“Life has always been very kind to me. I was at the right place at the right time. Luck has been my constant ally. There are people who have worked harder than me, who know far more than I do; yet, I have managed to make a mark for myself. I manage through the efforts of others”.
What are the key qualities that lead to success? Answers usually range from vision, passion, action, hard work, attitude, desire, self-esteem, belief, confidence, discipline, determination to knowledge. But for Raian Karanjawala, who runs that the hugely successful litigation firm Karanjawala & Company, the answer would probably be sheer luck.
“Life has always been very kind to me. I was at the right place at the right time. Luck has been my constant ally. There are people who have worked harder than me, who know far more than I do; yet, I have managed to make a mark for myself. I manage through the efforts of others,” says Raian.
Raian, who joined law by default, says studies-wise he was no great shakes. A naughty child in school, he claims he “learnt more from friends than his textbooks.” At Sri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi, debating, student politics and other extracurricular activities took precedence over studies. He contested for central counsellorship on the ABVP (Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad) platform and became the College Union President in his final year. And along with Arun Jaitley, his senior, won the Andrew Memorial Debate as a team. Amongst his close friends were Vijay Goel and Rajat Sharma. “Politics gives me a high. During Emergency, I had to go underground. The police came looking for me at our home. My mother was very worried and I was sent off to Bombay,” recounts Raian. Consequently, he graduated in third division which put paid to his hopes of doing masters’ in business or chartered accountancy. Finally, he ended up taking admission in Government Law College (GLC), Bombay. But politics continued to play a role in his life even in GLC in 1977, he campaigned for Ram Jethmalani against Congress candidate H.R. Gokhle.
After passing out from GLC, Raian returned to Delhi and joined P.H. Parekh. “I was lucky that Fali Nariman introduced me to Pravin Parekh, who was one of the busiest Advocates-on-Record then. I learnt a lot in the initial years because I was given a considerable amount of responsibility. I also met Manik there,” says Raian, his eyes twinkling with unabashed glee.
It was possibly a case of opposites attract. The shy and reserved Manik, daughter of famed judge and human rights champion Justice V.M. Tarkunde, turned out to be a very good foil for the witty and exuberant Raian. More than just love, it was friendship that became the cornerstone of their relationship. A similar value system based on a liberal and secular outlook and a strong sense of ethics has cemented it further. “It was not the most romantic courtship but solid friendship that brought us together. Raian was funny and his incredibly love for life and people has infused a lot of fun in our relationship. His personality is not just humorous but very caring,” confides Manik. The two were married in 1982 and a year later they set-up Karanjawala & Company.
Over the years they have handled a great number of high-profile cases. But the first landmark case was representing Nusli Wadia and Indian Express against the Reliance Group. And soon through Express they were introduced to V.P. Singh in 1987, which became a major turning point in their lives. Raian represented the late former Prime Minister before the Thakkar Natrajan Commission (looking into the Fairfax case) and again before the Jain Commission (which investigated the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi). His association with V.P. Singh gave Raian and his firm a distinctive edge and a higher profile. On the personal side, Singh became a friend. “I came to value his advice. He was a friend’s friend,” says Raian.
However, Raian’s charm and acumen have won him friends on both sides of the politics fence. The late Madhav Rao Scindia, whom he represented in the Hawala case, and after his death his son Jyotiraditya Scindia are counted amongst his friends.
Called the capital’s “Power Couple,” the Karanjawala’s circle of friends encompasses a wide spectrum of the jet-setting crowd, evidence of which is seen in their living room where works of art gifted by the Gujrals, Anjolie Ela Menon, Ashok Karmakar and V.P. Singh, among others, adorn the space. It’s a heady concoction of success and popularity for the Karanjawalas and it’s quite easy to lose oneself in it. But if their young daughters, Tahira and Niharika, are any example, Manik sure had done a great job of keeping the family fairly grounded. While, Tahira, who has done her LL.M. from Columbia, has joined the firm, Niharika, after finishing her law from Amity Law school has also joined Karanjawala & Co.
Given the steady progress that the firm is making and now with the daughters also coming in, the success quotient of Karanjawala & Co. is a foregone conclusion. But how about Raian? Will he remain content playing a celebrity lawyer in his fashionable suit and ties? Or will he take the plunge and don Khadi and enter the Indian political arena?
“Politics has always interested me. It’s not a game you should enter lightly but I cannot rule out the option either,” says Raian. What is it they say about luck favoring the brave?