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Ashima Ohri

A business economist, lawyer, and writer.

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Meera Singh, General Counsel at KPMG India Predicts Increased Investments in Digital Collaboration and Communication Tools

With an experience spanning 27 years, Meera Singh reflects on her exciting journey, life at KPMG, and her key learnings through the covid-induced crisis. She anticipates the revival of different markets to be staggered with factors such as speed of vaccination and opening up of markets playing a significant role, in this effervescent interview with Ashima Ohri, Managing Editor of BW Legal World.

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. 

To be recognised by BW for my role as a General Counsel in just 3 years of my taking on this role is very humbling and I am very thankful for the recognition.

27 years in the profession has been a very exciting journey. The learning is—there is no shortcut. The only way to succeed is through dedication and sincere work.


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?

 

At KPMG in India, there are varied portfolios of responsibilities ranging from advising the CEO, the Board and the management of the Firm on various legal and business matters. To name a few, strategic disputes, mediating with aggrieved employees, handling the complaints, legal due diligence, compliances, data privacy, designing policies and procedures, implementing contractual safeguards etc.

 

We also proactively advise the management to help steer the business in the right direction and work in confidence with the leaders and other senior management on the key strategic initiatives of the Firm.

 

Given the size of the firm, we have a team of 11 members, and we continue to expand our team.

 

The nature of work keeps us on our toes through the day, week, month, and year.

 

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?

 

As I reflect on these last one and a half years, three aspects stand out --

 

•             We responded well to the changing requirements due to the pandemic in terms of solutions we took to clients.  We brought great ideas to our clients and helped them execute and realize the benefits of those ideas.  This has been a particular feature of our response to the Covid-induced crisis. 

•             As an organization, we realized we could do a lot with a lot less. We took a prudent approach in terms of our overheads and expenses.

•             And last, but not least, our purpose remained central to all our actions and decisions.  At KPMG, we have defined our purpose as inspiring confidence, empowering change. And there are so many examples from the last one and a half years, both with clients and in the case of our own people.

 

In the second wave, we learned to be constantly prepared to respond to challenges, to place people and empathy for them at the top of our priorities, and to move forward with a robust sense of optimism.

 

In terms of revival, different markets will recover at varied paces, given the speed of vaccination and opening up of markets.  We are likely to see increased investments in digital collaboration and communication tools, and we should expect business travel to resume to pre-pandemic levels in the latter half of 2022.

 

We expect the normalcy to return only in 2022.

 

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?

 

Innovation is the need of the hour. As a GC, it is important to be a problem solver, helping resolve issues in a practical, timely, and business-friendly manner. In my view, GCs need to have strong business acumen. Keeping abreast of the changes around as the law is constantly changing.

Focus on reducing litigation for the Firm. To keep a track of changes in the wide regulatory framework applicable to the Firm. To keep a track of the best practices that our peers follow. I believe that GC is not only a support function but has a dynamic role of a strategic advisor.

Earlier doing something new was perceived as a risk, but today not doing something new is a risk.

 

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

 

Data Privacy

Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code necessitating changes in the content moderating policy of intermediaries is a bold and much-needed step, given the central role assumed by social-media intermediaries in society in today's day and age. Positive obligations/duties cast upon intermediaries (such as periodical notification to users, stringent take-down procedures, time-bound grievance redressal mechanisms), should ultimately go a long way in striking a balance between competing (and often conflicting) rights to privacy, right to information, and freedom of expression.

 

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


A matter and learning that still stays with me till date is the Jury trial in Supreme Court of New York that I had worked on in my AZB & Partner days. It was a learning paradise for any lawyer, and I am grateful that I got an opportunity to work on such a matter.

 

What keeps you busy when you’re not working? 

 

I enjoy gardening and listening to music. It rejuvenates me.


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

 

There is a saying, “Behind every successful woman, there is herself”. What has worked for me are hard work, passion, and honesty towards my work. Without passion and honesty, I would not have survived this profession for 27 years. Of course, support from the family, friends, and colleagues have been there, but at the end of the day, belief in my own self took me ahead. My father had immense faith in me and that helped me a lot in my journey.

 

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

 

Self-belief is the key to success. Trust yourself. This helps in making the right decisions.

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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