Rohan Raichaudhuri is regional general counsel for the Asia-Pacific at Sigfox, a French service provider for the Internet of Things industry. Having started his career in India with law firms New Delhi Law Offices and HSA Advocates, he has worked in Singapore since 2008, first in private practice with WongPartnership, before holding in-house roles at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, IBM and Accenture. Raichaudhuri has been with Sigfox since 2016.
ALB: Tell us about your legal career so far, and what led you to taking up this role.
Raichaudhuri: Upon my return to India after completion of my LL.B. from King’s College London, I started off my career in private practice with New Delhi Law Offices in New Delhi in late 2003, doing general corporate and commercial work with a focus on M&A and private equity transactions. It was here during the first six months I quickly realized litigation was not my cup of tea, and my degree in economics prior to reading law helped in moving to corporate law as well. I consequently moved to HSA Advocates’ corporate/M&A team, but worked on several infrastructure and energy projects as well, a sector that was booming in India at the time. During my time there, I completed three secondments of six months each, at British Telecom (in New Delhi), and then MTV Networks and J.P. Morgan (both in Mumbai).
Having represented clients who were predominantly multinationals, I realized that they mostly made decisions from their Asia-Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong or Singapore. With no particular inclination to move to the West, I decided to move to either of these jurisdictions. In 2008, Singapore’s WongPartnership gave me an offer and I moved to their corporate/M&A team and the India Practice Group. The primary focus was to handle transactions related to India, specifically foreign investments into India or Indian companies using Singapore for outbound investments, as well as general, cross-border M&A and private equity transactions. Before finally moving in-house for the first time with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, I left WP having worked in their newly set-up IPMT practice group. My time in Starwood was brief, a purely transactional role dealing with the development of new hotels in India and Southeast Asia.
I then moved to IBM as the Singapore country counsel. It was the first role where I dealt with the legal aspects of operating a company. Instead of external parties, my clients suddenly became the internal stakeholders, the heads of HR, tax, finance, procurement, facilities, marketing and communications among others. I consequently moved into an ASEAN services transactional role, while continuing to be the escalation focal from the law department for other lines of businesses such as global financing and business partners and channels in ASEAN. I then moved to Accenture Singapore in the Alliances and Resale team, APAC, being responsible for matters relating to third-party vendors.
An appetite for challenge brought me to my current role at Sigfox, a French service provider for the Internet of Things industry. I look after all legal matters in APAC, and I am also the global focal for the law department for three lines of businesses, namely Sigfox Operators; Sigfox Services; and Eco-system Partners. Having joined a start-up, the role has been very different from my previous employers in the sense I am able to bring value add to the job I do: I am also required to have a hands-on approach, manage multiple stakeholders who are in senior management of the company and the region, ensure effective time-management with prioritization of matters, offer creative solutions to existing businesses and developing new businesses.
ALB: What are some of the big challenges the business has been facing in the past few months, and how are you looking to tackle them?
Raichaudhuri: The inability to organize face-to-face business meetings for new opportunities is a serious issue now. Existing opportunities have been delayed as well, especially on account of safe-distancing measures. There’s only that much the law department can do to improve the situation; however, expediting documentation and clearing any ad hoc requests from the business teams on a priority basis greatly helps to go the extra mile to get the job done. Effective time-management and prioritizing matters is key!
ALB: How do you feel the pandemic will reshape the way your team (and broader company) operates? What strategy changes have you put in place in the long run?
Raichaudhuri: The effects of the pandemic have been global, and as a result of this corporations are more closely scrutinising the safety and well-being of employees. Working from home may continue to be the norm till such time that we are absolutely safe from the pandemic, or till such time a vaccine is discovered. Every employee should in principle feel comfortable to go into the office, and/or have customer meetings. Companies globally will pave the norm for work culture for future generations from now on – whether we work non-business hours (say 10AM-7PM in order to avoid peak hours), how we manage our workload when we have children, and so on. I think a culmination of factors will eventually determine the way forward hereon.
Guidelines on various topics such as force majeure have been fine tuned to ensure business continuity during these challenging times for mankind globally. Education sessions and trainings have been conducted on specific matters such as escalation processes and use of new technology. Regular conference calls, including discussing projects and deals in the pipeline within the APAC region, have been encouraged to ensure adequate support is efficiently provided remotely.
ALB: How important is the company’s culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster both within the team, as well as your business as a whole?
Raichaudhuri: Understanding the company’s culture is indeed very important in my opinion. It is what creates a good work environment where each employee contributes on an ongoing basis to their daily tasks. It is critical to quickly absorb the company’s culture in order to deliver our work, failing which our work would be irrelevant.
Nothing matters more than a timely execution of flawless work. One should prioritize matters, adequately address all issues one perceives, avoid unnecessary edits and set expectations on delivery of work with relevant stakeholders: Do what you have to do to get the work done.
ALB: On that note, how would you describe your hiring and talent retention strategy? What kinds of lawyers would make the best fit for your team?
Raichaudhuri: Additional hires for the law department have been put on hold for the moment. Corporate restructuring is a part of corporate life today, and coupled with the current global economic recession, one has to ensure everyone (whether managers or employees) put in their full efforts in simply performing well at their jobs. We reward our high-performing lawyers with various incentives.
ALB: How would you describe your approach to technology? How has the use of tech within your team evolved since you started at the helm, and what is your blueprint for the next year or two?
Raichaudhuri: I perceive technology an invaluable instrument to facilitate and execute my work. Working on a computer/laptop with embedded software such as MS Word and Excel is what we take for granted now; however that wasn’t the case during my childhood days when one used a typewriter, paper and pen – how times have evolved! I use specific software such as MS Teams (calls, database, repository), Skype for Business (messaging and calls), Docusign (e-signatures), Feego and Cleemy (expenses and leave) and Successfactors (HR housekeeping), all of which greatly expedite my day-to-day operational matters – and without which I would find it extremely difficult and uncomfortable to work. I can also access a document which I require through our cloud, anywhere and anytime. Thus, I find it difficult to even comprehend how we as lawyers would be able to survive with technology – it is simply a part of life, and which I openly embrace.
I am in the process of streamlining our contracts database into a single platform for an easy, one-stop access for an employee to view basic information of a contract, as well as migrating our entire legal repository from Sharepoint to a more user-friendly and efficient platform in my opinion, that is, MS Teams.
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