Legal Luminaries

Top Law Firm Luminaries – Saikrishna Rajagopal

Written by Editor LU

“When I started I wanted to be Fali Nariman of intellectual property laws. Today the fire has doused in my belly. Today, I know there is so much more to life. Today, I won’t be crushed if I don’t become Fali Nariman.”

He is the one who had fallen a victim to ‘professional discrimination’—the latest on the list of discriminations of various kinds and that too in the country’s capital. The appropriateness of the phraseology might be debated but not the fact underlying it. It is both shocking and amusing to learn that Delhi landlords are wary of lawyers and do not take them as tenants. Recounting the experience of their initial days in the city Saikrishna says, “When we came to Delhi, nobody wanted us as tenants the moment they heard we were lawyers.” He had to fake the identity of a tile design consultant. His black attire, however, raised alarm among his neighbours when his wife compounded the first lie with another, giving it a discrete religious angle which always seems to work with Indians. She said her husband was a ‘Shanidev bhakt’. This was way back in 1995 and after traversing some 15 years in the once hostile city Saikrishna and his wife Aparna today own a farm in Noida and some bighas of land along the Yamuna, which they are trying to reclaim through organic farming.

Saikrishna and Aparna’s was a ‘love at first sight’ or ‘made for each other’ or even ‘matches are made in heaven’ kind of union. Meeting each other the first time at the admission form counter in law school, they subsequently spent five years in that institution like ‘love birds’, always sitting next to each other. The two good friends tied themselves in a life-long partnership through holy wedlock 20 days after passing out of college. A Romeo-Juliet or Heer- Ranjha love story was doomed to a tragic end but the Sai-Aparna love story that began with the flame lighting up in both the hearts at the same time has seen it glow with greater intensity and create over the years the world of their dreams. The couple are bonded by an ‘ideological affinity,’ their common goals being perseveration of the environment, animal rights and philanthropic work. A titanic figure in intellectual property litigation, Saikrishna once aspired to be Fali Nariman but today he hears the true call of his heart. In humble pride he says, “When I started I wanted to be Fali Nariman of intellectual property laws. Today the fire has doused in my belly. Today, I know there is so much more to life. Today, I won’t be crushed if I don’t become Fali Nariman.” Saikrishna is engaged in meaningful philanthropy. He has supported the education of his maali’s daughter who now has a postgraduate degree. He is also helping out the maali’s son. His wife Aparna is interested in animal rights and environment preservation. Regarding the forty five bighas of land along the Yamuna which is the couple’s farm, Aparna’s commitment is clear and simple, “Today, my aim is to turn this land into fertile land. I want to restore the soil to its original organic levels—soil that is devoid of all the chemicals that we have been putting into it for more production.”

Saikrishna’s firm has had a humble beginning—set up in 2001 from one of the bedrooms at his home in Vaishali Gardens, Ghaziabad. The firm that has had a long and successful journey very interestingly was founded, in Sai’s words, “in a moment of madness.” While known essentially for litigation practice, it is today one of the few IP firms with an established and very competent transactional practice, servicing client IP needs on commercial transactions often at par with full service firms. In recent years the firms has expanded, bringing under its umbrella practice areas such as competition law as well as sector-specific practice areas such as software and IT, broadcasting, music, film, and print publishing. Saikrishna may have soared to great heights but his feet are rooted firmly on the ground. He knows that the key to success is a down-to-earth realistic approach to things. The successful growth of his firm is attributable, in his own words, to “the fact that to us no matter is either big or small, all matters are treated with an equal amount of passion. I believe that this has contributed immensely to our growth as a firm, and also to building client confidence in the firm!”

Saikrishna may have carved a niche for himself as a legal professional but has always had the spirit of a learner, and measures the success of his firm not in terms of an individual endeavour but as the outcome of the dedicated hard work of his entire team. One sees in him the rare combination of pragmatism and flexibility and a total dissolution of the self. Sai believes in giving his employees a sense of ownership of the firm whatever be their posts, and makes its functioning smooth by allowing many of his staff members do work from home. It is simply incredible that in a world driven by commercial advertising, his firms gets cases , even high-profile ones, just by word of mouth. He says, “We are publicity shy.” He not only gives all credit to the caliber of his lawyers but with astonishing self-withdrawal talks about ‘team ownership’ that he believes rules out the necessity of his own supervision of the firm. The exceptionality of his firm is that it has held on like a family, with only four lawyers having left over 15 years.

Saikrishna never intended to do law. The youngest of four siblings, he first wished to be a cricketer and then a CA but after the 12th he wrote his NLSUI entrance examination. Destiny has taken him along the road he was fated to travel and the journey has been arduous but rewarding. Today he enjoys the distinction of being a legal expert in advising on the complex interplay of various copyrighted works arising in content (and music) acquisition and licensing transactions in India.

He has been featured as a ‘Leading Individual’ in intellectual property by the prestigious Chambers Global—Guide to Leading Legal Professionals of the World in its 2007 and 2009 editions. He has been ranked as a sole ‘Star Individual’ professional for IP litigation by the Chambers & Partners—Asia Rankings—2013. Sai has been associated with some of the leading intellectual property cases in India over the last few years. He is also well known in the field of software anti-piracy initiatives.

He routinely advises various international and Indian clients on complex IP issues including fair dealing across telecom platforms and in the FM radio sector.

Saikrishna was blessed at the age of two by Sai Baba, the religious guru of his parents and was named too by the God man. Sai perhaps sees the hand of the Baba in his success. He recalls, “One day I got a dream, in which Sai Baba came and said you have to take a decision and I will back you.” He has learnt to see every problem as a challenge turned into an opportunity. His wife Aparna too is a Sai believer. She too had a dream of the Baba and her stomach problems were cured. The couple have adopted an elephant in Agra and have named her Sai Geeta after the Baba’s elephant.

Saikrishna takes pride in his wife’s musical talent. A versatile singer, Aparna sings Carnatic, Hindustani and Bengali Rabindra Sangeet as well. She of course had a brief as a stint as a lawyer working in Delhi with Indira Jaising, Sanjay Parekh and Vandana Shiva. Her priority now is different, from cold-blooded legal reasoning to empathetic concern for animals is a major shift of focus and she is a full time animal rights activists today. Her husband’s concern for animals is also an awakening she has brought about in him. The couple’s home is like a zoo—their farm in Noida shelters abandoned horses, cows, geese, donkeys and dogs. Theirs is an organic farm and the land they have picked up along the Yamuna is also being put to organic farming to restore the life of the soil.

The couple’s quest for life is immense and Aparna is the live wire member of the family. They live in the present and make the most out of it. The greatest beauty of their life are the three adopted children—Rukmini, Madhuri and Krishna. Saikrishna and Aparna are living those human values and principles which we have almost lost to a materialistic and selfish world.

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