zia mody, co-founder and dealing with companion of azb & companions, explains why she chose the felony profession, why it’s miles difficult for ladies legal professionals, and her price gadget
she is certainly one of india’s pinnacle company legal professionals and the move-to man or woman whilst a few big deal or restructuring is deliberate. from the acquisition of jaguar land rover through the tatas, the l&t-mindtree deal, the cairn-vedanta deal, softbank buying a stake in ola or, more lately, the hdfc-hdfc financial institution merger, zia mody, co-founder and handling associate of azb & companions, has had a function to play in they all. in an interview with business these days’s international business editor udayan mukherjee, she well-knownshows what attracted her to the criminal discipline, her suggestion, and the commercial enterprise chief she looks up to. edited excerpts:
q: zia, allow me start by means of asking you if it’s far an interesting time to be a legal professional in india these days, due to the fact there’s a lot occurring—inside the m&a landscape, with overseas direct investment pouring in, and even the a great deal spoken approximately judicial activism in the public sphere. it need to be interesting.
a: have a look at my face, udayan! isn’t it looking excited? i suppose it’s far one of the most captivating periods for any young legal professional to be part of the entire improvement of company m&a, and of criminal jurisprudence—either arguing in courtroom or being a younger corporate legal professional sitting in on a mega m&a deal. the world has changed from approximately 20 years in the past, in which regulation turned into now not always the first calling of choice. however now, turning into a lawyer and hoping to aspire and reach the pinnacle of your sport is very lots a opportunity and a dream that many children need to dream. and therefore, we’re seeing many extra proficient children join the legal career than we noticed before. so, the easy solution on your question is a huge yes.
q: without a doubt, i don’t recall the career being this type of principal element and parcel of public discourse as it’s miles nowadays; all this speak approximately the judiciary sincerely being an offset to the govt. do you accept as true with the ensuing allegations of judicial overreach, or do you aid the view that the judiciary wishes to end up a part of public existence as it seems to have turn out to be in our united states these days?
a: there are times when there are troughs and peaks of what you name judicial activism. in my view, i welcome judicial activism. sure, occasionally it may be overreaching, whilst you come to be calling the government back on weekends and ask them to give you a faculty document. however apart from that, it’s miles what continues all 3 branches [of a democracy] in test, reminding each that they are ultimately responsible for their behaviour. it is clear to me there are some matters that might in no way have came about with out judicial intervention. you are taking the writ of habeas corpus, the problem of undertrials being stored in prison, the situation in orphanages, so many public hobby litigations which have brought about trade in rules, higher government behaviour, and a sense of wariness that in case you overstep the ethical line, the superb court docket is there to haul you up and ask you to be accountable.
q: you have labored with so many ceos and managements over time. could you assert indian promoters innately appreciate the regulation or are they usually trying to work around it, bend it, or tweak it in some way?
a: as constantly, there’s nobody easy solution. there are ceos these days who, over the past 10 years, have changed and known that trying to skirt the law or be over adorable, or cross too near the edge, isn’t always effective due to the fact whilst the regulator comes after you, then you need to solution for all that cuteness. so, many ceos nowadays come and ask me—what’s the proper course of behavior, that’s the least risky, maybe just a little unstable, but they not ask for the outright volatile direction; they simply don’t want to know that. so, the threat urge for food, if you like, has decreased, which is a alternate inside the dna of the way of life of the indian organization. those are larger corporations that go to marketplace, frequently with lots of overseas direct funding in them, and a recognition which desires to be included. and so i see this modification for sure in those ceos.
then there are, of course, smaller agencies where you’ve got a combination. there are a few that still have a high risk appetite and are inclined to stand regulatory intervention. and there are some which may also yet be small, however know that personal equity (pe) will come for them, and they’ll come at a top rate simplest if your song [file] is good.
q: i want to get lower back to the begin of your story, zia. as a younger female, were you constantly going to be a legal professional, having been born into such an illustrious felony fold, or turned into there something intrinsically or philosophically attractive approximately law as a profession, which drew you in?
a: no, i don’t think at the age of 20-25, i would had been attracted by using the philosophy of regulation. as a younger girl, it turned into very exciting to see my father practising as a attorney. and he became in courtroom every day, but the whole own family would have dinner together. and then you would pay attention most of these conversations—one aspect of the communique besides—via a walkie-talkie smartphone that existed in those days. it was usually frenetic, lively, argumentative, ; having to win on every occasion, combating the entirety as a war, in no way a skirmish. and, given that i also have pretty an argumentative nature, it appealed right now.
for me it turned into almost like osmosis. i don’t don’t forget ever wanting to do anything however the law.
q: it have to were heartbreaking to lose your father to covid-19 ultimate 12 months. what are your key learnings from soli sorabjee, the jurist? simply inspiration as a younger woman, or are most of the matters in your guidebook drawn from what he taught you?
a: i assume the value machine, which he requested me to observe from the first day. i worked in the united states for almost five years at a firm called baker & mckenzie, the big apple, and came back essentially to get married and step into every other world altogether. my table become a small, 4 ft with the aid of 5 feet table which i shared with my senior, and we had no secretary. it was sweaty and packed and complete of papers. and, it became virtually beginning from scratch. it became arguing in courtroom rather than an m&a transaction that i would be working on in big apple. my father turned into in delhi, i used to be in bombay. so, we by no means virtually were given to training within the identical metropolis. however he could continually inform me—don’t forget that the last man or woman you’re arguing earlier than is a choose, and which you are usually an officer of the courtroom; that your consumer is crucial, however in no way extra critical than your popularity with the judge. and he constantly used to inform me that if you say one factor incorrect in a single be counted, earlier than one choose, you’ve got had it. they all have lunch together, and you will have ruined your recognition over one lunch. when you are added up on this advice, you constantly should do the right aspect. that doesn’t imply you can’t combat heart and soul in your customer. but there’s a restrict beyond that you need now not travel. and, ought not to journey. your experience of self esteem and self assurance, and your ability to sleep at night time with out vexing approximately what you probably did at some point of the day is a ways extra essential than winning that fight with the incorrect means. so i’ve continually grown as much as well known clients as critical, however not vitally necessary to my existence if they go my ethical compass.
and with the ones values, the clients in turn admire you due to the fact they recognize that the ethical compass you deliver to them is for their benefit. i’m not getting whatever out in their accurate behaviour, i’m just shielding them. and slowly and definitely as you grow older, and fatter and wiser, human beings take you a bit extra critically. so that was one of my father’s best lessons to me and suggest to me. just make certain something you do, you’re capable of deliver the recommendation in a manner that you don’t regret turning in day after today.
q: and what he may also or might not have instructed you became that every one those judges who had lunch together, were mainly guys. there might be absolute confidence that you were getting into a male bastion. what was it like? would you tell a younger lady who is thinking about regulation as a career today that things are hugely distinctive than when you got into this profession?
a: so it’s in buckets, udayan. these days, if you’re a working towards counsellor or a barrister, as a lady, even after such a lot of many years, i can say it’s far still extremely hard. i’m no longer positive i can placed my finger on it, apart from to mention that it’s a hard international to interrupt into. and, as a female, it certainly calls for more time and commitment to expose that you are as appropriate as your peer who’s a male.
i remember when i was a young barrister, i might continually work 30 per cent greater than my male counterpart because i used to be capital p for paranoia. i couldn’t manage to pay for to make a unmarried mistake in courtroom, due to the fact i used to be so conscious that i was possibly the most effective female who turned into arguing that be counted on that day. so as arguing suggest, nevertheless now not appropriate at all. i think we’ve got a long manner to head. it’s far very hard to be dancing and prancing and appearing day after day for eight hours, making ready for some other 5 hours at night time for tomorrow, and having to multitask as a female without the important social infrastructure and atmosphere.
as a company lawyer or as a non-litigating lawyer, it has grow to be much less difficult for ladies. now not extraordinarily smooth, however plenty less complicated. and that is actually because in today’s international, all of us needs skills. and if they need talent, then girls are talent. so, you may’t come up with the money for to just let any vibrant lady drop off the landscape and fade far from the firm without making that attempt to retain that wonderful supply of talent. so, it is getting higher for positive on that front.
q: you’ve been at the leading edge of many of those recent pe deals just like the softbank-ola deal, which have created such a large range of unicorns. what do you make of this trend? i used to be talking to your friend ronnie screwvala, who stated pe can come to be an lead to itself. could you sound a word of caution as properly, given the kind of valuations which might be being drummed up via pe infusion in india these days?
a: you may’t have it each ways, proper? you can’t say i want these extremely good valuations however not welcome the person who goes to offer them to you. so, it’s miles the mixture between wherein the promoter wants to draw his or her very own line, and the pe investor that is willing to wager on you. for the young unicorns, the pe [investor] is having a bet on people who can have the power to show the cost that they give into even higher values. and in nowadays’s world, india is getting a completely first-rate proportion of the pockets from the sector of private fairness.
you’re taking a promoter like ronnie, who has been successful time and again, and he has essentially been able to create those highly treasured institutions and agencies, so human beings are betting on him and the young human beings that he’s running with. if they offer the cost, then they expect an go out, for that’s the guideline of the sport—in case you want a value which is notable, provide me an go out that is extra.
and in order that cycle and that merry-pass-spherical is going on but i suppose that pe is immensely crucial and precious to the u . s . a . because it has allowed the world to realise our agencies. and it has put a cost on our groups that didn’t exist 10 years ago. so, nowadays when you see our mid-sized companies, not always our listed ones, these younger entrepreneurs having access to this money can most effective be suitable. and if the exit is something the pe asks for, you negotiate it, you get the excellent deal you can. that’s the charge of the money.
q: i also want to invite you about some of the huge offers that are going on in the disinvestment panorama. what form of felony bedrock is important to get these transactions carried out on your eyes? because, on one hand, you try to sell a bpcl and then again, you freeze retail prices of fuel for months leading to massive losses. do you observed some of this felony provisioning wishes to be in location that allows you to attract high first-class bidders for a number of the authorities belongings?
a: the government changed into pretty smart inside the air india deal wherein we represented tata. in the long run, the government to my mind behaved like a non-public birthday party transacting. so, if the complete debt burden could now not had been taken over by means of a very good bidder, they handled that. when it came to unions and personnel, they handled that. so, i think the disinvestment arm of the authorities has finally figured that for the pleasant value, they’ve were given to offer an attractive deal. so, while you are speaking about bpcl, if the losses retain and the deregulation difficulty and the pricing does now not get resolved, the authorities is certainly not going to get a very good fee.
q: i also want to ask where you stand in this complete controversy brewing in karnataka, with the excessive court upholding the ban on hijab in colleges. if you were part of this case, what could your contention be on a depend which has struck any such countrywide chord?
a: my personal view is that religion is this type of non-public thing of one’s every day existence, that to intrude past a factor is constantly counterproductive.
any sick will isn’t as essential as the feeling of security which you want in a population of this length. this must be resolved in a manner where communities don’t feel scared and consider leaving the u . s . a .. they shouldn’t sense they aren’t a part of the motherland. so, the ultimate court will resolve it, i’m positive.
q: sooner or later, having worked with so many pinnacle industrialists over the past couple of many years, in case you had been to unmarried out one or folks who really struck you as guys of impeccable integrity, who might those be?
a: my few interactions with mr ratan tata have all been first rate; constantly clean-headed and the steady refrain turned into continually, what was the right factor we must do? i suppose that has been the dna of the group for as long as i can do not forget.
there are other commercial enterprise houses which have been definitely interesting to paintings with, just for their sheer intellectual brilliance and their execution functionality. however i would still say that if i have a fondness for one group, it might be the house of tata.