“The intersection of law and company secretaryship provides a comprehensive perspective for addressing legal intricacies within a corporate environment.”- Varun Prabhakar, Legal Head at Devyani International Limited

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Sir, could you please  share your journey and the pivotal moments that led you to pursue a career in law, eventually becoming the Legal Head at Devyani International Limited?

During my school days, I frequented Tiz Hazari District Courts in New Delhi due to my grandfather’s profession as a lawyer. His encouragement fueled my interest in attending court sessions whenever possible, marking the inception of my journey into law. This passion was further nurtured during my academic years, especially under the guidance of Rahul Sir from the Rahul IAS institute. His notes continue to be a valuable resource, serving as a foundation for resolving intricate legal issues.

As my career progressed, I recognized the importance of a well-rounded skill set. This realization led me to pursue Company Secretaryship alongside law. This dual expertise eventually culminated in my role as the Legal Head at Devyani International Limited. In this capacity, I oversee legal strategies, compliance, and contribute to the success of the company in the dynamic Food and Beverage Industry.

With a background in both law and company secretaryship, how do you find these two roles intersecting, and how has this unique combination of skills shaped your approach to legal matters within a corporate setting?

The intersection of law and company secretaryship provides a comprehensive perspective for addressing legal intricacies within a corporate environment. The legal background ensures a profound understanding of legal frameworks, while company secretaryship fosters a practical approach to corporate governance, compliance, and administration, particularly for listed companies.

This unique combination empowers me to align legal strategies with the organization’s overarching objectives. It facilitates a cohesive approach to navigating legal matters within a corporate setting, seamlessly integrating legal compliance into the fabric of the company’s operations. 

In your current role, you’ve been involved in a variety of agreements and legal due diligence. Can you elaborate on a specific challenging scenario you encountered and how you navigated through it successfully?

Expanding into new markets is a challenge for almost all the industries. Thorough legal due diligence revealed discrepancies in local regulations that could potentially impede the business activities. To navigate this, we engage the regional legal experts, conduct exhaustive consultations with regulatory bodies, and meticulously tailored our agreements to comply with nuanced legal requirements. This proactive approach, coupled with collaborative efforts between legal and operational teams, allowed us to successfully navigate the complexities.  

As an In-house Counsel, you’ve been responsible for ensuring compliance with various regulations. How do you stay abreast of the evolving legal landscape, and how do you ensure that your organization remains compliant with the relevant laws? 

Being an in-house counsel exposes you to a myriad of scenarios. Analytical and problem-solving skills are essential to skim through each case. Given that law demands constant courtship, possessing knowledge not only about the law but also about the organization’s operations is vital. This necessitates a quest for understanding the company’s role to prevent mismanagement in the long run.

Developing these skills involves attending workshops, seminars, conferences, and engaging with professionals in the sector. This keeps you updated with current developments and exposes you to diverse opinions, fostering out-of-the-box thinking. Lastly, cultivating a habit of reading is crucial for professional growth, challenging preconceptions, analyzing the status quo, and confronting ideas outside one’s comfort zone.

In your experience, you’ve handled pre-litigation and post-litigation matters, including drafting legal notices and representing the company in court. Can you share a particularly complex or high-stakes litigation case you’ve dealt with and the strategies you employed to achieve a favorable outcome?

Handling pre-litigation and post-litigation matters, one complex case involved a landlord refusing to take over the property. To navigate this, a comprehensive legal strategy was devised, emphasizing thorough case analysis, diligent research, and timely collaboration with the external legal counsel. Open communication with all stakeholders, including senior management, allowed for a holistic understanding of the case’s intricacies. A strategic negotiation approach was adopted to explore settlement options, mitigating potential risks. Ultimately, a favourable outcome was achieved through a combination of legal expertise, strategic foresight, and effective communication.

You have been recognized for your leadership skills and contributions to the business expansion, having successfully closed over 400 property agreements in a short span of 4 years, as acknowledged by the Chief Legal Officer of KFC Global/Pizza Hut. Could you please share some insights into the challenges and key strategies you employed during this expansion process?

During an expansion process, challenges often arise, ranging from regulatory hurdles to cultural integration. Key strategies involve meticulous due diligence, identifying and mitigating potential risks, and fostering effective communication between all involved parties. Transparent communication with the existing workforce helps manage concerns and ensures a smoother transition. Flexibility in adapting strategies based on the unique aspects of each acquisition is crucial. Leadership in this context requires a holistic understanding of legal, financial, and operational facets, aligning them with the overarching business objectives. 

Having worked on issues related to intellectual property rights and trademarks, what advice would you give to businesses, especially in the food and beverage industry, regarding protecting their intellectual property in a competitive market? 

Intellectual property protection is crucial in the competitive food and beverage industry. Businesses should proactively register trademarks to safeguard their unique assets. Regular monitoring of the market for potential infringements is essential. Developing a comprehensive intellectual property strategy involves legal counsel to identify and address potential risks. Collaboration with regulatory bodies and industry associations provides additional layers of protection. Educating employees about intellectual property rights and implementing strict confidentiality measures internally is equally vital. In essence, a proactive and multi-layered approach is key to preserving intellectual property in a fiercely competitive market

Given your diverse experience, what advice would you offer to fresh law graduates aspiring to build a successful career in corporate law and company secretarial roles?

For fresh law graduates aspiring to excel in corporate law and company secretarial roles, I would offer the following advice:

Continuous Learning: Stay updated with legal developments, industry trends, and business dynamics. Invest time in ongoing legal education to enhance your skills and adapt to changes. 

Networking: Build a strong professional network within the legal community and the industries you serve. Networking provides valuable insights, mentorship opportunities, and career advancement.

Communication Skills: Develop effective communication skills, both written and verbal. Clear and concise communication is crucial in legal roles, especially when conveying complex information to diverse stakeholders.

Adaptability: The legal landscape evolves, and corporate environments can be dynamic. Be adaptable and embrace change, leveraging it as an opportunity for growth.

Ethical Practice: Uphold the highest ethical standards. Integrity is foundational in the legal profession, and maintaining a reputation for ethical practice is essential for a successful career. 

Team Collaboration: In corporate settings, legal professionals often work collaboratively with various departments. Foster strong teamwork and collaboration skills to contribute effectively to overall business objectives.

Incorporating these principles into your professional journey can help build a solid foundation for a successful and fulfilling career in corporate.

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