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SINGH & ASSOCIATES: INDIAS RISING STAR
INDIA has emerged over the last decade as an attractive investment opportunity for multinational companies, thanks to its growing economy and millions of potential consumers.
Indias 2011 census noted that its population had grown by 181 million people or over half the entire population of the U.S. in only a decade. Those demographics, paired with over a decade of regulatory reforms aimed at making it easier for foreign companies to operate and invest in India, have helped bolster the business of its vibrant legal community.
Singh & Associates is among its brightest star in the legal field. Established in 2002, the firm is a relatively recent newcomer to Indias legal scene, but it arrived at just the right time to capitalize on the countrys rapid rise.
Headquartered in New Delhi, Singh & Associates has offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and associate offices in Patna, Ranchi and Kolkata. It also recently set up an India Desk in China in collaboration with a top ten Chinese law firm and has a satellite office in New York.
Singh & Associates specializes in corporate law, commercial law and foreign investment, serving a global client base that includes global household names, such as Bayer Schering Pharma, Siemens and Sony.
Reporter Howard Stock spoke with Singh & Associates Founding Partner Manoj K. Singh about opportunities in India for foreign companies looking to invest in or build businesses.
WHAT DIFFERENTIATES SINGH & ASSOCIATES FROM ITS COMPETITORS?
We started in 2002 as a litigating firm committed to utmost quality and cost effectiveness. That doesnt mean cheap or compromising with the output, but we charge lower costs for the same quality, if not better, that our competitors provide. And if a client wants to know how much time an assignment will take, were upfront about it. This commitment helped us in 2008 when clients were looking to cut their legal costs due to global meltdown. We were there to provide quality services for reasonable professional fees. Its tough to retain clients under these circumstances, but we have had almost 100% client retention rate in the last ten years, which in turn has helped us attract new clients.
WHAT MAKES YOU ATTRACTIVE TO MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES?
We specialize in corporate, transactional, litigation and dispute resolution and intellectual property law, providing a one-stop shop for clients with diverse needs. Our team consists of specialists in all sectors, including domestic and international arbitration, real estate and infrastructure, energy, pharmaceutical law compliance, information technology, finance, human resources and labor law. We are assisting many Indian companies who are investing in Africa, South East Asia, and the U.S., and we have actively assisted foreign companies investing in India, setting up businesses and undertaking cross border activities. More than 70% of our business is from foreign clients.
HOW DOES INDIAS REGULATORY FRAMEWORK IMPACT MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES?
New extant regulations in 2001 and 2002 created the automatic route, which made it much easier for foreign corporate entities to come to India and has attracted investment from outside the country.
ARE YOU ABLE TO INFLUENCE THE EVOLUTION OF NEW LAWS IN INDIA?
We currently have about more than 150 reported judgments in the name of various lawyers including myself with the various Indian courts wherein we have successfully argued, interpreted law and obtained favorable orders. This is one of the small ways which we feel that we have contributed towards the evolution of laws in India.
HOW ARE GLOBAL STANDARDS CHANGING OVER TIME, AND WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DO THEY PROVIDE?
Global standards are definitely changing, especially economic standards designed to encourage investment. New examples of cross-border investment include Indian companies investing in mining companies in South Africa. As far as investment opportunities in India, its a country of consumers with a similar demographic to that of the U.S. in 1911. Its an exciting opportunity for foreign companies to invest in India.
WHERE ARE THE BIGGEST GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUR FIRM?
India and China share a very interesting relationship: China is the worlds largest manufacturing economy and India is one of the largest consumer-based economies. Business between the two countries is increasing and it just seemed right to be physically present in China in order to capture work from other domains, which is why we recently entered a partnership with a top 10 firm in China and set up an India desk there. Were already successfully representing Chinese litigating against Indian companies. Outside of China and India, we expect Europe specifically Spain, Germany and France and the U.S. to provide the most growth potential.
WHAT CROSS-BORDER ACTIVITIES ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
Singh & Associates has successfully undertaken many cross border transactions, recently we concluded a transaction between an Indian real estate and infrastructure company with turnover of $1 billion and a Qatar-based group with turnover of around $1.6 billion. Theyll undertake business of about $1.4 billion over the next five years.
Weve also represented Fortune 500 companies from various industries. For several years now, we have been the turnkey solicitors of Alcon Laboratories, now a subsidiary of Novartis, and a major ophthalmic pharmaceutical company in India. Under the able guidance of Mr. Jawed Zia, Managing Director-India & Regional Director, West Asia, we have been able to keep the Alcon almost litigation free company in India.
Under our firms excellent strategic and corporate guidance, a fast-growing Indian telecom company is expanding globally by forming strategic business alliances with relevant partners across the world, and Singh & Associates is handling its international commercial arbitration dispute pending before the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris.
Meanwhile, Singh & Associates is representing Era Infra Engineering Limited in a case before the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). These proceedings raise issues concerning, among other things, misrepresentation, estoppel and the law of India regulating derivatives, and center on the claims filed by Deutsche Bank against Era and counter claims filed by Era before LCIA against Deutsche Bank regarding three outstanding derivative transactions, their enforceability, validity and alleged sums due thereunder. The matter is pending adjudication before the LCIA.
We also structured and finalized the joint venture deal with a local company and one in Qatar for undertaking various infrastructure projects in Qatar. The deal includes drafting of a joint venture agreement in the form of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and negotiating on the roles and responsibilities of both parties. We also advised on the tax liability of the clients employees expatriated to Qatar for the project and assisted in drafting and negotiating a loan of approximately $13 million from Credit Suisse Bank for a mega housing project.
Singh & Associates has always handled international deals thoroughly and has shown exemplary negotiation skills and advice on legal viability, regulatory aspects, negotiations, drafting, finalization and post-contract legal management. We have counseled on various JVs in the real estate and infrastructure sector and the power and natural gas sector. Some recent JVs include Indian companies with companies from Indonesia, Switzerland, Oman, Qatar, Zambia, Russia, China and more.
WHERE DO YOU SEE SINGH & ASSOCIATES IN THE FUTURE?
Over the next two years I will focus on retaining our professionals via our career development program. Losing a team member after two years to another firm means youre losing your investment, so my goal is to decrease the attrition rate. I hope to have a total of 175 team members within two years, and 500-plus professionals within five years. Singh & Associates offers career growth potential for every professional associated with it and has transparent in-house promotional policies in place. Over the next ten years, Singh & Associates will be a multinational law firm with presence all over the world.