“I was doing software engineering and had gone to make a payroll programme for the firm . I used to work in the library and there my interest in law developed.”
A man of few words, Haigreve Khaitan lets his work speak for him. A partner in the over 100-year –old Khaitan & Co., Haigreve heads the Mumbai office and the M&A practice. His decision to move to Mumbai from Kolkata about a decade back was a bold one and has turned out to be good, as “now almost 50 per cent of the work happens in Mumbai,” says his father Pradip Kumar Khaitan, a veteran in law, and better known as Pinto. “I had never dreamt of this kind of success,” he says with pride as Haigreve carries on the task of creating new milestones for the more than century-old firm.
Started by Debi Prasad Khaitan (Pinto’s uncle) in 1911, the firm has been standing strong thanks to its values and ethics. Debi Prasad later invited his brother, Durga Prasad, to be his partner. Then Durga Prasad’s son Bhagwati Prasad (Pinto’s father) entered the Firm, and Pradip Kumar followed and now Haigreve. In fact, the Delhi and Bengaluru offices are handled by his cousins Rajiv and Padam Khaitan.
Carrying the legacy on has been a thing of pride for the young disciplined lawyer even though he had not planned on taking up law professionally. “I was doing software engineering and had gone to make a payroll programme for the firm. I used to work in the library and there my interest in law developed,” recounts Khaitan. He completed his LL.B. from South Kolkata Law School in 1995. Khaitan is associated with the Bar Council of West Bengal, Incorporated Law Society, Kolkata and International Bar Association, London.
The initial years of his journey were spent in litigation. Then he moved on to specialize in M&A, private equity, project finance and banking and financing transactions. Acknowledged for handling complex and high- profile cases, Haigreve has been recommended by many reputed chambers and publications. Asialaw Leading Lawyers 2008/2009 voted him as the ‘Leading Lawyer’ for Project Finance. Chambers & Partners Asia Pacific 2013 has ranked him the ‘Brand 1 Lawyer’ for Corporate/M&A transactions. International Financial Law Review (IFLR) 1000 has named him as one of the ‘Leading Lawyers in India’ and Asialaw Leading Lawyers 2013 calls him one of the ‘Leading Lawyers for M&A Transactions.’
The future is focus on quality rather than quantity, says Khaitan, and keeping the firm professional.
Weekdays might belong to the office, but weekends are all about family. “Sunday lunch is always the four of us,” says his wife Tarulika. Daughter Mitali says she loves “joking with papa” who use to read favourite stories to her from the Rainbow Magic series whenever he was free. Both Pavitra and Mitali play badminton with their father and Mitali likes to do gardening with the parents.
Talking about the man behind the lawyer’s cloak, Tarulika reveals that Haigreve is a man who likes to live memories in his own quite way. A perfectionist, he likes things done in a disciplined manner, she elucidates.
“It is our dream that after retirement we will own a place in Alibaug and do gardening there,” she smiles. Khaitan also has a keen interest in photography and nature treks. “For the last two years, we have been taking annual holidays in Arosa, a ski resort in Switzerland. The children love to ski,” he says.
Annual holidays twice a year, once with the larger family and once the four of them, keep the family bonds strong. Moving from the palatial family home to the corporate world of Mumbai was a tough decision. “But the city offers a lot of space, you can make friends and there are plenty of things to do,” say Tarulika and Khaitan. Outings to watch the latest movies are destressors. On most days, Haigreve spends time with the children playing board and word games such as monopoly, scrabble, and Othello.
“Papa loves salads,” chirps in Mitali. Haigreve is a salad fan. “When I had more time, I used to cook, now it’s been quite a while. About few years back, one weekend my daughter and I made Thai food,” he reminisces.
Though he does miss the support of the family in Kolkata, he finds the business environment conductive and professional in Mumbai. “The scope is larger and my father keeps guiding me now also,” he says. “I have got a lot of support from the legal community. Even without a legacy behind, talent can find its feet in Mumbai.”
Our inspirations and childhood, in the book Amicus Curiae: Khaitan and Co is 100 Haigreve states, “My grandfather has been a great influence in my life. His strongest quality was that he was always calm and collected and I never saw him lose his temper. Even though he was in great pain at the end of his life, he was never upset. I was the favourite grandchild and our birthdays were around the same time, his birthday was on July 9 and mine on July 13, the birthdays would get celebrated together.
Bhagwati Prasad said: never run after money, do not work for money… and I never saw him work for money. Since our father had little time to spare, grandfather gave me a lot of his time.”
“Haigreve came closer to his father when they started working together. He and his siblings would help Pradip Kumar Khaitan with his work at home… Making photocopies, running errands and come to office on Sundays because he would be working over weekends too. We would be given Thumps Up, muri (puffed rice) and sandesh (Bengali sweet). That was how he bribed us.”
For the shy mother Prabha, Haigreve was and is still the quite , dutiful child.
A thing that Haigreve would like to do but does not find time for is reading. Maybe that too will happen later in life in Alibaug!
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. firstname.lastname@example.org