“Ethics plays a major role in the legal strategies of companies… It contributes to achieving good governance and increases the reputation in the market.” – Panduranga Acharya, General Counsel at Zepto

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

Your journey from the courtroom to the boardroom is fascinating. Could you share with us how you embarked on your career in law, what inspired you to pursue this path, and the challenges you encountered in the initial stages of your career?

Firstly, it’s a pleasure to share my thoughts at and thank you for this opportunity. I began my career as a litigating lawyer, and over time, I worked my way up the ladder to become a general counsel. Throughout this journey, I’ve consistently applied a general counsel mindset. I’ve also built strong relationships by actively participating in discussions, which has led to a more collaborative and efficient team environment

I chose to be a lawyer because I was intrigued by how lawyers conduct themselves and their influence on society. I thought lawyers could make a real difference in people’s lives, specifically protecting rights and their ability to help others was always a powerful motivator.

The initial days of my career weren’t that easy, as a first-generation lawyer, I had to struggle to find a lawyer’s office for my initial training and in those days, the law firms were limited and the scope for legal professionals in the companies was also limited or not much evolved. Thankfully, after visiting many offices, I found an opportunity with an individual legal practitioner and had the privilege to assist him in diverse matters, predominantly in Writs. After a short stint with the court practice, I pursued in-house opportunities. But, the initial period of court practice helped me a lot to grow as a professional.

With such an impressive journey through various corporations, how do you see Zepto’s approach to quick commerce changing the game in India’s online grocery sector?

The e-commerce landscape is undergoing a rapid transformation fueled by technological advancements and ever-evolving regulations. The past decade has witnessed high adoption of e-commerce in many segments and has changed the way how India shops. Zepto’s quick delivery service is not only a pioneer in itself but also sets industry standards, only to be followed by other players.

The meteoric rise of quick commerce, a space where customer satisfaction is king, perfectly exemplifies this need for change. Zepto, loved by consumers for its lightning-fast delivery, is redefining the e-commerce shopping experience for them. Zepto’s success highlights a shift in consumer preferences. People are increasingly seeking immediate gratification, and I think Zepto fills that gap.

You may even look at the market size, there are a few analysts that estimate a market size exceeding $45 billion, indicating immense room for expansion for quick commerce. Traditional players like grocery chains are also entering the fray, offering quick delivery service options alongside established models. This healthy competition benefits consumers with wider choices and potentially better service. I am glad that I am part of this transition of e-commerce.

From courtroom battles to corporate boardrooms, you’ve navigated diverse legal landscapes. Your career trajectory began in private practice as an Associate Advocate before transitioning to corporate roles. What prompted your shift from the courtroom to corporate environments?

While my initial legal experience in practicing counsel was invaluable, it wasn’t until I transitioned in-house that I discovered a particular pull towards the corporate world. There, the focus shifted from handling individual cases to the bigger picture – the strategic legal needs of a company. This appealed to my desire to be a part of something larger and contribute to a company’s overall success. I went on to serve companies in the telecom retail and telecom services sector and during my stint there, I always looked for solutions which make economically sensible to the organization, which led to sharpening my skills to solve with out-of-the-box solutions.

However, the real turning point came when I witnessed the burgeoning e-commerce industry. The Flipkart experience crystallized my focus. The legal landscape of e-commerce was dynamic, constantly evolving and challenging too. It offered a unique blend of established legal principles applied in a completely new and exciting way. But these challenges were what excited me most. I saw an opportunity to not only be a legal expert but also a pioneer, contributing to shaping the legal framework for this rapidly growing sector.

Having worked with giants like Flipkart and Swiggy, what inspired your transition to Zepto?

This is an interesting question, but interestingly my answer is, that when I joined Flipkart and also Swiggy, they were not giants. I have enjoyed working in growth-stage organizations, which will have a lot to achieve and solve unique growth-related legal issues, building companies brick by brick. It gave me a sense of gratification and professional satisfaction. I think I like to be part of companies, which have the potential to scale up faster and rigour in leadership to achieve the same. The growth phase of any organization is gratifying for someone like me. Like Jakma said, one can be part of the process, by joining a big organization or joining a small company, to learn passion.

Although I have been associated with the e-commerce sector for more than a decade I think e-commerce is still not at its peak and quick commerce is a recent avtaar of e-commerce and Zepto has the rigor and the opportunity with such intensity to lead it from the front.

Your involvement with INBA and CII reflects a commitment beyond corporate duties. How do you balance professional obligations with your contributions to legal and regulatory frameworks in India’s e-commerce ecosystem?

As I mentioned earlier, e-commerce is evolving and there the laws also keep updated, rightly so. The involvement with INBA and CII commitments are much aligned with what I do and I take out time from official and personal time to ensure I contribute. It helps me understand the landscape of the ex-ante regulatory framework applicable to e-commerce and helps me with long-term strategic advice. Therefore, it makes sense to take part in the lawmaking process considering these laws will have an impact on the sector and ease of doing business is conducive.

With 20 years of experience, you’ve witnessed the evolution of India’s legal and regulatory landscape. How do you foresee the role of legal professionals adapting to future shifts in the industry, especially with emerging technologies and business models?

Yes, the introduction of the Information Technology Act, the new Company’s Act, IBC and the new Consumer Protection Act are significant in revolutionizing the regulatory landscape besides forex laws. The new Digital Personal Data Protection Act, new Labour Codes and the new Criminal laws are expected to be game changers, these laws not only like to bring more clarity for legal professionals but also pose challenges to adoption. Therefore, one should be on the edge always to evaluate their business operations, and ensure compliance with new laws. It in a way enhances the importance of legal professionals be it in-house or practicing ones.

I think the in-house counsel should wear the hat of risk officers and constantly apply the upcoming regulatory framework to their business practices and identity, mitigate likely risks and thereby contribute to the company’s success. The cost of non-compliance will be huge in the coming years.

Outside the legal realm, what hobbies or interests do you pursue to unwind and rejuvenate?

That is most important, I am a sporadic reader and follow current affairs. Apart from that in my free time, I prefer to travel and explore new places and cultures. I generally like to connect with people and learn from their experiences. I follow cricket and kabaddi as sports.

For those starting their career journey, what lessons or advice would you share from your own experiences, particularly regarding resilience and adaptability in the face of industry disruptions and challenges?

My advice to the youngsters starting their career in the legal profession is to be as humble as a monk, as empathetic as a therapist, and as fearless as a superhero. Of course, there will be competition, but don’t let that stop you. Stay ahead of the game by keeping yourself updated and making lots of friends. When it comes to making decisions, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. Remember, even the best lawyers make mistakes sometimes. Don’t be afraid of the mistakes, the important thing is to learn from them.

Your role involves a wide array of responsibilities, from legal matters to policy advocacy. How do you stay updated and informed about the latest trends and developments in the industry, and what sources do you rely on for insights?

As I mentioned earlier, policy advocacy ensures ease of doing business and helps predict compliance risks. One should think of risk in everything, be it contract, litigation or compliance

and the goodness one will bring to the table for any organization is to protect the company from business continuity risk and financial risks. Whether or not one likes it, staying updated on the latest developments in the industry has become mandatory. I generally follow the latest developments through the industry bodies and the respective ministry websites. Keep track of ongoing developments in the sector besides, talking to the industry folks.

With the rapid digitization of commerce, what role do you believe ethics and social responsibility play in the legal strategies of companies, and how do you ensure these values are upheld in your work?

In my opinion, ethics plays a major role in the legal strategies of companies. It is very important to ensure the business practices adopted by the companies are ethical and it is adopted as a culture (ethics by design), expecting the employees and vendors to maintain the ethical standards and thereby enhance the customer trust. It contributes to achieving good governance and increases the reputation in the market. Social responsibility can be twofold, you may have to comply with the legal requirements of CSR and the other one is ensuring the business practices are sustainable, and environment-friendly, like the adoption of electric scooters, responsible use of plastic etc.

Get in touch with Panduranga Acharya–

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