Senior Vice President and Head of Legal, ESSAR CAPITAL, BADRINATH DURVASULA, holds forth on his professional journey, the essence of leadership, working from home, books and more…
1.You joined ESSAR as its Senior Vice President and Head Legal in Mumbai on June 1st this year, at the height of the COVID pandemic. What challenges did you face, and how have you gone about tackling them, in your organization and outside?
I’m the one who looks at every adversity as a kind of opportunity and COVID is no different. I joined ESSAR when all economic activity had ground to a halt. That’s where legal professionals step in to ensure that justice is done, sometimes by way of a unique proposition. When ESSAR’s promoters and senior leaders contacted me saying there was a wonderful opportunity where I could offer my expertise and exposure, I accepted the challenge with two things in mind. One, what is it that I can give to the organization. Two, what can I resolve economically and what is going on in this domain. And in the last three months, I have deep dived into issues bothering the organization and there is enough opportunity to resolve quite a few issues going forward. To sum it up, COVID is a big opportunity for legal professionals, especially those who think positively that it creates a value proposition otherwise it is arrested hope. So going forward, I want everyone to think positive because COVID has not yet ended. I don’t know how far it will continue but we are going to face this kind of a reality in future as well.
2. Prior to ESSAR, you served as Vice President and General Counsel at Hindustan Construction Company, which has more than 90 years in the realm of engineering and construction, real estate, infrastructure, urban development and management. What did the role involve and what were the key takeaways?
Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) has been in existence for more than 90 years and they have executed some landmark projects. However, when I joined HCC, the challenge was twofold; one, quite a few projects were choked due to dearth of finances and two, operational monies to the tune of `6,000 Crore were locked in various courts. So it was a chicken and egg situation where I had to deliver the projects to get the monies but I didn’t have the monies to deliver the projects. As a legal professional, the key issue before me was how much monies could be unlocked from the courts and other institutions where they were locked. Subsequently, we won a number of matters in the Supreme Court and were able to unlock around `1,000 Crore but about `5,000 Crore remained parked with the legal system. Still, we were able to run the show and satisfy some bankers with the `1,000 Crore but we continued to go through a very tough financial situation. The current situation too would be very challenging for HCC unless and until some structural changes are made. As legal professionals, we need to work together in these times to see that value is unlocked.
3. You’ve been around for more than 25 years and have worked with giants such as ADANI GROUP, HCC and now ESSAR CAPITAL. How did you develop leadership qualities and how did each organization help you reach where you are today?
Each of the organizations I worked with was going through a unique situation; it wasn’t only about finance but also about project delivery, visionary metrics etc. If we can, as leaders, business leaders and legal business heads, align the thought process to what the organization really wants, half the battle is won. The legal system, courts, petitions, challenges etc. are only part of the story. The other part is what the organization really wants and how well we ensure it is fulfilled. Be it in any company, legal professionals must go beyond their own domain and first understand the business and what is going on in the system. Once you are aligned to the business, key decisions will be made accordingly.
Secondly, leadership is about holding all stakeholders in absolute comfort. A legal professional is one that people keep coming to with some problem or the other. You need to keep your cool and deliver what you are supposed to. At the end of the day, the one who gives you money (client) is God and must be benefited, consideration of merits notwithstanding.
Thirdly, a leader is but a set of factors. It’s your stakeholders, your team and your people, and finally, your entire company as such. So taking them along, mentoring them the way they should be mentored, giving the right virtues and exposing them to difficult situations, and allowing and enabling them to take decisions is what constitutes leadership. Wherever I worked, I constantly practiced all these three traits. Today, there are lots of people who are my ex-employees etc. but we share a wonderful bond.
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