Ronnie Screwvala’s UpGrad hires Just Buy’s Janhvi Pradhan-Deshmukh as legal director
Janhvi Pradhan-Deshmukh

Media industry veteran Ronnie Screwvala’s education-technology startup UpGrad has hired Janhvi Pradhan-Deshmukh from e-distribution firm Just Buy Live Enterprise Pvt. Ltd as its legal director.

Pradhan-Deshmukh, who was general counsel at Just Buy Live, joined UpGrad on 12 September. She will be in charge of the legal and compliance functions at UpGrad, run by U Education Management Pvt. Ltd.

“Transitioning from being the general counsel of an e-distribution company to one of India's hottest ed-tech startups, UpGrad, has allowed me to combine in a balanced manner, my experience of media, my entrepreneurial background and my stint with the startup world,” she said.

This is her second stint with a company founded by Screwvala. She had worked from September 2010 to December 2011 at UTV, the media production house started by Screwvala in the 1990s and sold to The Walt Disney Co. in 2012. UpGrad was started in early 2015 and offers working professionals online courses in entrepreneurship, digital marketing, data analytics and product management.

According to her LinkedIn profile, she has 10 years of experience across all verticals of legal and compliance including litigation, contracting, negotiation and drafting in sectors such as media, e-distribution, retail, aviation, real estate and consulting.

Pradhan-Deshmukh completed her law degree from Government Law College, Mumbai in 2006 and then went to the University of Sussex in the UK for postgraduate studies.

Before joining Just Buy Live in March 2015, she was partner at legal and tax advisory firm Themis Legal Consultant LLP, where she had joined in December 2011. Previously, she was legal consultant to EmProcell Clinical Research Pvt. Ltd India for a couple of years and worked at Wadia Group’s textile manufacturing and retailing arm Bombay Dyeing between May 2008 and September 2010.

Her departure from Just Buy Live comes at a time when the e-distributor that connects shopkeepers with consumer brands and distributors is firming up plans to raise its second round of growth capital to enhance market presence.

For UpGrad, this is at least the second senior-level appointment this year after the started hired former executive Anshul Khandelwal as marketing head.

Karl Fernandes, vice president and head of in-house practice group at legal and governance executive search firm Vahura, said that tech startups and e-commerce companies generally look at someone with 10 to 15 years of experience as their first general counsel. These professionals are usually hired from consumer-facing companies, online marketplaces or law firms doing a similar line of work.

“However, a few matured e-commerce companies/startups would consider hiring a seasoned or a specialist general counsel with 15 to 18 plus years of experience if they are planning on going public, strike M&A deals, have specific regulatory issues or the business is growing quickly and they need someone with strategy."

Last month, ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which owns taxi aggregation firm Ola, hired Anurag Sharma as its first general counsel. Sharma has total experience of over a decade and half and was previously legal director at the Indian subsidiary of US pharmaceutical giant Abbott.

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