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'IBC is yet not industry-friendly; many loopholes for the delinquent parties'—Sharad Sharma, Head of Legal Affairs, South Asia for Tetra Pak

Ashima Ohri, our Managing Editor speaks with Sharad Sharma, Head of Legal Affairs, South Asia for Tetra Pak, a Swedish MNC. Sharad is one of BW Legal World's Top 100 General Counsel for 2020 and certainly believes brevity is the soul of wit. Turned into a rapid-fire conversation, Sharad succinctly sheds light on industry roadblocks; scope for improvement in legal tech; and his journey so far in this quick as a flash interview.

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. 

Thanks. It was indeed a wonderful experience and am grateful to be a part of the league. Also, thanks for providing a window to share our thoughts on current economic and business issues.


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

The trick is in the doing. Both strategic outlook and right and fast execution took me here. But miles to go.


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

Be honest to yourself – keeping contributing with full honestly to the best of your abilities for anything that comes your way. Two aspects to consider when working on a challenging task- whether you know how to handle it or not; if you knowexecute it, if notreach out to the right stakeholders immediately. Teamwork with the right and fast approach is the key for high performers.


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 Tetra Pak, we have a small but highly capable team of three dual-qualified professionals (CS + Lawyers) with an average experience of 14-15 years. We manage to provide proactive legal support to the South Asian region (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives) of the organization- compliance, contracts, dispute resolutions, settlements, credit control and recovery actions, trade flows, export control, intellectual property including automation and digitization, brand management, risk mitigation, food safety, sustainability, environment: with business strategy, growth projects and business continuity are at the core. We partner with public affairs for policy advocacy to contribute based on our international experience. We also provide strategic support for several industry alliances in the region to drive away common industry issues.


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? 

Fortunately, the food business is not much impacted, and we saw a spiral revival during the last two quarters. However, can’t say much about the second wave but the government is better prepared to support the industry than the wave one.


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? 

Cash management/ recovery has been the main concern during last year and this year. We have to support our customers and at the same time maintaining the working capital continues to be an issue.


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

For MNCs- the recent SC judgement on foreign seat for contracts between Indian companies is a welcome move because most of our major suppliers or customers are global and they are more comfortable with Singapore laws/seat than India. IBC is yet not industry-friendly and there are many loopholes for the delinquent parties.


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

Process improvements have always been my forte and with contracts management, site services compliance automation, we as legal counsels are able to focus more on busines/ strategic issues than on regular churning of work.


Company Law Departments of the future: LegalTech tools that are transforming the traditional methods of in-house legal work in India. 

As mentioned, we already have site services compliances tool, contracts management, contracts repository, legal research tools. Contract review is a distant reality and the tools available are not fully developed to fit the purpose eg. LawGeex, LegalSifter but we are reviewing it continuously.


Lastly, what keeps you busy when you’re not working? Any favourite book or movie/series that you'd like to recommend to our readers. 

Multiple things – I love to play piano, play with my lovely daughter (Lavanya) and my pet (Buddy). I like to view podcasts on different topics known/unknown to me – I am a bit curious at times.


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