I come from a very humble background, being one of four siblings. While our parents took care that all our needs were fulfilled and ensured that we grew up to be fine individuals with high moral values, our early years were not really of material abundance.
It was quite early on that I realized the importance and potential of good education in changing one’s life and destiny. As a child, while I was average in academics, I was always ahead in extra-curricular activities. In school, I participated in various inter-school, regional, and state level competitions – debates, declamations, extempore, poetry recitation, and so forth. Simply scoring high grades was not enough to motivate my wavering mind at that tender age, which was more captivated by different ideas, exchanges, and exposure. I still remember the first early advice that came from my English Teacher, Kavita Ma’am, who guided me in many said and unsaid ways during those formative years and helped shift my focus more to academics. I remember being amongst the top 5% of the class ever since Class X.
Law as a profession had always fascinated me. My father had many lawyer friends, and I grew up seeing him consulting them for all important decisions. He used to tell me, “I want you to become a Judge one day.” Even today, I’m not sure whether that thought was what nudged me into choosing law as a career or was it my basic inclination towards fairness and my compulsion to correct the slightest of injustices around me. Legal education enabled me to pursue my quest for ensuring fairness as a person, empowered me as a woman, and opened many avenues to grow as a professional.
Being a first-generation lawyer, it was not easy for me to find my feet in the legal world despite having a good academic record. After many failed attempts to make my way to Tier-1 law firms, I started working with a boutique law firm headed by a US-educated lawyer, Dr Amitabha Sen, who after many years of practice in the US had come back to India. It was Dr Sen who taught me the first lessons of drafting and inspired me to pursue LL.M from a world class institution in the US. I was not sure how I would convince my father to send me abroad as he always kept us in a very protected atmosphere, and there was a huge financial cost involved. Dr Sen always used to say, “We will cross the bridge when it comes.” This saying has come to my rescue on many days when I am faced with challenges in pursuing a particular path. Without thinking further, I started preparing my applications for the best law schools in the US. It was a very time-consuming process involving writing a ‘Personal Statement,’ obtaining ‘recommendation letters’ and writing essays to apply for scholarships. It was rewarding though as I was accepted by almost all law schools to which I had applied. I chose NYU School of Law as it offered me a substantial scholarship, which made it easier for me to convince my parents. Studying in an international atmosphere gave me further exposure and instilled confidence in me.
After obtaining my master’s degree from NYU and National University of Singapore, I returned to India. Though I sought some experience abroad through short term internships in 2009-10, I always wanted to come back to India to work. By then, I had already developed an interest in ‘Competition Law’ which was quite new in India at that time. Simply put, Competition Law is the area of law that ensures fair functioning of markets so that consumers get wider choices and better-quality products/services at affordable prices. The far-reaching implications of competition law in bettering the lives of people and the economy are what fascinated me and motivated me to pursue it as a career.
In the beginning, however, it was not easy to find a promising job in this relatively new field. Nevertheless, I persevered and did not give up on my dream. After teaching law for two years, I was able to find my place in the Competition Commission of India based on an all-India examination followed by an interview in 2012. There has been no looking back since then. Working at the Commission has been a learning, growing, and satisfying experience, especially because I enjoy my work. I consider myself fortunate to have identified my area of interest early on in life, which helped me to move in the right direction.
From my life’s journey so far, there are few takeaways which I would like to share with students and young career aspirants.
First, hard work has no replacement and in fact, it is the only way to make up for lack of any material abundance. Sometimes the hard work does not pay off immediately, but consistent rigorous hard work with positive intentions in one direction never fail.
Second, while one should plan for the future ahead, such planning should be constructive and not destructive. One should not imagine too many challenges and get discouraged before even starting to move towards the goal. Remember, you can cross every bridge when it comes, no need to get discouraged in the beginning by thinking about all the bridges that may come in the way!
Third, and most importantly, one should not be afraid of failures. Every failed attempt is the nature’s way of testing our perseverance and also an opportunity for us to know the path little better. We all fail, but those who stand up stronger are destined to succeed, sooner or later.
- The article was originally published in Career Ahead April 2022 issue.
Ms. Gulati is currently Joint Director (Law) in the Anti-Trust Division of the Competition Commission of India. She is a lawyer with master’s degrees in both law and economics. She holds a Dual LL.M degree, first from NYU School of Law in the US second from NUS Faculty of Law, Singapore. She also holds a master’s degree in economics from Kings College London. Post LL.M, she joined Jindal Global Law School, India, in August 2010. She has been working with Competition Commission of India since 2012. Ms. Gulati has vast international exposure, including her master’s degrees from reputed schools in Asia, UK, and US, besides having hands-on experience in international competition cases during secondment to DG Competition, Europe.