By Dipanwita Gupta
I was designated as Head Corporate Legal and Compliance while Covid ravaged health, livelihoods, top & bottom lines of corporates and economies. Just around 1 year before that, I had been promoted to Deputy General Manager at Apeejay Surrendra Management Services. As I write this blog, I have been working with Apeejay Surrendra Group for 7 years – I’ve achieved a professional milestone and I’m a mom – in my 3rd year, as Senior Manager Legal, I decided to adopt a baby and my Apeejay Surrendra Management Services team rallied around me in an overwhelming support for my decision. The way adoptions go, I couldn’t plan much, I welcomed my daughter and proceeded on a maternity leave. Apeejay is home away from home. So much good has come out and I’m not even the dreaded 40 yet 🙂 !! There can be no better time than thanksgiving to harvest the good and celebrate what for many are multiple feats. Covid has taught me that we have to harvest often, and we have to celebrate even more often.
When I started out, as Legal Manager in ASMSPL, Group’s shared services company, the diversity of work portfolio and various industry verticals – Tea, Real Estate, Typhoo, Flurys, Oxford, Park, Shipping, Logistics, even Schools, where I was called upon for support, kept me on my toes. It was rigorous and exciting work. No time to get bored and I’ve loved the fruitful journey in corporate law.
Legal sector thrives when businesses do well and also thrive when businesses fail. With the new normal, new legal issues have emerged in the country, such as force majeure clauses being invoked, PILs being filed on certain specific issues on account of Covid, labour/employee related cases due to termination of jobs on account of Covid, etc. Large number of legal professionals are involved in tackling these legal issues and providing advice and solutions for the same across industries. If some areas have been impacted, certain other areas have opened up due to the pandemic. The litigation practice is currently facing a turmoil, as courts are only taking up urgent matters and not regular matters, which in turn is delaying justice for parties.
My team and I , have successfully worked from home during the lockdown. We had turned around documents and had also advised businesses on legal issues, through emails and conference calls/zoom meetings. We had attended various webinars during the lockdown to keep ourselves updated on various legal issues which had arisen on account of Covid, so that we could provide advice and share knowledge with our business teams/colleagues. The lockdown had brought about a sea change in our work pattern and family lives. I was glad to see how naturally all of us were sensitive to each other, we understood that we would struggle and we cooperated and lifted each other up and focussed on mental health. This enhanced productivity of everyone at Apeejay Surrendra Management Services. We had to adjust to the new normal which included work from home and work for home. None of us had any experience of doing this for such a long time and it was difficult for so many of us – definitely it was for me. In normal course, my own Go To Persons when in trouble and in doubt are Books & internet and that did not change – now everybody was back to reading and Internet was the forum which helped in keeping us updated!
While the key to success is determination and commitment and work is the greatest inspiration which keeps me going, there is no way I could have ever passed this time without my husband, Avijit Ghosh’s support. Full Credit goes to him for being equally, if not more, involved in family responsibilities all the time. He is the Head of the Kolkata Delivery Centre of LearningMate, a leading global digital enablement company in the Education Technology space.
My profession is exciting but not sans fear. I have however never ever been afraid on the job. My legal career has taken me to different cities in India. I have worked in Bombay for around half a dozen years, trained in Delhi in the Supreme Court for a while. I have been away from home and family since a very young age and have faced different situations in life which have helped me to grow in my career and personally too. I have diverse exposure in the field of law. I’ve worked with a law firm; the legal department of a renowned bank ; in a compliance firm and in consultancy. During my initial days in Apeejay I was primarily responsible for compliance matters without being a company secretary. When I was entrusted with my current responsibility which included litigation, I had no prior experience in litigation!
It is said often that as a female there are significant barriers in your career and more so as we grow into leadership positions but that’s not my belief. No doubt the legal profession is and has been dominated by men. There is huge amount of resistance and I have faced some as well. Now I think times have changed and are further changing. I have tried to adapt to the challenges I face. A diverse experience of 15 years as a legal professional has had many teaching and uplifting moments. All together I now tend to shrug off the gender related ‘stuff’. I feel that women should not think that the legal profession is a male dominated profession and daughters should be parented to understand gender bias, which itself will give them the tools to manage when they are out and about in the world.
In my case, a lot of it has to do with my upbringing and my role models growing up. My father and his elder brother were inspirational personalities. My father, Bhaskar Gupta (Chartered Accountant) was the Whole-time Director of India Foils Ltd. and an ex-Ranji Trophy player. My uncle, Ranjit Gupta (IP) was the Police Commissioner of Kolkata and was also the IG (current post of DG) of West Bengal. Their commitment and dedication was something I was always in awe of. Watching them as I grew up was a huge influence on my life. After marriage my father in law, Amitava Ghosh has always supported me in my career. He is a technocrat and an ex IIT and has held senior positions in various reputed organizations including Texmaco, Birla Technical Services, CIMMCO & Om Metals.
In office working with our Chairman, Mr Karan Paul is a tremendous inspiration. The encouragement and recognition received from him has inspired me to work efficiently for the organization, and has also helped me to develop my professional skills. I wasn’t reporting directly to him but the swiftness with which everything was organised once my adoption plans came through to give me space to take 3 months leave was quite fantastic.
I strongly believe, if you work hard and stay updated, then there is and can be no barrier in your career. If you work hard, you will get recognition and you will achieve growth in your career. My advice to the next generation of female leaders in our company and otherwise – There are no short cuts. Hard work and patience are key.
Clarity of purpose is essential in personal life. As we headed for adoption, we were very clear that it would not matter to us if the child was biological or adopted. So that’s what we did.
We were extremely lucky that our decision was accepted and respected by our families and extended families. Adopting Amrita was the best decision of my life – I am blessed to have her and I am fortunate that I found my way into her life.
A child is a gift of god. I would take this opportunity to encourage more people to come forward and take this step, so that every child has a home and family and every family is complete with the presence of a child. She is the home minister and is in control of my home affairs in my absence 🙂
Dipanwita Gupta is Head Corporate Legal and Compliance, Apeejay Surrendra Management Services