with that at all, because currently, if you go to any law school, in a class of 30, today almost 28 people will opt for corporate. That's had been my experience. But, during my time, when there were 30 students in the class, only I joined the corporate. So, today the concept is changing. People are joining the corporate a lot whether they are male or female and I don't think the distinction is justified.
So, what they have in mind is that corporate is sort of 'safer' for the female legal candidates and all the rough and tough things are for the boys! What do you think?
There is nothing called 'safe' in the world. You have to really strive hard, work hard to achieve what you really want to achieve. You should go on to be an achiever. If you are in corporate, it does not mean that it is the softer side of law. No, it is not. If you think that litigation is the harder side of the law, no it is not. You have to work hard in both the places.
So, we will wrap up with what would be your message to the legal fraternity, to all the students who look up to you, who want to be in the corporate sector and want to be as successful as you are?
My message would be that - don't think that corporate is the lighter side. It is as hard as litigation and don't think that litigation is the harder side. It can be as soft as the corporate side. Be the best in whatever you really want to do. And that's the key to be on the top. Thank you so much!!
Thank you so much Sir. It was wonderful having you here with us!
Please tune into our Youtube channel to watch some behind the curtain talks with Sir, in which he reveals about his amazing journey as a student.
We thank Mr. Mehra for gracing us with his presence and giving us his precious time!