“The most important lessons I learnt are that the capacity to perform and the humility to do any kind of work should go hand in hand!”
A square plug in a round hole? Hard to believe that this is how Sajan Poovayya would have felt when he started in law school. Even though his father was a successful lawyer, Sajan was never keen on law. In fact, he was all set to be a neurosurgeon and had even qualified for medical school. It was only when his father sat him down and asked him “why not law?” that he appeared for the National Law School of India University entrance exam.
However, by the end of the first trimester, Sajan was loving it at National Law School. And, by the time he stepped out he was a gold medalist. Never regretting sticking with law thereafter, Sajan says “Whether it is victories or losses, I have been totally enjoying it.”
Interestingly, Sajan’s grooming in law had started even before he finished law school. First, during his high-school days he was his father’s court clerk in Coorg. And again when he moved to Bangalore to join NLSUI, he interned with his father’s friend and Senior Advocate S. Vijay Shankar.
On completing law in 1996, Sajan, however, did not return to picturesque Coorg but stayed on in Bangalore to work with Vijay Shankar, who had become the Advocate General for Karnataka. “I was his man Friday. He got me to do everything that a law student was to do. I learnt law at his feet,” says AG’s team, Sajan decided to set up his own firm. And he has not looked back since. Sajan had the opportunity to again work with Vijay Shankar in 2012 when Sajan was made the Additional Advocate General and Vijay Shankar was the Advocate General for Karnataka for a second term. At the age of 38, Poovayya was the youngest AAG to occupy the post.
Today, Sajan Poovayya is a designated Senior Advocate, practising extensively in many High Courts and in the Supreme Court of India. In his previous avtar as the Managing Partner of Poovayya & Co., he successfully grew a full –service law firm headquartered at Bangalore, with offices at Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi. “I did not have any feeling of loss or sorrow when I exited the firm, post my designation as Senior Advocate,” says Sajan. He takes pride in the fact that the firm has grown and continues to do so because of its present partners, giving him the opportunity to step out and litigate independently as a Senior Advocate. Although initially the firm started as general litigators, when the West started off-shoring to India, Sajan decided to take a short sabbatical and go to the London School of Economics and obtain a Master’s degree in Technology law. “Today 90% of the firm’s clients are large technology corporations, mostly from Silicon Valley. We are the primary lawyers for some of the world’s largest internet and technology companies,” says Sajan talking of recent developments.
Though born in an affluent family of plantation owners, lessons in hard work were instilled in him since he was young boy. Sajan recounts that his father once gifted him a motorbike only on the condition that he would wake up at 4 am to begin the day’s work. Someone else who helped him keep up this spirit was his mother. She ensured that he worked hard and yet did not let him bask in the glory of his accomplishments. “The most important lessons I learnt are that the capacity to perform and the humility to any kind of work should go hand in hand!” and these words have surely stood Sajan Poovayya in good stead.
Other important lessons taught early in life were respect for women and family. “In the house my mother Indira was the fulcrum,” says Sajan taking pride in his Kodava heritage. Though Kodavas are patriarchal, Poovayya says “it is the women who calls the shots.”
Again, when he decided to marry college-mate and best friend Sanjanthi, he let the elders decide. “My parents took a few months to decide. I would have waited for as long as they needed to decide,” he declares. Sajan, a good judge of people, let the families meet rather than push his case. Once his parents met Sanjanthi they took to her and what followed is anybody’s guess. Today her father-in-law is her best friend declares Sanjanthi.
Speaking about his wife, he clarifies further “Sanjanthi and I do not role play as husband and wife. She is the biggest support I have and is my safety net. My courage to pursue emanates from her. She earns, feeds and manages the family.” Sanjanthi, who specialized as a Telecom lawyer, is a senior partner of Poovayya & Co. today.
The couple has two daughters. While Tia is a radical, Laya, is a traditionalist. “Sanjanthi and I have never stopped our girls from voicing their thoughts and opinions. We are a truly liberal family,” says the doting father, whose favourite past time is rapping with his daughters. The occasional off-roading into the Coorg countryside terrain is something the family enjoys. Though he was a good sportsman in his youth and continues to very athletic even now, Sajan however is not much of a sportsman today. Says he: “I have never felt the stress in my professional life and so never felt the need to play a sports to relax.”
‘Way to go’ is all we can say!
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