Friday, July 1, 2011

Shri Mansingh L. Bhakta

Shri Mansingh L. Bhakta
Shri Mansingh L. Bhakta is a Director of the Reliance Industries Ltd.Company since September 27, 1977. He is a Senior Partner of Messers Kanga & Company, a leading firm of Advocates and Solicitors in Mumbai. He has been in practice for over 51 years and has vast experience in the legal field and particularly on matters relating to corporate laws, banking and taxation.

Shri Bhakta is the legal advisor to leading foreign and Indian companies and banks. He has also been associated with a large number of Euro issues made by Indian companies. He was the Chairman of the Taxation Law Standing Committee of LAWASIA, an Association of Lawyers of Asia and Pacific which has its headquarters in Australia.

Shri Bhakta is a Director of Ambuja Cements Limited, Micro Inks Limited, The Indian Merchant's Chamber, Mumbai, JCB Manufacturing Limited, JCB India Limited and Lodha Developers Limited. He is the Lead Independent Director of the Company. He is the Chairman of the Shareholders'/ Investors' Grievance Committee and the Remuneration Committee of the Company. He is the Chairman of the Audit Committee, the Shareholders' / Investors' Grievance Committee, the Compensation and Remuneration Committee and the Banking Matters Committee of Ambuja Cements Limited and a member of the Audit Committees of Micro Inks Limited and JCB India Limited. He is Recipient of Rotary Centennial Service Award for Professional Excellence from Rotary International. He has been listed as one of the Leading Lawyers of Asia by Asialaw, Hongkong for the fourth consecutive year from 2006.

Mansingh L Bhakta, senior partner, Kanga & Co
He chokes when he reminisces about the late Dhirubhai Ambani, founder chairman of the Rs 90,000 crore Reliance group. Mansingh L Bhakta (73), corporate lawyer and senior partner of law firm Kanga & Co., sits at his spacious apartment in a upscale Mumbai area beneath a huge Ganesh imprint on aluminium foil, done by painter Diwakar.

Clearly, the man who had known Dhirubhai since his days in Aden has many fond memories. And for that reason alone, he will not speak a word on the current controversies in Reliance.

Early this week, when Bhakta decided to step down from the Reliance Industries board, the shock was obvious.
It was felt that one of Dhirubhai Ambani’s closest confidantes was moving out because of the ongoing imbroglio between the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil. Was he the first casualty?

For more than three decades, the diminutive Bhakta has played a pivotal role in the creation of Dhirubhai Ambani’s business empire. A sharp lawyer and an astute tax consultant, Bhakta has been the man who helped Ambani convert his dream into reality.

“If Dhirubhai reached the heights he did, Bhakta was the wind beneath those wings,” says a top lawyer who worked with Bhakta.

The soft-spoken lawyer’s association with one of India’s most famous entrepreneur s began from Ambani’s trading days, struggling to export commodities, to the time he built an empire worth thousands of crores of rupees. Those who knew both the stalwarts say Ambani, a man in a hurry, was taken in by Bhakta’s practical approach to all problems. In fact, both men bonded well because of their practical streak.

Bhakta remembers the time Reliance was constructing its Patalganga plant. When everybody expected the plant to be built first, Ambani said the first construction should be the guest house. A bizarre idea? Not really.

Ambani’s logic was simple. Reliance had hired DuPont to set up the plant. He figured that the foreign consultants who would swoop down on Patalganga would have to be put up in five star hotels, which were at least 3-5 hours away from the venue.

Then, since they charged for the man-days involved, most of the time would be wasted commuting to and from their place of stay. “By putting them up in the guest house, I will get not just their regular eight hours of work but make them slog for 14 hours," Ambani is believed to have told Bhakta. That DuPont built the plant in a record 18 months is another story.

Ambani trusted Bhakta implicitly. When the Ambanis were interested in engineering company Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Bhakta was the only person outside the family to represent Reliance on the L&T board.

An extremely private person, Bhakta’s public appearances are rare. “I am a home loving bird and do not like to socialise,” he says.

A perfectionist to the core, he is said to have pulled up people in his office if there was a comma or a full stop missing in drafts or memos.

“Only if you are meticulous from the beginning can you be perfect,” is his common refrain, say employees at Kanga & Co, where Bhakta is the reigning deity.

Known for his collection of 400 Ganesha idols, one thing that is sacrosanct to Bhakta is his annual one-month holiday, reveals a solicitor who has worked with him closely.

A widely travelled man, Bhakta can talk endlessly on how the features of Ganeshas acquired in Malaysia differ from the features of Ganeshas acquired in China or Indonesia. “That’s the only shopping we do,” he says with a twinkle in the eye.

He might have sorted many corporate tussles. But the ongoing tussle between the Ambani brothers on ownership issues could be his toughest.