Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

“Integrity is paramount. Build a strong foundation in legal principles, network actively, and gain practical experience through internships.” – AGM, Head – Business Ethics Compliance Officer at MANKIND PHARMA LTD

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

Could you please tell us about how you started your career in law? Who or what inspired you to choose this path, and can you walk us through your journey, including the struggles you faced in the initial days of your career? 

My journey into law started with a deep fascination for the legal system. My father wanted me to be a Chartered Accountant, so I chose commerce in high school and enrolled in a B.Com course at Delhi University. However, after just a month, I had a sudden realization that it was “now or never” to follow my true passion. Almost overnight, I moved to Pune to pursue a 5-year law course.

Growing up, I was inspired by my uncle, a renowned lawyer in Assam. His approach to complex situations left a profound impression on me. This, combined with my interest in understanding the intricacies of the law, was all the motivation I needed to pursue a career in law.

I started my career at R. K. Dewan & Co., a law firm known for its expertise in intellectual property law, thanks to a pre-placement offer I had received from them. The initial days were tough—the transition from academic learning to practical application was a steep learning curve. I faced the typical struggles of a novice lawyer: long hours, complex cases, and the pressure to prove myself, all while adjusting to a new city, Mumbai. However, looking back, I’m thankful for these experiences as they helped shape my professional skills and resilience.

You started your career working with R. K. Dewan & Co., and after 1.5 years, you transitioned to Reliance Communications. What motivated your shift from working in a law firm to taking on a role in the corporate sector? 

Joining Reliance was a strategic move for me, marking my entry into the corporate sector. I wanted to be more directly involved in business operations and strategy. The opportunity to work within a company, helping to shape its direction and growth from the inside, was incredibly appealing. Honestly, I was excited by the variety of challenges the job would involve.

During my time at RKD, I developed a strong understanding of Intellectual Property laws, which was immensely valuable. However, as I mentioned, I wanted to gain a broader perspective and immerse myself in the business environment. Moving to the corporate sector offered me the chance to see how various legal frameworks operate within the broader context of a business, beyond just IP law.

How do you see the field of business ethics and compliance evolving in the next five to ten years, and what new challenges and opportunities do you anticipate? 

In the next five to ten years, the field of business ethics and compliance will be significantly influenced by technological advancements, globalization, and increasing societal expectations.

Technologies such as AI, blockchain, and big data analytics will enhance compliance monitoring and fraud detection but also pose challenges related to data privacy and algorithmic bias. As businesses expand globally, they will need robust compliance frameworks to navigate diverse regulatory landscapes. The growing demand for transparency and sustainable practices will drive more stringent reporting requirements and elevate the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations.

The primary challenges will include integrating ethical considerations into advanced technologies and maintaining compliance across different jurisdictions with evolving regulations. However, businesses that effectively leverage these technologies can achieve cost savings and operational efficiencies. Companies that prioritize ethics and compliance will gain a competitive edge by building strong reputations and fostering trust with stakeholders.

As the Head of Business Ethics Compliance at Mankind Pharma, what are your primary responsibilities and how do they contribute to the organization’s success?

My primary responsibilities at Mankind Pharma include overseeing the implementation of the company’s business ethics compliance program, ensuring adherence to regulatory requirements, and fostering a culture of integrity and accountability. I work closely with various departments to develop and enforce policies that align with the company’s mission of delivering affordable and quality healthcare.

These responsibilities directly contribute to the organization’s success by mitigating legal risks, enhancing the company’s reputation, and building trust with stakeholders.

In high-stress roles like yours, maintaining work-life balance can be challenging. What strategies do you use to maintain this balance effectively? Also what hobbies or passions do you follow to unwind yourself?

It requires a deliberate effort and effective time management. I prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, delegate responsibilities when possible, and ensure that I set aside time for self-care and family.

Listening to music is my favourite way to unwind; it helps me relax and recharge. Finding time for hobbies can be challenging in today’s fast-paced world, but I’ve discovered that taking short vacations, spending quality time with friends and family, and carving out small moments for personal gratification are essential.

Based on your extensive experience, what advice would you give to young professionals aspiring to build a career in legal and compliance, particularly in the field of business ethics? 

To develop a strong foundation in legal principles and continuously update their knowledge to keep pace with evolving regulations. Integrity is paramount in this field, so always strive to uphold the highest standards of honesty and fairness.

Networking is also crucial. Building relationships with peers, mentors, and industry professionals can provide valuable insights and opportunities for career growth. Additionally, gaining practical experience through internships in compliance-related roles can help you understand the real-world applications of theoretical knowledge.

How important do you think networking is in the field of legal and compliance, and how do you go about building and maintaining your professional network? 

Extremely important. It not only helps in staying updated with industry trends and best practices but also provides opportunities for professional growth and collaboration. I actively participate in industry conferences, seminars, and professional associations to connect with peers and experts.

What are some key qualities and skills that you believe are essential for success in the field of business ethics and compliance?

First and foremost, integrity is paramount. They must lead by example. Analytical thinking is another crucial skill. The ability to dissect complex regulations, identify potential risks, and develop effective compliance strategies is essential. This involves a keen eye for detail and the capacity to anticipate and address issues before they escalate. Communication skills are also vital. Whether it’s training employees or reporting to senior management, the ability to clearly and effectively convey information is crucial. This also includes the ability to listen and understand the concerns of various stakeholders. Adaptability is important given the dynamic nature of regulations and the business environment.

Finally, leadership and interpersonal skills are critical. Building a culture of compliance requires influencing and motivating others, often without direct authority. This means fostering strong relationships, earning trust, and inspiring a shared commitment across the organization.

What are some common misconceptions about business ethics and compliance that you have encountered?

The most common misconception is that “Business ethics and compliance are primarily about policing and punishment”. Many people view compliance departments as only enforcers who are there to catch and penalize wrongdoers. Maybe this was even true a decade ago! Not anymore. The true essence of business ethics and compliance is to act as advisors who guide and support the organization in making decisions.

Another misconception is that compliance is solely the responsibility of the compliance department. In reality, business ethics and compliance are the responsibility of every employee, from the top executives to the entry-level staff.

Lastly, some believe that compliance is a static, one-time effort. In truth, it’s an ongoing process that requires continuous improvement and adaptation to new challenges and regulatory changes.

How has your background in law influenced your approach to managing business ethics and compliance?

Significantly. Firstly, it has provided me with a strong foundation in legal principles and regulatory frameworks, which is essential for developing and implementing effective compliance programs.

Moreover, my legal experience so far has honed my analytical and critical thinking skills, enabling me to identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. Additionally, it has taught me the importance of clear and precise communication. Whether drafting policies, conducting training sessions, etc., the ability to articulate complex legal concepts in an understandable manner is key to fostering a culture of compliance.

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