Neha Verma is the General Counsel of Puniska Group for 6 years and heads both the legal & secretarial function. She is an Associate Member of ICSI. She is a third-generation lawyer & has more than 17 years’ experience in the legal field spanning varied sectors like real estate, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, banking, corporate affairs, FMCG, etc.
Neha holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Law & also ‘Certificate in Contract Law’ from Harvard University. She has been enlisted in Forbes India in Top GC list & has been awarded “Star Woman Lawyer of the Year” award by Legal Era in 2021.
Host: What motivated you to choose the Legal sector as a domain of work and how has been your career span?
Neha: My grandfather was a lawyer, and my father is a lawyer. I am a third-generation lawyer. The law chamber of my grandfather and father was on the ground floor of the building that we resided in, therefore since childhood I was fascinated with law. Watching them go to Court and then come back in the evening and work in their chambers inspired me to become a lawyer myself. Also, I am a bibliophile, so I really admired the countless law books present in my grandpa’s office and wished to read them someday. When I was in the 11th standard, I started taking dictation from my grandfather for the documents he needed to be drafted and then I used to transcribe all those documents for him. Thus began my rendezvous with law and my first experience of drafting a legal document.
My law career began in the year 2001 when I started transcribing all kinds of notices, letters, affidavits, agreements, and other legal documents for my grandfather. In 2007 I became a Company Secretary and then completed my internship of 15 months with a CS firm. Later on, I joined a consulting firm as a para legal. My first corporate job was with Nirma in the year 2014, then I worked for Aculife as its Company Secretary and Head-Legal and finally in 2017 I joined Puniska group as its Group general counsel and Company Secretary. From training under my grandfather, Mr. Bajrang Lal Kulthia, and father, Mr. Prakash Kulthia, to my present job as a group general counsel of Puniska group, it’s been an intellectually enriching experience. Over the years I have gained vast experience and extensive knowledge in the field of law which has been very helpful in my legal career.
Host: Key lessons or experiences that have enriched you and are currently aiding you in your work profile.
Neha: I consider myself fortunate because I started learning law from a young age and gained practical experience of this field before I began my formal law education. This fact has helped me a lot and because of this law for me is not merely a subject to be studied but its almost a tangible part of my life, something I have lived and learned since my young age.
Throughout all these years the one important lesson I have realized is that learning is a continuous procedure and to excel in any field one must keep learning about it. I have also made this my life’s principle and every year I strive to learn something new in the field of law. I have completed various certificate courses in subjects ranging from arbitration to RERA including a certificate in contract law from Harvard and I also hold a master’s degree in criminal law.
At the beginning of my career, I worked in consulting firms which gave me an opportunity to learn about diverse fields of law and gain experience in those fields. Additionally, a significant lesson that I acquired was to go into the details of each subject matter and to master it by taking it up as a challenge.
The first major experience I had was handling all the formalities that arose from demerger of a pharma Company from its parent Company. Although I had studied demerger in theory, I had no prior practical experience of it. Therefore, I was a bit intimidated when I was tasked with completing all the formalities arising from such a demerger. Nevertheless, I went into it with an open mind, studied a lot on this subject, discussed with my peers and friends who had experience in this field and was finally able to execute everything in a timely manner. This experience increased my faith in my abilities and improved my self- confidence that with hard work everything is possible and achievable. I have been able to smoothly take up all challenges after this work.
Host: What are the different challenges and opportunities that you have or had faced while working in this field?
Neha: Corporates are required to comply with a host of laws and the legal team is tasked to ensure that all such compliances are timely made, and internal stakeholders are made aware of all activities they need to carry out for such compliances. As a corporate counsel I have to keep myself updated with different laws ranging from pharma laws, intellectual property laws, real estate laws, contract laws to banking laws, trust laws, FEMA, and other laws to safeguard against any non-compliances.
Some of the challenges in working for a corporate include friction with internal stakeholders on various matters, timely delivery of assigned work whilst safeguarding the corporate against legal risks, convincing internal stakeholders to adopt policies which are required for compliances or for efficient working of the corporate, educating the management about ever changing laws and briefing them about new changes that need to be implemented company wide and other similar challenges.
These challenges are also opportunities for learning. Sometimes when there is resistance to some things from internal stakeholders then interaction with them has provided me with a new perspective to look at the same thing. Similarly, whilst ensuring compliance at all levels I have been able to understand the procedures adopted by many departments and acquire knowledge about the workings of those departments. Additionally, due to time constraints of various works assigned to me I have become experienced in ensuring timely completion of all assigned works with precision. The management at my company has also been very supportive and have always appreciated my work thereby motivating me to work harder each day.
Host: Tell us about some projects that you have worked on, and which have been a good learning experience for you.
Neha: In the past few years, I have worked on several important projects which have been major learning experiences for me. In 2017, when the promoters of a pharma company I worked for decided to exit that Company then I was one of the people responsible from their end to negotiate and finalize transaction documents for this transaction. I gained a wealth of knowledge and experience whilst working on this deal.
I was the legal head and company secretary of Puniska Healthcare when the promoters of Puniska Healthcare sold their shareholding in the Company to Amneal Pharmaceuticals Private Limited, a subsidiary of Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc., US based legal entity which is registered on the stock exchange of USA. From the promoter’s end I was responsible for coordinating all due diligence activities and was a single point of contact for the same. I was also responsible for vetting and negotiating the term sheet and all transactions documents for this transaction and completed it within timelines required by the Promoter of Puniska Group. This transaction was valued at Rs. 700 crores and was a great learning experience for me.
Last year one of our group companies Puniska Injectables Private Limited acquired a pharmaceutical factory located in Goa which manufactured and sold intravenous fluids, on slump sale basis. I played an instrumental role in carrying out the due diligence exercise for this deal and vetted, negotiated, and finalized all transaction documents for this transaction from Puniska side including all ancillary Agreements to this transaction. Took complete ownership of this project and completed this transaction within the required timelines of Puniska management. My work was greatly appreciated by my management.
Host: What is your success mantra?
Neha: I believe that with commitment, hard work, intelligence, and dedication nothing is impossible in this world! If we really wish to succeed in any field, then we need to give it our all and more. To reach new heights in any profession we must keep on continuously learning and evolving because change is the only constant in an ever-changing world. Lastly, I whole heartedly believe that if you love what you do and have an undying passion for your work then nothing in this world can stop you from succeeding!
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