A transformative moment?

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A top down effort to trigger radical change that just may work

When the long-awaited goods and service tax (GST) becomes a reality, India will have taken a big step towards achieving greater economic efficiencies, even as it strengthens its federal structure. This fundamental rewriting of the indirect tax structure has been many years in the making and credit should be given to the current government for bringing it to fruition.

Leader 1706But there is little doubt of the pain – some unavoidable – that will result from this kind of radical change. The pain on account of design features, such as a multiplicity of tax rates and slabs, will not only reduce the potential of GST to transform, but also raise questions about the wisdom of GST. The challenge of implementation appears more daunting when the burden of compliance for service providers and the need that taxpayers be computer literate is added on. However none of this suggests the process should be halted. A radical overhaul of the tax system should yield results in the long run.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of India Business Law Journal. As we celebrate this landmark moment, our Cover story, written by our editor Vandana Chatlani, revisits some of the most memorable events since June 2007, when our first issue was published. These include Vodafone’s US$11.1 billion acquisition of Hutchison Essar and Tata Steel’s US$12.9 billion purchase of Corus – both in 2007, the Satyam saga in 2009, the award of the first compulsory licence in 2012, and more recently, the changes brought about by the Modi government. These developments have presented opportunities and challenges for companies, private legal practitioners and in-house counsel.

The past decade has also seen international law firms knocking at the door of India’s legal market. While the imminent opening many observers were predicting in June 2007 is yet to happen, interest in India has not waned. In this month’s Vantage point the India heads of 12 leading international law firms tell us how their India strategies have changed in the interim. Nipun Gupta, co-head of the India strategy group at Bird & Bird, says that while the country continues to hold indisputable global economic importance, her firm’s approach is now focused on assisting Indian companies with their overseas activities.

For companies hungry to expand their footprint and operations through mergers and acquisitions (M&A), 2016 was a good year. As we detail in Bustling market the average value of an M&A deal in 2016 more than doubled to US$166 million from US$80 million in 2015, while total deal value catapulted to US$64 billion across 388 deals in 2016 from US$34 billion across 421 deals in 2015. For lawyers working on M&A transactions, this has translated into more competition. “Everyone is vying for the same pie, so you need to provide quality services and yet be competitively priced,” says Darshika Kothari, a senior partner at AZB & Partners. More importantly, while India’s M&A landscape remains promising, a number of legal and regulatory impediments still exist. Cyril Shroff, the managing partner of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, says the “major and regular obstacle” concerns the drafting of the scheme of arrangement and the procedural formalities involved. The devil lies in the detail and a lot rides on whether efficiencies in such details can be achieved.

This month’s What’s the deal? details the legal recourse available to Indian companies that fall victim to cyber-attacks. It provides answers to 10 critical questions triggered by large-scale attacks such as last month’s Wannacry virus, which caused malicious software to infect around 230,000 computers in just two days. Our coverage explores whether an attack needs to be reported to any authority and if attackers can be punished under the Indian Penal Code. All relevant questions that are in people’s minds in the wake of the attacks.

In this month’s Intelligence report India Business Law Journal presents its 11th annual survey of the top international law firms for India work. It draws on an analysis of more than 600 law firms worldwide that have documented deals and cases with an Indian element in the past 12 months. Our coverage reveals the top 10 foreign law firms for India-related work, 15 firms that are considered key players for India-related deals and an additional 20 firms that we think are significant players. We also highlight 15 firms in the regional and specialist category, which we believe are capable of fielding India-related assignments, as well as 40 “firms to watch”.

Investment to and from India continues to require expert guidance and legal advice. We have been privileged to bring you insights and intelligence from India’s brightest legal minds over the past decade. As we embark on our second decade of reporting, we are excited to bring you even closer to the ground as we analyse new reforms and legal and regulatory developments. We thank you for your support and look forward to delivering more complex, cutting-edge and challenging coverage on the Indian legal market.