From multiple job rejections to running a Rs 1 Cr legal business - the story of Sonam Chandwani
For Sonam Chandwani, starting her own law firm was never on the cards. Like everyone else, the corporate lawyer wanted a job but worried that she might not fit in. And she was right!
Sonam recalls, “I faced rejection, one after the other, at law firms. I was told that I was not good enough and lack experience, but I refused to quit. One thing I realised was that entering most law firms is a tall order. I had no choice but to go independent and form KS Legal.”
She founded KS Legal and Associates in 2013 to help businesses navigate the Indian legal system with ease and confidence.
At present, the Mumbai-based law firm offers full-service legal solutions to 200+ clients, from business and financial enterprises to banks, financial institutions, private equity funds, government bodies, high impact startups, cultural institutions, high net worth individuals, and estates and trusts from India and overseas.
The starting point
Initially, Sonam worked with startups, advising them on compliance, contracts, and fundraises.
“I did not have family members or industry connections to lean on for legal experience and business advice. To be honest, it was a struggle emotionally, mentally, and financially. It was damn tough. Mistakes were made, lessons were learned,” she says.
But, in three years, the firm tasted success and shifted its base from a tiny 350 sq ft office to a 5,000 sq ft office in Andheri.
While the startup practice areas were limited to litigation, corporate, and real estate, the law firm now covers over eight areas, including labour and employment, intellectual property rights, banking and insurance, tax and consulting, and debt recovery.
KS Legal and Associates has over 35 associates with offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Bengaluru, and Chennai. It also works in all areas of mergers and acquisitions matters, including stock acquisitions, takeovers, business/asset transfers, joint ventures, privatisations, buyouts, and due diligence.
At present, six years after it began, KS Legal and Associates claims to have received excellent recommendations from clients across industries. The founder claims the startup has advised its clients on some of the most significant transactions in the country, representing clients in transactions of over Rs 1,000 crore.
Its clients include Mahindra, Aditya Birla, Hitachi, Ingram Micro, Vascon Infrastructure, Greaves Cotton Limited, IDFC, Concord Enviro, Vascon Infrastructure, and Jet Freight Limited etc.
USP: debt recovery
“We understood debt recovery is a major concern for all our clients, so we started focusing on it. We are the only firm specialising in it,” Sonam tells HerStory.
KS Legal and Associates’ litigation team has filed over 300 cases in the past six years of all ticket sizes, ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 1,500 crore. As a firm, it has helped its clients recover about Rs 80 crore by way of litigation in courts and tribunals.
“With the current stress experienced across industries, alternate dispute resolution has also grown into an integral practice area for us and we have amicably settled and recovered over Rs 34 crore for our clients. We are confident that a few years from now, we shall scale up to be known as market leaders in bankruptcy and insolvency, banking and finance, dispute resolution, and the corporate advisory space,” she adds.
The startup says it has assisted foreign companies jump through several hoops to secure licences and approvals required to start a business in India.
The biggest challenge for Sonam was client acquisition.
“With my age and experience, client acquisition was a big issue. But I was able to take care of it. I used to ask clients to that trust us with one assignment. In debt recovery, too, I faced the same issue - they used to think how can a young girl help but it is our USP now,” she says.
Growth and future plans
Sonam bootstrapped her venture with an investment of only Rs 10,000. She claims that the startup has grown 3X every year for the past three years. It generated a revenue of around Rs 1 crore in the past year, and is eyeing revenue of Rs 3 crore in the current fiscal.
“In terms of strategic priority, we are looking to expand our presence in India and abroad,” says the founder. Going forward, the firm wants to increase its team size to more than 100.
The Indian legal market reached $1.3 billion (Rs 8,400 crore) in the year 2018, and is set for considerable growth over the next few years, primarily on the back of growing investments and M&A in India.
KS Legal and Associates competes with the likes of Khimani and Associates, Luthra and Luthra, J. Sagar Associates, Dhir and Dhir, Parinam Law Associates, and Verist Law, among others. But Sonam is confident that their USP sets them apart.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)