LexTalk World interviews Aarthy Venkat. Aarthy is a Senior Advisor- Data Privacy, Legal and Product at SignDesk. Formerly a practicing advocate in Delhi, she possesses substantial and highly applicable work experience. Her primary areas of specialization are technology laws, corporate law, and data privacy laws. Aarthy has been quoted in her areas of expertise by numerous news and media agencies such as The Week, etc. She has previously delivered numerous webinars on topics ranging from V-CIP and loan digitization, to the role digitization in the Indian financial & legal sectors. Aarthy is currently engaged in the legal aspect of solving large-scale RegTech problems.
Host: Please brief us about your journey as a Legal professional so far.
Aarthy: I wouldn’t say law was my first choice, however, once I chose to pursue law there was no looking back. I am a first generation lawyer, however I was blessed with amazing mentors right from my first internship till date. I owe all that I am today to my first boss Mr. Narendera Sharma where I started my law practice, drafting is a skillset I picked up from there and continue to be grateful to him for being a patient guide. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Mr. B.R Menon, it is not easy to repose trust and confidence in an advocate with hardly 2 years of experience, he reposed that trust me in and thanks to that I was able to independently handle matters in High Court of Delhi, the then Company Law Board, CESTAT and argue matters where the opposite counsels where stalwarts and big names in the legal profession. I had no intention of leaving litigation, but love led me to Bangalore, the startup capital of our country.
My search for employment led me to a Legal Tech startup which was in its starting days, Legaldesk. On the day of my interview I met Mr. Ashok Kadsur and Mr. Krupesha Chidambara, I know not of two founders who are more humble than them, I wanted to work with them. It was a new field, an avenue I never thought about before, it was a gamble to join a 7 member team. The gamble however paid off,the 7 member team is more than a 140 member team now, and has now ventured into multiple other Regulatory Technology products under the umbrella of Signdesk. Every day is a new challenge, to be in a space where technology meets legal is exciting.
Host: Tell me about a challenging situation in which you had to apply both your legal skills and technical knowledge.
Aarthy: Like I said above, the space which I work in is a wonderful combination of Technology and Regulatory domain. Over the five years thanks to all the techies I interact with I have picked up quiet a bit of understanding of the cloud environment, APIs, Tech Stacks, things which I had no idea of as a lawyer. The majority of my working day is spent in understanding laws, rules, regulations especially laws such as Information Technology Act, Stamping laws, Aadhaar Act, CCA Rules and guidelines, data privacy laws,and assisting the team in designing products keeping in mind these rules and guidelines.
How do you look at Data Privacy in 2021 and how it's going to change 5 years down the line?
Aarthy: Oh, well I see there being so much change already in the area around Data Privacy, there was a time no one in our country gave two cents about Data Privacy, the tech community has always known that data is gold, now consumers have slowly started realizing the value of their data, the consumer today demands accountability. In the perspective of India, I hope the Personal Data Protection Bill becomes an Act soon. Looking at how GDPR, CCPA and other Personal Data Protection Bills have changed the landscape of how business is done, made consumers the true owner of their data. I see the Indian law having the same sort of impact. Already, over the period of the past few months I have been getting various queries on Linkedin and through other channels on how to go about equipping yourself in the data privacy field. Today, I see that the number of individuals certified in Data Privacy in India are very few, I see a growth spurt in these numbers.
Host: You are an IAPP certified privacy professional, tell us if and how you have been able to implement the learnings of IAPP to the functioning of your Company?
Aarthy: It has been a privilege to implement my learning from CIPP/E and DCPP. I have been successfully able to get processes in place in compliance with GDPR. I have been able to get the Company certified as GDPR Compliant, this gives the organization a huge benefit in opening up the product to the EU markets, which is in the pipeline for us as an Organization. Having processes in line with GDPR has also been a boost to our Indian Clientele. Signdesk works primarily with organizations in the Banking and Financial Industry, the data we process on behalf of our clients are of such nature, that working with a Company which has processes in place, gives a huge confidence to the clients.
Host: Regulatory Technology space is relatively new in India, as a lawyer how do you strike a balance between the role of being a Legal Advisor and Product Advisor at the same time?
Aarthy: It is a challenge, a challenge that I have grown to love. No two days look the same for me. I find myself working on a wide range of issues. Some days understanding the Stamping laws, eSign laws, KYC laws. Somedays, in discussion with the Product Team on what should and should not form a feature of the product. Signdesk, actively believes in Privacy by design, so again that’s an area which takes over a few working days of mine. There are other days when it’s about being the Legal Advisor, compliances, filings, advising on employment laws, company laws, negotiating agreements etc.
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