Rajiv Luthra: The Passing of an Era; A Legacy that Will Endure —Bharat Joshi
It’s always difficult to write about the loss of a senior colleague, more so when he has been someone who has seen you through different stages of your life.
There have been many obituaries in the papers. Many tributes on social media. I don’t wish to repeat what is widely known. But, to sum up, Rajiv Luthra, a first generation lawyer in a profession proliferated by dynasty, set up the law firm Luthra and Luthra in 1989. He pioneered taxation and corporate law in India. Specializing in public-private partnerships and corporate finance, he led or was involved in, mega mergers (some valued at billions) including ones between Coca-Cola and Parle, Sun Pharma and Ranbaxy and Air India and Indian Airlines. He was instrumental in the framing and amendment of key legislation like the Indian Copyright Act and the Competition Act. His firm had offices across India and expanded its operations beyond as well— to countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nigeria. Like Rajiv Luthra himself, Luthra and Luthra is credited with a series of firsts. They were one of the first Indian firms to handle project finance directly. They set up India’s first competition law practice. In a liberalized India where many people—from foreign firms to Indian businessmen and even consumers and taxpayers—had questions, Mr. Luthra and his firm were at the forefront of answering them. His influence extended far beyond law to business and the lives of millions of individuals those businesses touched. His passing is the end of an era.
But, as I said, this is known. Let me now speak a little about Uncle Rajiv, the gracious and helpful individual I grew up to admire. I remember him, while growing up, as a man with a large heart and personality who left an indelible impression, even if his interaction with you was brief.
I remember him trying to nudge me as I was going to university. He had posed a few questions, some hypothetical cases, and encouraged me to read law. I didn’t, but I still remember how flattered I felt at such a distinguished figure wishing to usher me into his calling.
Many years later I had the opportunity of working with him. He was a board member at J Curve, a company I lead. His ferociously sharp intellect would grasp any situation instantly, unpack it in ways that made it look simple (in hindsight), and offer elegant solutions to the most intractable problems.
I remember him explaining a nuanced issue to a foreign colleague in such a simple and articulate manner that the person left, not only reassured that he should continue his efforts in India, but with renewed confidence that only comes from a deep understanding of issues and a belief stemming from the person who has led you to such an understanding.
The loss of Mr. Rajiv Luthra is a personal loss, a professional loss, and a loss for the legal and business communities in India and abroad. We mourn his departure. His legend and legacy, however, live on.