Pratibha Gangwar, Counsel at Alstom Transport India Ltd

Pratibha Gangwar, Counsel at Alstom Transport India Ltd

  16 Dec 2023

In conversation with Ms. Pratibha Gangwar (RMLNLU), Legal Counsel at Alstom Transport India Limited, Bengaluru on her law school journey and experience of working at HAL.

Tell our readers something about yourself.

Hello! I am Pratibha Gangwar, born at Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad) in Uttar Pradesh. I did my entire schooling in Allahabad and shifted to Lucknow for my Law graduation from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University (RMLNU).

I joined RMLNU to pursue BA LLB(Hons), a 5 year Law graduation course, in 2008 through Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) which was conducted for the first time ever. Right after completion of my graduation, I worked in Allahabad High Court as Law Clerk (Trainee) for a brief period of 3.5 months and then joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a Defence Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), as Management Trainee(Legal).

I worked with HAL for 9 years and made a switch to Private Sector by joining Alstom. Currently I am working as Legal Counsel and its been 5 months being a part of Legal team there.

Please share a few things about your law school experience.

My law college life was all about attending classes regularly, sitting in front rows, making exhaustive notes, multiple library visits, doing project work, writing research papers, attending conferences, doing internships, engrossing in late night studies for exams and scoring grades.

At the cost of self-bragging, I would mention that I have always been a studious and academic oriented person hence, in college as well my focus was always on working hard and getting good grades. It was a serious occasion of botheration for me if I would get a ‘B’ instead of an ’A’ in any subject. Probably this hard work and sincerity was the reason that I finally scored 9.72 CPI out of 10 and secured 3rd rank out of the batch of 160 students.

I know that sounds really nerdy and boring but that’s not all. I was also involved in various extra-curricular activities. I used to participate in every possible cultural and literary event and was also a part of various Moot Court and other event organizing committees.

I also travelled with my college friends to participate in various competitions conducted by other colleges. I really enjoyed 5 years of hostel life with my sister (who was also doing her law graduation from RMLNLU) and friends. The late night birthday party celebrations, making Maggie in electric kettle, having gossip sessions is giving me major nostalgia as I am talking about it.

So, I guess in short, college gave the foundation for my career in a very sincere yet fun way! Although a piece of advice here, please don’t be like me. Enjoy a little more. College happens only once in your life and gives you lifetime memories. Of course do study because that’s what you’ve gone there for but don’t compromise with the fun element of it.

What are the activities you did throughout your law school journey?

Like I mentioned above, I was involved in various literary & cultural activities during my college days. I recall myself and my team winning Runners’ Up trophy in National Law Reform Competition organized by Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. It was one of its own kind of a competition where we had to suggest amendments in certain chapters of Indian Penal Code like Law Commission does.

Another fond memory is me and my sister travelling to Udaipur for an Int’l Conference on Global Financial Crisis Challenges & Opportunities where I presented our research paper on “Electronic Fund Transfer: A Challenge to the Advancing Global Economy” and we won the Best Paper award for the same. There are endless such events related to my academic activities which kept me on my toes to do better every time.

I also recall the last minute approval we received to visit IIT, Kanpur for their Inter-College Fest called ‘Antaragini’ as a group dance entry. Since we had no prior tickets, we somehow managed to reach Kanpur through roadways bus and that journey was another adventure all together. Though we didn’t win the competition but participation and representing our college was not less satisfying for me. We used to have festival celebrations and DJ nights in our college on several occasions which I thoroughly enjoyed and I still miss them.

I was also a member of Mess Committee of Girls Hostel to overlook the food quality and take people’s feedback. I remember we organized ‘Paratha Night’ one night for dinner wherein our Mess Contractor served all sorts of Parthas on our request. Everybody loved the initiative and the event was a hit.

I think I would run out of space if I would mention everything. So let’s just put a full stop here for now!

Did you pursue Masters also? If yes, then from where and what was the experience there?

Actually, no ! Though I did write certain exams for getting enrolled in Master course and I got through as well but I didn’t join them. For e.g. I sat in CLAT for LLM and my marks would have allowed me to do Masters from NALSAR, Hyderabad.

Then I also wrote M.Phil (International Legal Studies) Entrance Exam for Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and I got selected among 10 candidates after Interview. But before I could join any of them I got selected for HAL job and I decided to join there. So, till date I am still a graduate but I would definitely hope to pursue Masters sometime in my career.

Share your experience in working with HAL.

HAL was a stepping stone for me and I owe a lot to it. HAL is a defence PSU involved in manufacturing and overhauling of helicopters, fighter and trainer planes, accessories etc., headquartered in Bengaluru with about 20 Manufacturing Units and about 10 R&D Centers across India.

I applied in HAL while I was in college and I remember while I was still in train heading back towards my home along with my father after giving interview, the final results came out and I was one among 12 people who got selected as Management Trainee(Legal). My father was so proud and not only that all the people in that train compartment started congratulating me and asking me more about it.

I joined HAL in 2014 and after successfully completing my one year training period I was absorbed as Officer(Legal) and I was last working as Manager(Legal) when I switched my job. I would describe my experience at HAL as extremely educating and pathbreaking. I got my hands on vetting, drafting and negotiating various contracts with well established companies working in aeronautics field. I also got to handle various litigations and arbitration matters.

I got to learn significantly in one project where HAL acquired a sick unit of another company as a subsidiary and I carried out legal due diligence of the same. I have special interest in Intellectual Property Rights and got to work on the subject on ground level.

It was a great moment of joy for me when Copyright registration was granted to HAL Anthem on which I had worked and understood the entire process of Copyright registration. I got the opportunity to witness manufacturing process of Helicopters in the production Units. I got to meet and talk to some really inspiring personalities who have been phenomenal in defence sector while I was in HAL.

Whatever little I have learned as of now in the legal field I owe it to 9 years of my working experience in HAL. I would infact not shy away from sharing that I could help my father in cancer treatment just because of my financial savings I had done during my term in HAL. I infact got my life partner in HAL. So I think HAL has and would always have a special place in my heart. I would always take pride that I got an opportunity to give my little bit of contribution in the defence manufacturing sector.

Please share your experience in working with ALSTOM.

I guess it would be too soon to give a concrete opinion on that since I joined Alstom only 5 months back. However, the way it is going I think the graph is going only upwards. Alstom is basically involved in manufacturing of rolling stock, rail equipment, infrastructure and providing signaling and allied services having its headquarters in France and its Regional India head office in Bengaluru. I joined Alstom India Legal team as Legal Counsel.

If I talk honestly, it was a huge cultural difference for me in the beginning since HAL is a PSU and Alstom is an MNC. In HAL things are more on paper while in Alstom it is more paperless. There is no work from home concept in HAL as it is a defence PSU.

The work is more project oriented and financial results driven in Alstom. That’s what I feel so far. I am getting to learn many new things related to Project execution and what difficulties arise later if the contract terms are not properly drafted. I am getting to work on various tenders floated by Government Customers related to Metros and Trains.

I recently got to visit train and propulsion manufacturing sites of Alstom in Gujarat and Chennai. It was indeed a highly informative visit with my Legal team. I saw metros getting manufactured there for various national and international customers.

I hope that I could give my best possible support to Alstom Legal team while I am still in the process of learning and absorbing several new things here.

What was the turning point of your life which caused you to work with such prestigious institutions?

I would say both HAL and Alstom are prestigious organizations in their respective fields. While HAL was my first job ever, Alstom is my first private sector job. Switching from public sector to private sector was a deliberate choice because I think unless you have experienced on your own you cant say that what are you apt for.

At certain point of time you have to take some decisions which people may not approve of or very supportive of (which was not in my case by the way) but I think its just a learning process and you should take a call that how you want to take it forward. My personal reasons also played a role in this switch. However, I would suggest to think it through before you make a choice and never afraid of taking risks.

If you are having a tough day, how do you overcome it?

If I tell you honestly, work can never make you feel your day is tough. It is always the circumstances and people around you which make your life tough. If things around you are positive, you can deliver anything on professional front but if the environment is toxic around you, a part of the energy gets wasted in dealing with it.

But its part and parcel of life and accept it that everybody has to face it and come up with their own ways to deal with it. I have had my share too and I had really difficult time when I was new in my job and my father was detected with cancer. You would not believe if I will tell you that I did my Intermediate in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics and I even dropped a year preparing for IIT-JEE exam but I was heartbroken when I couldn’t get through it.

I was getting other engineering colleges but not an IIT. But since my father himself is in legal profession I guess I had law in my blood and cleared CLAT with no preparation. Let me tell you here, I never regretted taking this 180 degree shift in my career. So sometimes your present failure has something even better waiting for you in your future.

When I look back now, I feel that those tough time taught me the most and have prepared me to deal with anything. I would say its always the bad times which give you more learnings and experience than the good ones. Although my journey has just begin and I am yet to learn myself that how I can be a more balanced and content person.

At the end, what advice you would want to give to your readers?

I don’t know if I am qualified enough to give advice to readers but whatever I have experienced so far I would definitely give them some food for thought and leave it on them to decide for themselves.

Firstly, I would say I believe in living your life happily and eliminating all those reasons who try to divert you away from this goal of yours. If I can’t eliminate it, I ignore it. If I can’t ignore it, I confront it. I have been a really straightforward person throughout my life. I am exactly on my face what I am inside. So when I feel that some situations are going out of my hand I prefer addressing them directly rather than cribbing about them.

Another thing I would like to mention here is that have confidence in whatever you choose to do. Don’t do it halfheartedly. If you have taken a decision, have faith that it’s the best decision. Also do remember that not everyone knows everything so if anytime you come across something which you do not know while the other people in the room knows don’t be ashamed of yourself or get your self-esteem attacked by it. You might be knowing 100 other things which the other people in the room may not be knowing.

So what’s the big deal. But this does not mean you don’t prepare for the subject. Do your R&D before you take some assignment, acknowledge if you get stuck somewhere and buy time to come again more informed. Its always better to give a right advice with some delay rather than giving an instant wrong advice.

Secondly, I would suggest you to pick a hobby and pursue that. Believe me it is such a breather in your busy professional life. I personally like dancing and painting. I am definitely not a pro at it. But I keep taking dancing lessons and trying hands with paints and brushes. This hobby time which you give to yourself helps you in being a more balanced person between your professional and personal life.

Thirdly, I would suggest to make books your best friends. Books are your best teachers and by books I mean any sort of book which encourages you or makes you feel lively. I am addicted to reading autobiographies/biographies.

Every autobiographies/biographies I have ever read, it has taught me something new and it impacts deeply because it is coming from the practical life experience of some person. I know some people don’t like flipping pages and are just not a reader; for them I would say find audio options but indulge yourself into some sort of learning spree on a regular basis.

Last but not the least, live your life in a healthy way. ‘Health is wealth’ is what we have been hearing about since our elementary education stage. But how far are we really following it in our real life is what we need to focus on. Any job or any person which is taking toil on your health (physically or mentally) is not meant to be in your life is what I believe.

Your health shall always be your priority. As far as I am concerned I do Pranayama and Yoga on a regular basis. I keep reading texts on ayurveda and try to follow some ayurvedic life sutras. I love watching videos of healthy food recipes and trying them out. Not to forget, I usually try to consume light and humorous content and I also try to be as humorous as possible in my routine life. So healthy life should be the mantra for you no matter whatever you plan to do.

With this I think I would put an end to my thoughts and I wish the readers all the luck, success and prosperity in your future endeavors. All the best !

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