Legal Luminaries

Debolina Pratap

Debolina Pratap lets her work speak for herself. The passionate go-getter is the Associate Vice President and Head Legal for the Wockhardt group. “For the last 20 years, my life has only been law, law and more law,” she smiles.

The graceful and charming lady who believes in stability and holding on to her roots says, “For work-life balance it is healthy to remain with an organization for long. It is economically and psychologically healthy. It is also good for the family.”

On managing fluctuations in career, Debolina’s philosophy is “a known enemy is better than unknown friend. Bad times go away just like good times and if you are with the same group and known surroundings, then it’s easier to manage the changes.”
Wockhardt is India’s largest pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare provider, all combined. Debolina is responsible for driving the legal corporate governance and compliance system, legal aspects of banking, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, legal strategy, legal risk management, litigation management, brands and IP management, contracts, properties, finance documentation, supporting value growth and expansion of the Wockhardt group across geographical locations in India and strengthening their International presence across 22 countries.

Before joining Wockhardt in 2006, she was working with IDBI bank for 13 years. This gold medalist in L.L.M. from Mumbai University began her career as an advocate in 1990. She specialised in commercial and constitutional law. She is an active legal member of the OPPI and CII (pharma unit) and a speaker at various legal fora. And she has been thrice awarded the ‘Women General Counsel of Year Award’ by renowned legal associations and congress.

On milestones, Debolina recounts a landmark judgment given by the Madras High Court during her tenure as head of the southern zone of IDBI. She was then based in Chennai. A new act SARFAESI (Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Act, 2002) was passed to regulate securitization and reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of security interest created in respect of financial assets to enable realization of such assets. Debolina was leading the case against a textile unit which had borrowed from IDBI . This was the first time that the bank was working on direct acquisition of a debtor of a running unit. Earlier, banks would recover when the borrower/unit had gone bankrupt or there was a lockout of the factory/unit. “

In Wockhardt she has to her credit four successful Mergers & Acquisitions and the resolution of ten insolvency petitions. She has never faced any gender bias and says that in both the groups she has worked with, the focus has been on results and not gender.

Inspiration in the workplace she credits to the Chairman of the Wockhardt Group Dr. Habil Khorakiwala. “He has always encouraged and supported me.”

As work has been her pivot, she says her preference was always to be an internal lawyer rather than an external lawyer. “It’s more challenging to be an internal lawyer as you are responsible for results and there is never the option of saying no to a situation or an issue. You have to constantly find out-of-the-box solutions.”

Though Debolina does not like to talk a lot about herself, she lights up when the discussion moves around Osho and his philosophy. “He speaks such simple and factual truths. For instance there, is a sentence that I will never forget. He says that there is a difference between loneliness and aloneness. And the moment you embrace aloneness, you give up loneliness. It is so simple but so difficult to put into practice,” she elucidates animatedly. If she does not find the time to read, she simply listens to music to wash away any fatigue or stress. She is the only one in the family who follows Osho. “I also like the writings of Confucius.”

As for a guru, Debolina says it’s her mother Minoti Bose. “She is my inspiration and has tremendous strength. I have always turned to her for advice and support in all matters.”

Though Debolina says her real life is law, in her college days she used to write poetry on abstract things. She has a collection which her college friends would ask her to publish. As yet, she hasn’t taken that step and still writes poetry, though not so frequently, maybe once or twice a month. She was inspired to write after reading William Shakespeare in school. “I had a collection of most of his works,” she tells. And she also gives into her artistic streak by making abstract sketches.

Music is another artistic expression and Debolina like listening to devotional, light spiritual and melancholy songs. Amongst her favourites are the late Vilayat Khan, late Pandit Ravi Shankar, M.S. Subbulakshmi and Zakir Hussain.

With her son, Jivitesh, and husband Pratap, she enjoys short vacations twice a year. “Born to a Punjabi father and Bengali mother, Jivitesh is a ‘Mumbaikar’,” smiles Debolina.

Whenever she gets time, she enjoys Frappe from Café Coffee Day and her favourite food is steamed Basa with salt ‘n’ lime. The colour she naturally likes is black. “I think it’s because I am a lawyer,” says the elegantly dressed Debolina. “I love to collect saris and have a good collection of black saris.”

We acknowledge “100 Legal Luminaries of India” by Lalit Bhasin (Lexis). The multicolour coffee table book printed on art paper in Hardbound is priced at ` 5995/- and is available at Universal Book Traders, C-27, Connaught Place, New Delhi – 110001.

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