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Ashima Ohri

A business economist, lawyer, and writer.

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'We are now looking at a world where services may be provided by anyone from anywhere'— Sonal Basu, General Counsel, Mindtree–A Larsen & Toubro Group Company

Sonal Basu, General Counsel at Mindtree–A Larsen & Toubro Group Company in conversation with Ashima Ohri, Managing Editor, BW Legal World speaks about the positive impact of pandemic on the IT Sector and what it takes to be a true business leader.

Many Congratulations on featuring in BW Legal World’s General Counsel 100 list for the year 2020. We’d love to know about your journey so far, your most memorable experiences, and your thoughts on receiving this Award. 

At the outset, I would like to thank BW Legal World for this humbling recognition. This recognition in my view reflects self-belief, hard work, and contribution to the profession. I started my journey in the legal profession nearly two decades ago. I studied law at the prestigious Government Law College, Mumbai. While pursuing my five-year law course, I also got an opportunity to intern with a leading law firm. It was a full-fledged internship where we would start right after our morning lectures and spend the entire day at work. It gave me first-hand experience on various advisory and disputes matters for international clients. 

This recognition in my view reflects self-belief, hard work, and contribution to the profession.

After completing my bachelor's, I decided to pursue my master's degree at London School of Economics (LSE), where I specialised in corporate and commercial laws. LSE gave me an opportunity to not only meet the best practicing lawyers as our lecturers but also provided a great exposure to study in the most diverse and inclusive environment. We had students from across the globe and it was the best assimilation one could experience. After my master's, I started my career with one of the top three IT companies and have been with the industry for nearly twenty years now. Looking back, my most memorable experiences were being a Mumbai University gold and silver medallist for three consecutive years.

What do you attribute your success to? What would you say has helped you emerge as a top General Counsel in your industry?

I was fortunate to work with some great leaders when I started my career and I would attribute my success to the leadership team where I started my career as a young in-house counsel. Additionally, passion for continuous learning, hard work, client centricity, being solution-oriented, upholding and driving the culture of integrity have also been the key pillars of my success.   

What advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction? 

I would strongly urge young lawyers to uphold the highest level of integrity, be passionate about their work, and focus on doing meaningful and impactful work. But most importantly, learn to collaborate as you would always be required to deal with tough internal and external clients. They need to follow their dreams and keep learning. They need to be ahead of the curve in terms of keeping abreast with regulatory changes, understanding business requirements. It is extremely important to be well versed with the industry developments to be a true corporate commercial lawyer. It is also important to hone the skills as you go along. Last but not the least, they should work on diverse portfolios and keep expanding their horizons. A special message for working mothers is to believe in themselves and never give up. The easiest thing is to give up.

It is extremely important to be well versed with the industry developments to be a true corporate commercial lawyer. It is also important to hone the skills as you go along. Last but not the least, they should work on diverse portfolios and keep expanding their horizons. A special message for working mothers is to believe in themselves and never give up. The easiest thing is to give up.

Would you please share with our readers the array of work you handle at your organization? What is your in-house team size, and would you please allow us a little peek into your routine at work?

As General Counsel, I head the legal function and am responsible for Mindtree’s legal, regulatory, and integrity functions. I provide strategic advice to the board and executive management. Additionally, I’m on the board of subsidiary companies, and I also support diversity and inclusion initiatives, both internally and externally. I have a team of 12 lawyers and we leverage local attorneys across the many geographies we operate in, as required. My day starts either with some strategic transaction, reviewing emerging legal/ regulatory developments, focusing on some policy matters, connecting with business heads globally to understand any upcoming transactions. I also spend time with my team to provide leadership and support where required.

In what ways has your business sector/industry been impacted by the pandemic and the subsequent second wave? How long would it take for the industry to revive?

While every industry has been impacted by the pandemic, for the IT sector, this will prove to be a blessing in disguise. Going digital has now become the new strategic imperative for all businesses and technology is being embraced like never before. We are now looking at a world where services may be provided by anyone from anywhere, something which was unthinkable for many organizations just a year or so ago. The IT industry has been fortunate that we can deliver services remotely and this has been a key to keeping our people safe. Some of our business verticals such as travel and transportation did experience some pandemic effects, but this was counterbalanced by growth in other business units. 

Going digital has now become the new strategic imperative for all businesses and technology is being embraced like never before. We are now looking at a world where services may be provided by anyone from anywhere, something which was unthinkable for many organizations just a year or so ago.


What have been your key learnings as the legal gatekeepers of your company from the year past and what are your predictions for the future? 

As a true business leader, one needs to ensure that corporate governance, ethics, and integrity are the core of any business. I have been fortunate to be part of organisations that strongly believed in these values. Leveraging the latest technology to drive automation, being innovative from a business solutions standpoint, focusing on streamlining the processes, and ensuring healthy working relationships with internal and external clients are some of the key learnings from the past and for the future.

Leveraging the latest technology to drive automation, being innovative from a business solutions standpoint, focusing on streamlining the processes, and ensuring healthy working relationships with internal and external clients are some of the key learnings from the past and for the future.

Any significant legislation or decision of the top court that has been a welcome change or has been rather mistimed in your opinion. 

Recognizing the ‘right to privacy’ as an intrinsic part of the fundamental right by the Supreme Court of India in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs Union of India, was one among the favourable decisions. This national focus on privacy issues dovetailed with the international wave of data protection legislation, especially the GDPR, and highlighted India's critical role in data protection within the global arena. The new developments on this front, specifically India's proposed Personal Data Privacy Bill 2019, and the discussions around it, have been a boon for Indian companies operating in the global arena. It highlights the growing awareness and importance of data privacy in the national conversation. In this new environment, international clients and partners are able to trust our commitment to implementing best practices and protecting the right to privacy upheld by the highest court in the country.

India's proposed Personal Data Privacy Bill 2019, and the discussions around it, have been a boon for Indian companies operating in the global arena.

An experience, matter, or person that left a lasting impression on you.

During my three-year-long internship while doing law, I got an opportunity to interact with some senior partners and counsels that helped me grow personally and professionally. Few qualities that helped me prepare professionally are planning and thinking ahead, having a keen eye for details, being meticulous, mastering the art of excellence, and being abreast with facts.


What keeps you busy when you’re not working? 

When I am not working, I am strictly am an outdoor person. I developed a passion for running when I was in the USA and managed to continue it even after returning to India. I love trekking and one of my fondest memories is completing the Everest Base Camp trek. Recently, I had also started golf lessons. Unfortunately, they were interrupted by the pandemic. My husband and my two boys, aged 14 and 9, also share similar passions. Hence, it’s great to spend some quality family time and bond on such interesting hobbies. I also love teaching, have taken a seminar course for final year students at NLS, Bangalore and I’m a guest speaker at IIM Bangalore.

I love trekking and one of my fondest memories is completing the Everest Base Camp trek. Recently, I had also started golf lessons. Unfortunately, they were interrupted by the pandemic. My husband and my two boys, aged 14 and 9, also share similar passions. Hence, it’s great to spend some quality family time and bond on such interesting hobbies.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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