Mr. Santanu T Ray is an advocate specializing in Insolvency and Bankruptcy, and currently the Senior Partner of AAA Insolvency Professionals LLP, which is India’s second largest Insolvency professionals Entity. He recently achieved professional Certification in Commercial Arbitration from IIAM, one of the premier Arbitration and Mediation Institutions in the country.
He has been interviewed by Keertesh Tripathi, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Could you please tell the readers something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years?
I have been working in the financial services industry since 1992 and have worked with various companies spanning stock broking, mutual funds, insurance, merchant banking, loan syndication and lending against securities over 24 years before I started practice as an Insolvency Professional in 2017. The field was opening up around that time and I felt there is a good opportunity for a professional like me with varied experience in financial services industry to be a part of this emerging area of practice. Hence I took the limited insolvency exam and after qualifying the exam started practising as an Insolvency Professional by joining AAA Insolvency Professionals LLP as a partner.
How was your experience in law school, and what were the experiences, and motivations that shaped you as an individual?
I completed my law much later in 2019, I had been working in the industry and had done my MBA after my graduation. As I had always an inclination to legal matters and in my career had opportunity to handle various legal matters on behalf of the companies that I had worked for, hence I decided to pursue a law degree and completed my LLB from University of Mumbai. My only motivation in life is to continuously gain new knowledge and experience and that is what has made me pursue different fields of work in my career. I am most comfortable in diverse and challenging assignments.
You have a rich experience in general corporate which expands for over 25 years with you being a part of various industry giants, could you tell us your experience on the same.
I have had varied experience in sales and marketing, administration and legal matters through my corporate career at various points of time. All this gave me a diverse body of practical knowledge and problem-solving skills and also developed the ability to take challenges and leadership roles.
What made you pursue the field of insolvency and bankruptcy considering it is relatively new field in the legal industry?
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) is a landmark reformative legislation passed by the Parliament to make ease of doing business in India by giving a structured exits to companies and lenders from unviable businesses that were not able to service their debt obligations. Previously debt resolution and insolvency of companies or individuals used to take a very long time sometimes even 5 to 10 years. IBC is expected to shorten that period by appointing insolvency professionals to administer the companies which are admitted to corporate insolvency resolution process (CIRP) or as liquidators where the company is in to liquidation. It has put the creditors through COC mechanism in control of the corporate debtor once a CIRP application is admitted. IBC in many ways has a positive effect and it will encourage corporates and lenders to borrow and lend more diligently. As an experienced managerial professional and also a law graduate, it was the challenging role of insolvency professional that was envisaged in the IBC, 2016 which attracted me to this profession.
What are some of the hurdles you faced during your shift to a new practice?
It does take time and perseverance to set up a practice. I had the advantage of being an early mover in this profession and also my association with AAA Insolvency Professional LLP, helped me in this transition.
What according to you is the desired skill set that should be possessed by an insolvency professional?
First and foremost the insolvency professional should be capable of handling challenging leadership assignments as he is in charge of the company once he is appointed as IRP/RP and he has to face various challenges in trying to keep the company as a going concern. So having a good experience of either practice or industry is essential for success. Also a positive attitude to try and solve the problem and revive the company by finding a successful resolution applicant to take over the company is an essential attribute. The objective of the Code is to find resolution and liquidation is the last resort. Though practical experience shows as on date more companies going to liquidation rather than finding resolution, but in my view that is because these companies have been sick for a number of years and their value of assets have eroded substantially and the debt burden has piled up to absolutely unsustainable level. Some of these have been closed units also. As the Code and practice evolves IBC will be used for resolving companies which are just about becoming stressed assets. Here the managerial skill set of the insolvency professional will be most essential.
What are the qualities which you look in an intern prior to granting them an internship?
I look for the prospective intern's willingness to learn all the tasks that are required to be done in a firm like ours. We impart practical training and not purely theoretical research work.
Are there are changes that you would recommend in the legal machinery to ease the process of insolvency?
The practice is evolving and so is the Code. There have been and continue to be lot of amendments to the Act and regulations keeping in view the practical experience of the market in insolvency cases. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) the regulator has been very active in the evolution of the Code through various regulations.
What does “exhaustion of research” mean to you and what importance does it hold in the legal field?
Research is important from the point of view of being able to form the correct opinion on any legal matter in front of you. It helps one chose the most beneficial course of action by taking an informed decision. Therefore, the role of research in the legal field or for that matter in any other field also is very important.
Could you share a piece of advice for our readers which would help them in their journey as a legal professional?
Any professional legal or otherwise should always be a student. Life should be a constant learning experience and one must also try to upgrade one's knowledge by every possible means formal or informal. For a legal professional particularly reading habit is most important one must continuously read and keep oneself updated on the latest judgments/amendments to various Acts, rules and regulations. Also, personally I feel ethics and integrity is most important in the legal profession as a legal professional particularly an advocate is an officer of the court and is supposed to assist the court in delivering justice.