Pavithra Anand joined Decathlon Sports India in 2011 as a legal advisor. She currently leads a team of lawyers, labour compliance officers and payroll managers in India. Anand represents Decathlon India at the European Business Group where she currently chairs the retail sector committee. She is also a member of Young Leaders Council, All India Management Association.
ALB: Tell us about your legal career so far, and what led you to taking up this role.
Anand: I graduated with an LL.M. degree in corporate and commercial law from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2008. After a two-year stint at a law firm in Bangalore, I joined Decathlon in 2011 as a legal advisor. To be an in-house counsel was what I was inclined towards. The opportunity came sooner than later, and I grabbed it. The dynamic team, including the leadership, and the vision of making sports accessible to Indians is what brought me here.
ALB: What have been some of your highlights from your time in charge? And what are some leadership lessons you have learnt?
Anand: It has been an incredible professional journey.
I have been a part of Decathlon’s growth – from a store in Bangalore to several stores across India; from a B2B model to B2C; e-commerce retail and a part of the advisory to open Decathlon retail in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
An important lesson that I learnt was that human management is always a learning curve. With this foundation, I have been fortunate and privileged to be around and be mentored by strong leaders from whom I have imbibed various leadership lessons. Besides this, I realised that autonomy paves the way for responsibility and accountability while trust in the team forms the core and trust is what takes us through the ebb and flow of our professional journeys.
ALB: How do you feel the pandemic will reshape the way your team (and broader company) operates? What strategy changes have you put in place in the long run?
Anand: Our retail stores, like everywhere else in the world, were impacted by the lockdown. However, the team had to put on their thinking caps for out-of-the-box solutions to keep up with compliance deadlines and execution of contracts. As the saying goes, there is an opportunity in every crisis. This helped us accelerate our digital project. Various video calling platforms brought the team closer with exchange of ideas and good practices.
In addition to this, keeping safety as a priority we looked at finding ways to be useful to people in these trying times, enabling them to practice sporting or physical activities. The need to appreciate unique ideas and the unrelenting spirit of the team was felt now more than before.
ALB: How important is the company’s culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster both within the team, as well as your business as a whole?
Anand: Everyone would like an environment conducive to personal and professional growth and a company's culture is an important contributor to this. It is imperative to be comfortable to bring out the confidence. Trust, responsibility and freedom with accountability are some of the pillars of our company and these are the strong values that hold us together. Do what you love and love what you do!
ALB: On that note, how would you describe your hiring and talent retention strategy? What kinds of lawyers would make the best fit for your team?
Anand: As an in-house counsel it is imperative to be more than a lawyer. One needs to be open to looking at their role as a business partner. As lawyers, we assess and analyse risks and as business partners we contribute to the management of those risks. Our profession is one where learning is on a daily basis. Work per se can be learnt on the job but a solution-oriented approach is important. It is important to recruit right talent linked to the values of our company, thereby strengthening the stability of the team.
ALB: What motto do you live by?
Anand: "Keep it Simple". As lawyers, elaborate explanations, precedents, backed by relevant law and jurisprudence comes naturally. While advising business heads, it is best to break it down and keep it simple. The nuances and legal jargon are only going to create a web. It is our job to wade through the legal complexities and present it in a manner most reasonable, transparent and real to understand.
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