Can you tell us about your background?
There is very little in Raksha Kothari’s background that prepared her for a career in law, but the 48-year-old senior partner at DSK Legal has proven that lack of family tradition in her chosen field is no impediment.
The latest feather in her cap is the role she played in getting pharmaceutical company Wockhardt to settle with holders of its convertible foreign currency bonds by agreeing to a repay nearly 500 crore by August 2012.
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What did you study?
Kothari belongs to a community of Palanpuri diamond merchants, who generally gave little importance to education. However, with motivation and support from her family, Kothari studied BA LLB at the Government Law College in Mumbai, and later started her career with Dhruv Liladhar & Co.
“It was by default. I was among seven friends who joined law school and the only one who is in legal profession,” she says. Chennai-born Kothari went to Villa Theresa High School in South Mumbai and studied for a graduate degree in commerce at Hassaram Rijhumal and Sydenham colleges.
What was your career path after law studies?
She had her first brush with a foreign currency convertible bond transaction in 2004. The deal involved a drug firm in Bangalore and was her first exposure to any such exotic product.
Experience in litigation, she believes, is vital to become a successful lawyer. Kothari says doing litigation has prepared her to read closely documents related to corporate deals involving mergers, bond issues or overseas depositary receipts.
In 2007-08, her firm would complete one FCCB transaction every month, but most of them were boom-time phenomena. Nobody bothered about the documents.
No one reads documents in India, whether it’s a simple lease agreement or an exotic bond transaction. And in the case of FCCBs, corporates thought that people will convert it to equity and not ask their money back.”
With the economic slowdown and volatile stock markets, that was not the case to be, as companies such as Wockhardt found out.
Can you tell us about your other experiences?
After Dhruv Liladhar, she joined Shah Desai & Associates before moving to DSK Legal with its founder and managing partner Anand Desai. Kothari was appearing for small investors in the Harshad Mehta scam when Desai represented the other side. Desai started DSK Legal in 2001, and invited Kothari to be part of his team.
A veteran of many legal battles, Kothari is a movie buff and loves to watch Bollywood flicks. Her recent favorites include Singham and Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster. She reads Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer.
An enthusiastic traveller, she takes two vacations a year to explore new places. But one city is permanent — Antwerp where her brother keeps the family diamond business running. Paris is her favorite though, as she can indulge in some luxury shopping.
How did you get into M&A?
In 2005, DHL Express acquired 81.03% in Blue Dart for around 730 crore. That was her first exposure to the world of marquee mermergers and acquisitions. DSK Legal was advising Blue Dart. “It was the first time that we saw term sheet drafting, deal negotiations and finally money coming into the system. So, it was the first time I felt that corporate advisory can be as much fun as litigation.”
Kothari’s peers regard her as a forthright individual who is never politically correct. “My family is proud for what I have achieved and when someone from my family or a colleague gifts me something, their gesture makes my day as small things matter a lot to me.”