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InLegal 50: The Legally India Corporate Dealmakers of the Year 2018-19

A law firm is only ever as good as the collection of its partners. And (nearly) all top transactional partners will be quick to tell you that they are only as good as their team. The analysis that follows is therefore a recognition not just of individual partners’ rainmaking and execution abilities, but also a testament to leadership and teamwork from everyone involved.

We have compiled the 20 busiest corporate partners at Indian law firms according to the number of deals they have led on (depending on which partner was mentioned first in a press release or deal report). Deal values are used as tie-breakers.

But beyond just celebrating the individuals, this also gives a fantastic insight into what makes the top law firms tick.

1. AZB & Partners Mumbai-based partner Ashwath Rau topped the total deal counts this year, with 27 deals worth more than $11bn, of which he led on 25.

“If you look at it from my perspective, 2018 was my busiest year ever,” says Rau, in retrospect. “I’ve never had a busier year in 20 years of practice. The closest I came was 2007, in the previous financial cycle [when still at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas].”

Rau notes that the total internal tally, including undisclosed or otherwise not reported deals, stands at around double that, above 50 (other high-deal-volume partners too have cited similar figures, ranging from our league tables under-reporting between 25% to 50% of deal volumes).

The secret to executing so many deals is having a solid team and, according to Rau, also lots of senior colleagues. He says he also works with partners outside his group – “the partner configuration is much larger” than just his immediate team. That said, the core team in his partnership leverage pyramid consists of around 44 lawyers, including six partners, who are involved in many of his mandates.

Rau’s list of marquee deals includes such blockbusters as Disney’s buy of Fox, which had a significant (though not disclosable) India element, and four mandates for Reliance Industries alone: its $2.4bn East-West Pipeline sale to Brookfield, its $740m insolvency buy of Alok Industries, a $180m buy of an AI education platform Embibe, and a $75m purchase of a US IoT company Radisys. Also: for Schneider Electric on its $2.1bn buy of an L&T business, and the $1bn Radiant Life Care merger with Life Healthcare. The list is longer, but we’ll name check some of his other clients: Larsen & Toubro, Max India, Aditya Birla Capital, plus super-PE-funds Apax, KKR and Bain Capital.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, one of the most (in)famously busy deal makers in the Indian M&A market, AZB Mumbai managing partner Zia Mody, only has three reported deals against her name in our league table.

We understand that she would have been actively leading in several public market M&A deals and has been peripherally involved in many others, though in her role as managing partner she is usually not credited as leading on deals or taking deal ‘credit’, if attending one meeting on a deal, for instance.

2. Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) partner and M&A national practice head Raghubir Menon, based in Mumbai, has led on at least 16 corporate deals in 2018-19. His aggregate deal values, including Walmart’s little Flipkart purchase, stands at $36bn.

There was also the mandate for Bandhan Bank in the $3bn Gruh Finance acquisition, three deals for Paytm parent company One97 Communications, two investments for Amazon, and regular big-ticket work for funds clients such as Blackstone, Goldman Sachs, Temasek, General Atlantic and Sistema.

Like Rau, he has a big team of around 19 other fee-earners, including three salaried partners.

3. Themis Associates Mumbai-based partner Siddharth Manchanda has 15 deals, of which 14 are VC-investment related. Themis is well-known for having started out with a close relationship to Sequoia (and 15 out of 16 of Sequoia’s publicly disclosed deals still had Themis advising it). But only six of Manchanda’s mandates are for Sequoia Capital, with the rest spread across funds such as Unilever Ventures, Kalaari Capital and at least five mandates for young companies taking investments.

4. AZB’s second partner (out of four) in the top 20 is Delhi’s Gautam Saha, against whom we have tallied 13 corporate transactions that he led on. For many years now, Saha has more or less been the Bharti telecoms conglomerate’s main M&A man, reaping the $14.6bn Indus Towers deal in the last year. His other regular corporate clients included Cisco Systems, American Tower Corporation in the telecoms space (which bought $400m of tower rights from Tata Teleservices), as well as a large number of marquee funds such as Goldman Sachs and Nokia Growth Partners, and he also led on the only reported Sequoia deal not handled by Themis in our league tables (its $110m Series C in CarDekho). He also counts a wide roster of country’s development banks and International Finance Corporation (IFC) as his regular clients, assisting them on investments and financings.

5. Link Legal India Law Services (LLILS) Delhi deal maker Manish Gupta had led on 13 deals worth $1.6bn, including for a number of funds – most regularly, Lightspeed India Partners on three deals; tech company Sharechat; and Chinese Apple-competitor Xiaomi on its India investments. Leveraging LLILS’ projects focus, he also acted for GMR Airports on the huge $1.16bn stake sale to a trio of investors.

6. SAM National Capital Region (NCR)-based senior partner Amit Khansaheb has 13 deals he led on. Khansaheb counts a variety of companies as his top clients, including darling start-up Byju, which had retained SAM on at least three funding rounds totalling nearly $600m in 2018-19. A future M&A mandate from Byju at unicorn valuations seems quite a likely outlook for Khansaheb.

7. SAM Bangalore-based partner Siddharth Nair (whom we had first reported had resigned from the firm on 30 April 2019 [Update: his resignation since seems to have gone on hold]) had acted on 13 recorded deals, of which he led on 12. Apart from having been the man in the city on Walmart’s Big Bangalore Acquisition, he has primarily worked on VC-related mandates. For funds, his closest public clients are Norwest Venture Partners (in four deals) and Westbridge Capital (in two), while on the sexy start-up side he counts Norwest-backed Swiggy as a client (which did one $210m round and another giant $1bn fundraise), as well as food delivery start-up Faasos (which did three sub-$20m rounds of fundraising).

8. AZB’s Bangalore-based Srinath Dasari, meanwhile, comes in 8th in terms of busy-ness, with 12 deals valued at $420m, of which 10 are M&A for companies such as Wipro (on its $117m buy of the India operations of outsourcer Alight Solutions), Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences (which took $130m of investor cash) and Mahindra CIE Automotive on its $126m acquisition of Aurangabad Electricals; he acted for funds in investments on two of his deals.

9. L&L Mumbai partner Bikash Jhawar, had worked on at least 11 deals and led on 10. In particular in the last year, he has been leading the charge at the firm on insolvency work, bumping up his total deal values to more than $11bn. He led on both of JSW Steel’s successful buys of Bhushan Power ($2.8bn) and the smaller Vardhman Industries ($21m), and for the resolution professional on the $1.16bn Ultratech buy of Binani Cement. He was also on the large L&L team helping the ArcelorMittal-Nippon Steel consortium that bought Essar Steel for $7bn. Besides insolvencies, his more vanilla corporate clients of the year included Adani Transmission (on a $33m power transmission business buy) and Laptev Finance (which completed a $124m acquisition)

10. L&L Mumbai’s Amit Shetye (who will be joining US fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in-house in the coming months, as we had first reported) has led on at least 10 deals, with a strong focus on VC funds. Apart from his close relationship with GIP, he advised Lighthouse Funds on at least six rounds, ranging from $14m to $36m. On the corporate side, he also advised Medall Healthcare when it was bought for $212m by Nasdaq-listed Alpha Capital Corp, and Capital Foods – the maker of Ching’s Secret instant noodles – when it was bought for $54m by General Atlantic.

11. Out of Platinum Partners’ 13 deals in the 2018-19 fiscal, Mumbai-based partner Ankit Majmudar was present on 10 and led on nine of them. He advised Mumbai BPO Intelenet on its sale to French outsourcer Teleperformance for $1bn from Blackstone. He has also acted for Kedaara Capital on its joint buy of Vishal Mega Mart for $709m, and its sale of India’s largest PET manufacturer, Manjushree Technopack, for $326m.

12. Veritas Legal Mumbai-based founder Abhijit Joshi (who was a senior partner at AZB before going independent in 2014) has led on nine corporate deals in 2018-19, including advising Leela hotels on its $576m sale to Brookfield, as well as venture funds Partners Group and Kedaara Capital. He also advised Aditya Birla in its $590m sale of Birla More supermarkets to Samara Capital and Amazon.

13. AZB’s Mumbai-based partner Sai Krishna Bharathan led on nine deals with total values of $690m. The three largest of these were Kiran Energy Solar Power’s acquisition by Hinduja Power for $143m, Brazilian mining giant Gerdau’s sale of a subsidiary, which was valued at $120m in India, and IIFL’s wealth fund on a $110m fundraise.

14. Jerome Merchant + Partners Mumbai-based Vishnu Jerome (another former AZB partner) was involved in 10 of the firm’s 19 deals. He has been the go-to adviser for VH Capital on three of its deals (ranging from $19m to $100m), advised tech start-up Tapzo on its $40m sale to Amazon, and Centum Financial on its $114m buy of Larsen & Toubro’s supply chain business. Jerome also got the nod from General Electric Company to advise on the India leg of a Chinese electric motors maker.

15. Samvad Partners’ partner Neela Badami advised on 10 deals, primarily in the start-up and VC space, making her a formidable presence in Bangalore, where she is based. Her clients that transacted in 2018-19 include food delivery company Foodpanda that bought Holachef, Blackbuck Logistics, which got $27m from Sequoia, as well as mattress maker Wakefit Innovations, and car trading company Truebil. On the funds side, she has worked on at least two deals for the Omidyar Network.

16. Desai & Diwanji Mumbai partner Siddharth Mody has had a busy year leading on at least nine deals, of which eight have been VC-investment-related. Regular clients included Fosun, which was involved in five of his deals (with the biggest disclosed one being a $30m Series C round by Fosun, Ventureast and Endiya in digital lender Kissht), as well as Future Retail, Kalaari Capital, Omnivore Partners and start-up Lightbox.

17. Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) eponymous managing partner Cyril Shroff needs no introduction. Despite spending considerable time on management, he led on eight deals, which include many of CAM’s biggest. Hindustan Unilever turned to Shroff in its $3.8bn buy of GSK’s India Horlicks business; he advised Fortis Healthcare on its $1.1bn sale to IHH-Healthcare Berhad; and Heinz India on its $626m sale to Zydus Wellness. Reliance Industries’ telecoms upstart Jio also called on him when it bought a majority stake in Hathaway Cable & Datacom for $399m. And Adani Ports - a client whose promoters are literally part of the Shroff family now, by marriage - entrusted him with a $275m port purchase.

18. The practice of L&L’s Sundeep Dudeja has a strong slant towards advising healthcare corporates. He led for Fortis Healthcare on its $653m buy of Singapore’s RHT Health Trust, and advised Apollo Hospitals on a $75m investment round and its restructuring. He counts Amansa Capital and Steadview Capital his regular funds clients, and when a consortium invested $1bn in Star Health, he acted for Madison Capital. He was also one of the many partners involved in several of L&L’s large insolvency mandates, bumping up his total deal values to $17bn. He was involved in at least 11 deals, of which he led on eight.

19. The second partner from VC-start-up powerhouse Samvad is Ashwini Vittalachar, who led on eight deals worth $908m. Six of those were in the VC space with marquee clients such as Delhivery (currently on its $413m Series F) and Zomato (which had at least three deals it had instructed Vittalachar in over the time period). She also advises PolicyBazaar that got $238m from Softbank. On the VC side, she counts Fundamentum as a regular client.

20. Veritas Legal’s second deal maker in the top 20, partner Nandish Vyas, racked up 10 deals with values of $1.8bn, of which he was the firm’s lead partner on eight. His regular clients include the fund TPG, for which he acted in three deals, and he also advised Prabhat Dairy on its $237m slump sale Tirumala Milk.

Top 100 Corporate Dealmakers of the Year

#LawyerFirmNumber

of deals led

Value of

deals led ($m)

M&APE/VC
1Ashwath RauAZB & Partners258,102216
2Raghubir MenonShardul Amarchand Mangaldas1620,89688
3Siddharth ManchandaThemis Associates15298114
4Gautam SahaAZB & Partners1315,34376
5Manish GuptaLink Legal India Law Services (LLILS)131,609310
6Amit KhansahebShardul Amarchand Mangaldas1362977
7Siddharth NairShardul Amarchand Mangaldas121,389211
8Srinath DasariAZB & Partners12421102
9Bikash JhawarL&L Partners104,141101
10Ankit MajmudarPlatinum Partners102,72882
11Amit ShetyeL&L Partners1041846
12Abhijit JoshiVeritas Legal91,96763
13Sai Krishna BharathanAZB & Partners969345
14Vishnu JeromeJerome Merchant + Partners924555
15Neela BadamiSamvad Partners96828
16Siddharth ModyDesai & Diwanji96018
17Cyril ShroffCyril Amarchand Mangaldas86,2008
18Sundeep DudejaL&L Partners83,02883
19Ashwini VittalacharSamvad Partners890826
20Nandish VyasVeritas Legal846855
21Ashwin RamanathanAZB & Partners821254
22William Vivian JohnL&L Partners81008
23Apurv SardeshmukhLegasis Partners84636
24Lalit KumarJ Sagar Associates (JSA)75,20525
25Darshika KothariAZB & Partners71,9127
26Sameer SibalJerome Merchant + Partners718217
27Rachael IsraelS&R Associates710735
28Vinati KastiaAZB & Partners65,01333
29Haigreve KhaitanKhaitan & Co64,1967
30Vineet ShingalKhaitan & Co621133
31Gopika PantIndian Law Partners (ILP)612542
32Vivek K ChandyJ Sagar Associates (JSA)516,46532
33Reeba ChackoCyril Amarchand Mangaldas51,26633
34Deepak THML&L Partners542032
35Anil KasturiAZB & Partners529862
36Sidharrth ShankarJ Sagar Associates (JSA)514832
37Vaidhyanadhan IyerAZB & Partners53442
38Probir Roy ChowdhuryJ Sagar Associates (JSA)52814
39Nivedita NivargiSamvad Partners5155
40Upendra Nath SharmaJ Sagar Associates (JSA)541
41Siddharth RajaArgus Partners416,00622
42Vaibhav ParikhNishith Desai Associates415,60613
43Rajat SethiS&R Associates414,6004
44Krishnava DuttArgus Partners44,0634
45Akila AgrawalShardul Amarchand Mangaldas

Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas

42,1934
46Iqbal KhanShardul Amarchand Mangaldas42,17341
47K Venkat SatyanarayanaLink Legal India Law Services (LLILS)453722
48Roxanne AndersonAZB & Partners450064
49Amritha SalianThemis Associates43384
50Anand ShahAZB & Partners427342
51Rajendra BarotAZB & Partners42105
52Sakshi MehraShardul Amarchand Mangaldas41764
53Vandana SekhriCyril Amarchand Mangaldas414133
54Kalpataru TripathyKT Advisors413031
55Darshan UpadhyayEconomic Laws Practice (ELP)47725
56Priyadarshani SherchanRajaram Legal4604
57Viral MehtaS&R Associates44122
58Vineetha MGSamvad Partners44013
59Rashi Kapoor MehtaUniversal Legal Advocates42022
60Aneesh GupteDesai & Diwanji41514
61Charandeep KaurTrilegal41441
62Yogesh SinghTrilegal316,55421
63Anoop RawatShardul Amarchand Mangaldas37,9033
64Nisha Kaur UberoiTrilegal34,4605
65L ViswanathanCyril Amarchand Mangaldas31,7904
66Nishchal JoshipuraNishith Desai Associates31,60322
67Santosh JanakiramCyril Amarchand Mangaldas31,1753
68Niladri MaulikAZB & Partners363251
69Akhil BhatnagarKhaitan & Co356321
70Shreevardhan SinhaDesai & Diwanji340512
71Archana RajaramRajaram Legal332821
72Abhishek GuhaShardul Amarchand Mangaldas330522
73Ajay BahlAZB & Partners32936
74Tushar RautVeritas Legal318453
75Manvinder SinghJ Sagar Associates (JSA)318112
76Vikram RaghaniJ Sagar Associates (JSA)31604
77Mahesh DevaiahMD&T Partners31534
78Akshay Jeet BhatCyril Amarchand Mangaldas313612
79Gaurav DaniIndusLaw312921
80Niren PatelKhaitan & Co31134
81Mohit SarafL&L Partners36131
82Arun PrabhuCyril Amarchand Mangaldas3573
83Deepak JoyceJoycelaw32312
84Shyam PandyaEconomic Laws Practice (ELP)375
85Prashant JainSamisti Legal3321
86Sanjeev AdlakhaS&R Associates3112
87Samuel ManiMCM Law313
88Nilanjana SinghAZB & Partners351
89Sapan GuptaShardul Amarchand Mangaldas24,40011
90Zia ModyAZB & Partners23,0003
91Harsh PaisTrilegal22,7602
92Aakash ChoubeyKhaitan & Co22,33821
93Dina WadiaJ Sagar Associates (JSA)22,16611
94Suhail NathaniEconomic Laws Practice (ELP)22,10011
95Nivedita TiwariCyril Amarchand Mangaldas

Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas

21,68211
96Arun BalasubramanianFreshfields Bruckhaus Deringer21,40011
97Sridhar GorthiTrilegal21,39911
98Alina AroraL&L Partners21,2932
99Abdullah HussainL&L Partners21,1604
100Vaibhav KakkarL&L Partners21,10064

Legally India's 2019 InLegal 50 Issue

The 2019 print and digital edition of Legally India is a joint publication by Global Legal Media and Legally India. The issue introduces the InLegal 50, which is an annual fully-transparent tracking of India’s corporate law firms. Browse and click through below for more market and legal analysis in this issue.

InLegal 50 Editorial:

Download PDF of issue here

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