Interview Corner

LAABh – Interview with Mr. Hitesh Sablok

Hitesh Sablok received his Bachelor of Law (Honours) degree in 2008 from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi, India and was admitted to the Bar Council of Delhi in September 2008. He completed his Berkeley Executive Program in Management and also received a Certificate of Business Excellence from Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, USA in 2019.
He is a corporate commercial lawyer with more than 13 years of experience. In his current role, he is the Lead Legal at Eden Renewables India, which is a joint venture between EDF Renouvelables and Total Eren. Prior to this, Hitesh was a member of the international legal team at First Solar, and he has also worked with leading Indian law firms like Vaish Associates Advocates and Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co.
He believes in mentoring talent and building strong teams. The interplay of business with law interests him. Navigating through complex structures and issues to achieve a win-win solution is the driving force that keeps Hitesh motivated and energized.

Q. Hello. It is a pleasure to have you with us today. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your life in law school? Did it appear to you at any point that you would venture into another profession, aside from the law profession?

I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a cyclist and a strong believer in sustainable living. I also happen to be a corporate commercial lawyer and have worked across both, law firm and in-house roles. In my current role, I lead the legal function at Eden Renewables India, which is a joint venture between EDF Renouvelables and Total Eren; where I am inter-alia responsible for managing all the legal affairs (including negotiation and finalization of commercial contracts), providing strategic advice, undertaking risk analysis and implementing steps to mitigate risk.

During my law school days, I was an average student who was least interested in theory and more inclined towards the practical aspects. My law school days were more about meeting people and developing my professional network. It was all about figuring out the stream of law which would be my career. For me, it was not only finding what I loved; but, also figuring out what I was good at. By the time I was in my final year of law, I was certain that I wanted to be a corporate commercial lawyer and started gearing up for the professional life ahead.

At my core, I have always been an innovator, a thinker, a continuous learner and an executor who is never afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty; and because of this, I have always been attracted to the business side and entrepreneurship. I feel if you are a believer in something, then, there is no one better to do that task and this has been one of the reasons for my parallel entrepreneurial journey. For me, it is a way to follow and live my passion and my belief.

The roots to this lie in the early part of my career when as part of being an M&A lawyer, I used to interact with entrepreneurs and business teams nearly on a daily basis. I realised that there are two types of people – first, who are working on their own dreams; and second, who are working on someone else’s dreams. I tried being both respectively and then realized that, although it may not be easy, but, it’s definitely possible to have a mix of both – and that’s about it; that’s where it started.

Q. You extensively worked in the legal field at some of the biggest law firms in varying capacity. How was your work experience? When did you start thinking that it might be a good idea to have a start-up as well?

During my tenure at the law firms, I worked with and lead teams on transactional assignments; primarily relating to M&A and PE. I was responsible for every aspect of the deal. The day used to start early and revolved around con-calls, client meetings (be it for discussing an ongoing deal or for business development) and finalizing drafts of agreements/ documents for one or the other on-going transactions.

The work involved a lot of interaction with various stakeholders and clients; making sure the expectations were met and that the quality was delivered. It was a wonderful experience and I got to meet a lot of amazing people as part of my journey who taught me many fine skills that a professional should practice. I was also able to make a few beautiful friends (like family) along the way and was lucky enough to work with some of the smartest professionals and bright minds; I will always be thankful for that.

I started to think about my first start-up in around 2014. After around 6 years in the profession and having experienced everything that a transactional lawyer can imagine, I wanted to take on a bigger challenge and also had this feeling of doing something of my own. This gave birth to my first start-up “PackandShift”.

Q. You found a social venture purely out of your passion for nature and earth conservation. How did you prepare yourself for the recycling waste startup? What prompted you to make this choice and what made this shift possible?

Born out of pure passion for a happy green earth, our (my wife Megha and mine) social venture Wastefullyours re-purposes discarded materials into various gorgeous circular products. It not just turns waste into beautiful home décor and furniture items, but also helps utilize a product to its fullest potential and in turn reduce waste and conserve natural resources.

Environment conservation, in order to save the planet, was on our minds for a very long time. As part of my Berkeley Executive Program in Management, I had to launch a project/ business and it was literally a no brainer to embark on a path which we had been thinking of for a long time. We started socializing the concept and ran surveys to get inputs plus first reactions to this idea of reusing waste and discarded products. Utilizing all the inputs and reactions that we received, we started conceptualizing the prototype for our initial products somewhere around Jan/ Feb 2019. Once we had the prototypes in place we went back to the people for seeking comments and observations on the said products. Taking all the feedback into consideration and making all the improvisations, we opened the sale of products using our Facebook page in May 2019.

We utilize items like old tyres, discarded iron drums, thrown away cycle parts and rims, bottles, reclaimed wood (which would otherwise end up in a landfill or a dumping yard) and transform them into products like ottomans, chairs, center tables, accent tables, shelves, lamps, etc. Our products are quirky and classy, but more importantly, they give a new life to discarded items which have reached the end of their life by transforming them into something new and capable of being deployed back into the society.

It was a long journey from the ideation stage till the product launch. Right from the discovery/ observation phase to collecting and understanding consumer insights, to converting them into ideas and thereby experimenting with the prototypes; we enjoyed every bit of the process and felt that our prior experiences as corporate lawyers helped us understand and appreciate the issues and nuances and my then ongoing executive management program acted as a guiding light when we got stuck with conceptual challenges. We enjoyed every bit of the journey and now are equally enjoying the challenges in executing our overall vision.

Q. You currently have to deal with a full-time job and a social venture. How do you balance out both? How important is your background as a lawyer to what you do currently?

It was definitely not easy to start with; but, as I mentioned above, we truly believe in Wastefullyours and the vision behind it and that was enough to kick start the process and I feel it’s the passion that keeps us going.

Thankfully, this is a social venture co-founded by my wife, Megha and both of us tend to manage this together. We have inter-se segregated our roles and responsibilities – Megha takes care of messaging, content, communication and social media pages; and my responsibilities include product conceptualization, story line, marketing, supply chain and operations.

The urge to create something beautiful and with a message has made us push the envelope. We always take out time for something that we are passionate about and we love our ndeavor Wastefullyours. We are in a serious relationship with it and we intend to honour our commitment with all our heart.

Being a corporate commercial lawyer definitely helped us in understanding the finer nuances of setting up a venture. Further, being from a service sector/ client-facing roles in the past, we could quickly gauge the need of the customer and find solutions to address the same. In addition, certain traits/ skills are inherent to a good corporate lawyer – like being ‘detail-oriented’, “accountable”, “self-driven”, “research-driven”, “committed”, which definitely play a crucial role in setting up the venture.

Q. Most of our readers are either students who just graduated or still in law school. What advice you would like to give law students venturing in entrepreneurship or choosing a career purely out of passion than just mere convention/pressure?

My first and foremost advise would be to follow your PASSION. Having said that, it’s not only the founder who needs to be convinced about the idea; but it should be something which other people also feel the need for. Building the CORE TEAM is something which needs to be done at this stage itself as having the right mix of people is of utmost importance.

Next comes DEVELOPING THE IDEA. Talk to people, discuss the concept, gather views, reactions, make alterations, etc.; the more you reach out and gather feedback, the more you will be able to clear your doubts and misconceptions etc.

CREATE A PROTOTYPE and reach out/ soft launch to test the waters and gauge reactions and/or issues that come up during implementing the plan. Always be mindful of the fact that actual implementation will be totally different than what your thought for; but all the planning and effort during the ideation/ development stage, would prepare you to face the challenges and the situations that come up. Build on the positives, work on the negatives and keep improving your product.

DATA is another critical aspect. All of the above activities will give you access to a lot of data and it is very important to identify the right matrices to make the right decision.

BE RECEPTIVE & FLEXIBLE. Don’t be sticky on any position, keep innovating and solving complexities. BUILD A CULTURE which promotes thinking and innovation. BUILD A STORY around the journey and the product as it’s always easier to relate to and remember the story.

While all of the above will help you plan and prepare, EXECUTION remains critical to the entire process. Lastly, one needs to keep in mind that the above is a CONTINUOUS PROCESS.

Be a keen learner in your own journey. Nothing teaches you more than your own experience. Make it worthy and living!

Signing off with my best wishes to all those enthusiastic brains and budding lawyers/ entrepreneurs!

Find out more about Mr. Hitesh Sablok –

 

Disclaimer – All views and opinions expressed in this interview are personal and belong solely to the interviewee(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the LAABh Foundation or the individuals and institutions associated with LAABh.

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