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In Conversation with Gaurav Dugar, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, CredAble

In this exclusive conversation with editorial lead Krishnendra Joshi, BW Legal World, Gaurav shares about his illustrious journey in law. He also talks about his work as a General Counsel at India's leading working capital tech, diversity and inclusivity, his love for diving and much more.

Formative Years and Mentors 

Gaurav, Prior to joining CredAble, you have worked with India’s leading law firms, what made you gravitate towards an in-house role? 

For most of my professional life, I have been a transactional lawyer. As external counsel, one is typically involved from the pre-term sheet stage, to the eventual exit. Through this life cycle of an investment, one sees a portfolio company grow from raising external capital, to facilitating an exit for their investors. That said, the business/ operational side of the company is not something one is exposed to, which for me, was a key area of interest. Taking up an in-house career was not something I had ever seriously considered – the big-law partnership dream was pretty much what got me out of bed every morning. My engagement with Ram and Nirav was to initially find avenues to work together, but their vision, values and methods of impact resonated with me in ways that rewired my perspectives, and now, here we are.  

Who are the people that have helped you in shaping up your illustrious career in law? 

I have had the honour of working with a plethora of mega minds in the legal realm, from my time at Trilegal out of law school to my longer and more recent association with Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas. Both firms comprise some of the sharpest legal visionaries of the industry, with whom I have had the fortune to work and learn. I would be remiss without mentioning some of my clients, who are true stalwarts in their own right. Every deal I worked on, and every engagement I came to experience, has helped me evolve my perceptions about people and deal-making. I can happily say that my career has been shaped by a number of people, my clients, bosses, peers, juniors and counterparties – every deal is unique, as are the people driving it, so one size does not fit all, so every interaction (good or bad) is a learning experience.  

Array of work at CredAble in your role as a GC 

CredAble is India’s largest working capital tech platform enabling more than $3billion in working capital annually. Tell us a bit more about the company and your role as Executive Vice President & General Counsel.  

CredAble, leads the working capital space enabling more than USD 3 billion annually in working capital and witnessing over 500% year-on-year growth. As an umbrella platform for all working capital solutions, CredAble caters to the working capital requirements of India Inc which includes large, mid, and emerging corporates, MSMEs, and financial institutions. CredAble’s platform hosts over 75 corporate customers, over 1,50,000 small business borrowers, and over 30 large financial institutions and banks. By leveraging their technology, big data analytics, trade finance expertise and partnerships with capital providers, CredAble is able to provide comprehensive working capital financing solutions to Corporate India. The team at CredAble have built a tech-driven working capital solutions ecosystem which is unique. 

As general counsel, my role is focused on ensuring that CredAble’s interests are protected in times when conversations or mutual agreement fails. The primary responsibility I have is to be the organisation's stratagem, which includes the role of providing rounded advice and ensuring the standardisation of professional and ethical codes throughout the company. 

Expert insights

Could you please share with our readers, how has COVID 19 changed the deal-making ecosystem nationally and globally. What are the trends that you foresee going forward? 

Deal-making has been beset with unique opportunities and challenges. With the pandemic-induced economic uncertainty (hopefully) behind us, deal-making has resumed to pre-pandemic forms and volumes in India. COVID 19 has made people re-look at a litany of constructs which were previously considered fairly customary, such as how MACs are written and agreed upon or how effective, including a large number of CPs to a transaction may be. 

Another key aspect which is now going to gain focus is data privacy, both from a transaction perspective, with a number of external advisors still working remotely, and from a compliance perspective, with the impending overhaul of the new data privacy regime. Timelines for completion of deals have also been revisited in the post-pandemic world, where valuations can drop or spike fairly steeply in a short period.  

The implementation of the Data Protection bill is the need of the hour with the rise of India’s digital economy.  How is it going to impact the fintech sector? 

India’s data protection policies are undergoing a major overhaul, and the new bill is currently yet to be notified. The changes that it will bring about will be unprecedented in their impact, and all we can do for now is prepare for the new data-privacy first world it shall usher in. Data localisation is a welcome move and seems to be a focus area for the current government.  

Fintech’s reliance on data to assess credit worthiness, and trim execution and disbursement timelines will need to be re-aligned, with GDPR-like compliance requirements sought to be introduced. Data retention, and cross usage is other areas that will need to be refreshed, in light of the new restrictions sought to be imposed by the bill.  

Learnings from Covid 19 

What have been your top three learnings from the pandemic? Did you learn any new productivity hack that you would like to share with our readers? 

My takeaway from the pandemic was rather simple. Life is shorter than we usually take it to be, and every calculated risk backed with a proper mindset is worth taking. We are all we have.  

In terms of productivity, my major learning was equally simplistic, and it was the usage of double screens in my workspace — one for virtual meetings, the other for documents and emails of reference. This was something rather simple, which helped me work through the pandemic. That, and noise-cancelling headphones!  

D&I  

Would you say companies are becoming increasingly sensitive about diversity and inclusivity? What would be your suggestions for ensuring D&I in corporate legal teams? 

‘Sensitive’ is a strange term to be used here, I think. I’d rather replace it with ‘thoughtful’. In an era that still requires sociopolitical movements and open protests to ensure equality, I think having strong codes of welcome and embracing diversity and inclusivity is beyond imperative. As for me, I like to ensure that my team comprises of a diverse group of talented individuals, along with placing stringent measures against any systemic maltreatment on the basis of any of the abovementioned qualitatives. 

As for freedom, I think every employee should ensure their own ways around work-life harmony, and as long as the quality of work does not suffer, I have no complaints. Every employee deserves to have ample freedom to establish their own ways and standards for work-life balance. 

AI and Legal Tech

How do you see legal compliance frameworks changing with the emergence of AI? 

There has been an evident rise in AI-based frameworks that are now being implemented in workspaces and institutions to streamline work within a limited time.  

Personally, I see a number of early-stage positions being replaced by some form of AI, over the course of the next few years. Compliance tracking is also something in which AI/ legal tech will play an instrumental part in. Contract automation and proofing exercises are already replacing early career learnings, but what I am very keen to see play out, is legal tech eventually being able to align conflicting positions by using a playbook of fallback positions.  

Life outside work 

Gaurav, you are a qualified dive master. How did your love for scuba diving originate? 

While I could never fully discount the anxiety that comes with it, there is also an unparalleled pleasure in taking a risk, as if that leap off the cliff of your comfort zone could change everything for the rest of your life. Chasing that singular sentiment is what guided me towards diving. Seeing the world tucked away underwater, concealed from our everyday sights, is something else. It changes your perspective on life and the way we treat ourselves and the world around us. 

Another extremely underrated aspect of diving is the people you meet on boats/ dive trips, and the feeling of being in suspended animation underwater.  

Would you please recommend to our readers your favourite book that left a lasting impression on you? 

Given that my job subtracts a lot of the time that could be spent consuming external content, reading does not happen as often as I’d like for it to be, but as is my personality, I found my way around that dissatisfaction and resorted to finding podcasts and YouTube that allow me to keep my interests catered to without making compromises with time and work.      

 


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Gaurav Dugar CredAble GC M&A data privacy

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