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Khaitan & Co hires two PwC execs to ramp up tax practice
Abhishek Rastogi and Rashmi Deshpande

Law firm Khaitan & Co has recruited two senior executives of audit and consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Abhishek Rastogi and Rashmi Deshpande, to strengthen its indirect tax practice anticipating influx of work when the goods and services tax is implemented.

“Their vast experience of working at top accounting firms will strengthen our regional capabilities and our existing indirect tax practice,” Rabindra Jhunkhunwala, partner at Khaitan & Co, said in a statement.

Rastogi, who joins as executive director, was at PwC for around 12 years and advised on indirect tax to clients. He previously worked with audit and consulting firm EY for around four years. He is a trained chartered accountant as well as a lawyer.

Deshpande, who joins as associate director, is an alumnus of the 2006 batch of ILS Law College, Pune. She started her career with Deloitte and later moved to BMR Advisors and KPMG before joining PwC in its indirect tax practice. 

“Developing homegrown talent for sector-specific practices is far more expensive for law firms than picking up talent from tax, consulting and advisory firms,” said Padmini Singh, principal and head at Rainmaker Consulting. “The aggregation of sector-specific talent in these places necessitates outward movement.”

Singh added that law firms have approached Rainmaker for advice on similar strategic expansion and post-recruitment integration.

Ritvik Lukose, co-founder and CEO at Vahura, a search and consulting firm for legal talent, said there is a “GST talent war” going on between the big four accounting firms—EY, KPMG, Deloitte, PwC—and law firms, especially focussed on indirect tax litigation and advisory. 

India aims to implement the GST next year and is finalising the modalities for the new indirect tax regime.

“The movement (of talent) will be two-way,” said Lukose. “However, as there are a large number of law firms actively trying to build indirect tax practices from scratch, the consulting firms will bear the brunt of the onslaught, while trying to build their teams up as well.”

Apart from Khaitan & co, several other law firms have hired talent from consulting firms in recent years. Early this year, Kunal Gupta, Gurgaon-based partner at consulting firm Grant Thornton, joined law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas to head its forensics team as a partner.

In August last year, Ajay Upadhyay quit as the director of fraud investigation and dispute services at audit and consulting firm EY and joined law firm AZB & Partners in Mumbai with his team of five. 

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