Rouse in Profile: Ranjan Narula
A life of enquiry and a thirst for knowledge, both professional and personal
An intelligent boy growing up in a middle-class family in 20th century Delhi was bound to be well-educated and headed for a professional career of some sort. Ranjan, whose mother was a head-mistress, very focused on education, and his father a marketing executive at Unilever, certainly was. He and his three sisters all went to private schools and all have professional degrees. But he’s also very much an individual and his path to the law, and IP in particular, reflects as much his individual character as his background.
Ranjan was thinking seriously about what he should do with his life even before he graduated with a BSc in Industrial Chemistry. Should he sit the Civil Service exam as many of his friends were doing? Did he really want a career as a research scientist? Neither seemed right, and he decided to go and work with a cousin who had established a successful printing business; together they would start a publishing business. But as the discussion progressed, Ranjan could see it wasn’t for him. Apart from anything else, he couldn’t put enough money into the business to ensure a satisfactory return.
So, what to do? The obvious answer was ‘a professional degree’ and the obvious professional degree was Law. But by the end of the first year, Ranjan was beginning to wonder if the obvious answer was the right one. Law was a difficult profession to get into; you needed a background that would provide you with appropriate contacts. Maybe an MBA would be more useful. So, while continuing with the Law course in the evenings, Ranjan enrolled in an MBA course, specialising in marketing. And it quickly proved useful in ways he hadn’t anticipated: there he met Rachna, his future wife.
When he finished his MBA, Ranjan worked as a Marketing Trainee with Godfrey Phillips, a subsidiary of Philip Morris, part of a brand launch team travelling throughout northern India. Although the work itself was interesting enough, Ranjan soon began to wonder what he was doing there. His colleagues seemed happy enough with their lot, happy just to do the job and spend their evenings drinking, but he wasn’t.
So again, what to do? By this time, he had finished his Law degree and he talked to friends about what they were doing. The general consensus was that if you worked in a revenue-related field there would always be work, so Ranjan went off to talk to a lady lawyer he knew who worked in the field of Excise & Customs. She took him on and he worked with her for several months, largely doing appellate work for companies dissatisfied with their tax assessments. The work was interesting enough, but Ranjan really wanted to work in a team and have more exposure to the business world.
Then a friend called to say he’d seen a notice on the Law College notice board from a firm looking for graduates. He couldn’t remember the name of the firm, or anything much about it, but they decided to apply anyway. It turned out to be Remfry & Sagar, one of India’s leading IP firms, and Ranjan was offered a job. He accepted – even though his attempt to negotiate a slightly higher starting salary was singularly unsuccessful!
After about three and a half years there, doing both patent and trade mark work, he was beginning to feel the environment a bit restrictive, wanting to be a bit more creative and to work a bit more closely with clients. When a consultant called telling him about an in-house position with Burmah-Castrol he was interested. The timing was perfect and so was the job. It was, he says, a wonderful learning experience, involving a lot of travel throughout the whole of India – and it was here that he first met Rouse & Co., Burmah-Castrol’s London IP lawyers. Counterfeiting was a major problem for the company and Rouse was helping establish anti-counterfeiting teams in various countries. Stuart Adams, the London partner responsible, often came to India to discuss how things were going and they would have long sessions, often late into the night. He and Ranjan got to know each other well and one day Stuart dropped a hint that Rouse was thinking of opening in India.
As it turned out Rouse couldn’t open in India because of restrictions on foreign firms, so it opened in Dubai instead and offered Ranjan a position there. It was an exciting prospect. By this time he and Rachna had been married for some time, but fortunately she was even more excited by it than he was. It turned out to be a very happy move all round and during their second year, their daughter, Riya, was born. They remained in Dubai for another 11 years, with Ranjan gradually spending more time in Delhi and, in 2004, establishing Ranjan Narula Associates. Now they are all back in Delhi and Ranjan Narula Associates has become RNA IP Attorneys.
Ranjan’s professional life has been one of considered choices, a constant search for the right thing. He attributes that to the fact that he has always read widely, mostly in the field of politics and business, but also in recent years delving into the traditional wisdom of India. He still reads a lot and a day of relaxation will often be spent reading. He says he has a lot of gratitude for what he has achieved and that he owes a lot to Rouse. The firm has given him the opportunity to travel, broaden his horizons and learn about other cultures: to develop, both professionally and personally. The fact that he has been associated with Rouse for more than 18 years probably says it all.