What will keep us busy in 2024?
We crystal-gaze into 2024 and outline some key areas that will keep us and our clients busy in 2024. We also share some of the key issues that kept everyone talking in 2023.
New regulations will change everything in the way personal data of Indians will be treated. Our clients are engaging with the change head-on and figuring out how to turn this into an advantage and we are on the forefront of helping them with this.
Regulators in most areas (foreign funding, competition, economic offences, banking regulation, stock markets, IT) are growing real teeth and getting increasing funding from the central government, which is driving them to be more active (in some cases over active!). We foresee our regulatory and advocacy teams being kept very busy by our clients dealing with queries and defending them from prosecutions.
With the global financial crunch affecting the overheated VC and PE market, we see valuations stabilize and a number of growth stage companies looking at strategic money as an alternative to financial investments. We see consolidation and bridge funding routes becoming more relevant in the next 12 months and our bigger strategic M&A practice is well positioned to take advantage of the increased activity.
AI and more AI
India’s tech mania continues but with a new game changing focus – AI. With Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Pune as coding capitals of the world, Indian tech companies are asking existential questions and scrambling to stay ahead in the AI race. We not only enable our clients grapple with all the regulatory, IP and contractual issues that AI brings along, but are also using AI in a flagship pro bono access to justice project, which is one of the most exciting things we’ve done in some time (other than client work of course!).
India is now the largest market for defence products surpassing Saudi Arabia and we expect this position to continue with shifting geo political winds. The scale and breadth of replacement of obsolete equipment is mind boggling and will keep procurement specialists busy for years to come. With deep understanding of procurement in India works (with all its complexities and archaic regulations), we assist our clients in the most sensitive projects from sale of engines for submarines to sophisticated air defence platforms.
Everyone is jumping on the ESG bandwagon but we are helping our clients separate the wheat from the chaff. Figuring out legal obligations and change in the liability jurisprudence (led by EU regulations – CSDDD/CSRD) is as exciting as potentially disruptive. We are already assisting boards of companies understand the liability matrix and put in place governance structures (not just compliance ticks) to deal with ESG obligations. We foresee a huge uptick in ESG investigations and litigation – especially cross border.
Amended Criminal Laws
In a surprising move, the government introduced drafts of 3 new codes replacing the colonial era Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and the Evidence Act (all really well written pieces of legislation which have stood the test of time for more than a century). We are assessing the impact of the change on how penal legislation will apply but expect these draft bills to become laws post-election.
With India’s stated COP commitments, it is no wonder that India is one of the hottest markets for investments in the RE sector. We see funds flowing in from large traditional sources of investments to sovereign funds and retail funds. However, ROI can quickly get eroded if systemic and contractual risks are not mapped and mitigated. Our clients count on our specialist RE team to do this for the full project lifecycle.
Make in India
The intention is very clear – everything should be made in India. With the China + 1 strategy playing out globally, India wants to take advantage of its highly skilled labour force, technological innovation platforms and robust IPR regime to make India a manufacturing hub. We are assisting global manufacturers to set up industries, warehouses, logistics parks and R&D centers in India and then bid for large Make in India projects and incentives.
Key Issues from 2023
Regulation of AI in India: State of Play Report
This report seeks to distill lessons of experience from four jurisdictions (US, UK, EU, and China) in designing a regulatory regime for AI. The report also identifies four cases especially relevant to India today. Two of these pertain to the economically salient creative media industry, where the impact of Generative AI is likely in the immediate future and raises complicated legal issues related both to intellectual property (copyright in particular) and personality rights. The other two deeper dives are into areas of AI-induced harm that are of particular relevance to the Indian social context, namely the well-recognized problem of algorithmic bias and AI-enabled sexual harassment and abuse.