Interview | Bhaven Shah (Presolv360)

Bhaven Shah is the Co-Founder of Presolv360, which is India’s first homegrown cloud-based dispute management platform capable of preventing needless litigation, protecting people and businesses from adversities of disputes and resolving them through time-tested collaborative dispute resolution mechanisms. A Chartered Accountant and an alumnus of the prestigious Government Law College in Mumbai, India, Bhaven has had varied experience before judicial and quasi-judicial authorities including the Supreme Court of India, High Courts of Rajasthan and Bombay, and the erstwhile insolvency boards. He previously worked with KPMG in their M&A and tax litigation practice, R. K. Bothra & Co. and Ernst & Young in their tax and assurance practices, respectively.  We are very grateful that Michael Bidwell (TLF) had the opportunity to receive detailed answers to our pressing questions!

As India’s first dispute management platform, where did you get the inspiration to create Presolv360?

Thank you for this question because I love talking about it. In fact, I believe every entrepreneur has a reason, a story about where it all began. This is mine… Law came to me by legacy. In India, the mid-80s and 90s witnessed unprecedented changes – businesses expanded but so did complexities, opportunities increased but so did opportunistic individuals. The economy was growing but values were rapidly eroding. From property-grabbing to non-payment of dues, from trespassing to cheques bouncing, it became a usual occurrence for many of us. Practices and professions became sophisticated, but law and procedures remained unchanged.

In a heavily-litigated personal matter, a Supreme Court Judge (now retired) said to me in open court “Son, your father started this case and your child will have to conclude it.” And these wise words came after 29 years (read 45% of the lifespan of an average Indian) of fighting tooth and nail in Indian courts. The harsh reality is that legal cases in India last a life-time and have a propensity to wipe out all your resources, and I faced this first hand. I didn’t want to suffer in the future, I didn’t want others to suffer, ever, and so, it was time that India and her citizens were offered a solution that changed the way they insulated themselves from disputes and litigation. Something that was quick, economical, convenient and effective. With this in mind, Presolv360 was born.

On your website, you note a few mentors and advisors in addition to your founding team. What role do these mentors and advisors play in developing Presolv360?

Just as children are nurtured and guided by their parents, when it comes to a business, our mentors and advisors are the cornerstone of many important decisions. They are our anchors and often lead us back on track when we go astray. Mr. Ashok Barat is the former Managing Director and CEO, Forbes and Company Ltd, a publicly listed entity in India. He is currently on the Board of several listed companies and is passionate about making mediation the primary form of dispute resolution. Ms. Tanu Mehta is a practicing counsel, mediator and conciliator recognized by the Bombay High Court and is an MA in Conflict Resolution & Mediation from Tel Aviv University, Israel. Ms. Rajani Iyer has been designated a senior counsel by the Bombay High Court and is a mediator with over 4 decades of experience in dispute resolution.

While we are armed with the force of youth, enthusiasm and ideas, our mentors bring unparalleled experience, a balanced approach and advise that covers strategic, business and operational aspects. Basically, they justify the 360 in Presolv360.

You include several sample agreements on your website including employment, joint ventures, non-disclosure, website development, loan and will just to name a few! What made you decide to allow users to download and use them for free?  How do you protect your intellectual property by allowing free access to these documents?

Personal, and even professional and business relationships in India are primarily trust-based. It is obvious that it’s only those you trust that have the power to breach it. That’s why we encourage the ‘habit of codifying’ i.e. putting on paper what has been agreed upon. This is the foremost exercise that’ll help prevent needless litigation. We understand that majority people have accessibility and affordability issues when it comes to sound and proficient advice, and it is in order to circumvent this problem that we provide professionally drafted agreements free of cost. While we intend to increase the database to include more agreements, we have identified these as key areas vulnerable to disputes.

That being said, trust is yet the most important factor of any relationship. We have come to realise that India’s internet citizens are maturing and honing responsibility like never before. While providing leeway to our mature and responsible users, we mandate, log and document acceptance of our terms of use for the morally and ethically challenged ones. Any unauthorized use or distribution of the documents and materials available on the website would result into a breach of contract and would consequently be liable to action under Indian laws.

What were the initial challenges and rewards for you, Namita and Aman leaving your traditional corporate jobs to create Presolv360? Would you change anything if you could go back and do it again?

A corporate job is like sitting in an airplane with the seatbelt buckled, whereas the entrepreneurial path is like jumping from that airplane and learning how to build a parachute along the way!

Namita, Aman and I knew what was at stake, but what made us jump anyway was the desire of finding a solution apt for a country like India, with its myriad of cultures, traditions, beliefs and functioning mechanisms. While treading on an unknown path, it was challenging to up the awareness of people in the dispute management space. In fact, it is these very challenges that contributed towards shaping the entire structure of Presolv360, as much as it has contributed towards shaping us as individuals. It is rewarding going to bed each night, that we’ve utilized the day in starting a revolution, however small, and are progressing towards our vision of a dispute-free future.

We believe that we are at the right place – ‘India’, at the right time – ‘now’, and doing the right thing – ‘Presolv360’. Even if we could go back, we’d do the exact same thing all over again, because that is exactly what has got us thus far and is what will continue to take us further.

In the making of Presolv360, give us some ‘behind the scenes’ insights. What is your value proposition?

Disputes are inevitable and are inherent to the nature of humans. So, we re-imagined, re-engineered and radically improved the ‘approach’ to dispute management. After an extensive research and study, ranging from India’s village system to international diplomacy, from traditional dispute redressal machineries to sophisticated global practices, it was time to understand contemporary challenges. We undertook an ‘Appeal for Change’ survey where we interviewed over a thousand people from different walks of life to understand all the facets of disputes. It is on this robust foundation that we built and designed the Presolv360 platform.

Presolv360 is a unique dispute management platform that blends technology, human expertise and innovation to provide effective dispute prevention solutions, collaborative dispute resolution mechanisms, fast-track and cost-effective alternatives to courts and protection from uncertain outcomes and adversities. This makes Presolv360 the first of its kind across the globe!

I always ask people to ponder over three simple questions and they understand the problems we address:

  1. Would you like to enjoy a life free from disputes, litigation and courts?
  2. Do you want to secure yourself to ensure nobody drags you to court?
  3. If you have a dispute, would you not like to resolve it quickly, reasonably and efficiently?

I greatly appreciate your ‘Presolv for All’ Project where you charge a very nominal fee to those who are financially disadvantaged. It is remarkable to see start-ups working with and for the community.  What pushed you to start up this Project and are there any success stories you would like to share?

In reality, it was a success story that led us to undertake the ‘Presolv for All’ Project. A success for me, a success for Presolv360, a success for every stakeholder and a success for humanity. A poor lady had lost her husband in a tragic motor accident but unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of her tragedy. What followed were years of torturous litigation where she had to re-live the death of the bread-winner on one hand, and, on the other, raise three young children, repay debts and work to keep her family fed.

There was negligible progress for several years and going by precedents, it would be at least another decade before she would receive any relief from the courts. After our involvement, an amicable settlement was arrived at. Within 30 days, she received the compensation. With tears in her eyes, she said “You saved me. Thank you!”. The feeling of contentment engulfed us and at that moment, we decided to undertake this initiative, so we, as a community, can enjoy a litigation-free future.

I see you are currently located in Mumbai. Where would you love to expand to if the opportunity arises?

India is going through a crisis. Everyday 40,000+ cases are filed in India courts and approximately 67% disputants do not even attempt an alternative before litigating. India expends US$ 12 billion every year on court hearings and loss of business. This translates to 0.77% of India’s GDP and shockingly, this figure is without accounting for professional fees. While it takes an average of 13 years for the final disposal of a civil case, it is estimated that by the year 2025, there will be 61.9 million pending cases and at the current rate of filing of new cases against the rate of disposal, it will take 587 years to clear this backlog. The opportunity in India itself is magnanimous.

While we are based in Mumbai, our operations extend to the whole of India and this is possible because of our integrated tech platform that is accessible from desktops, laptops or mobile devices to ensures affordability, convenience, efficiency and effectiveness. The beneficiaries of this platform are unrestricted, be it individuals, businesses, institutions or even governments. Going forward, we aim to make Presolv360 not just an alternative mechanism to resolve disputes, but the most appropriate mechanism to manage disputes across the globe.

Does the government have any role to play? Do they support such innovative initiatives?

The Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undertaken path-breaking initiatives such as ‘Aadhaar’ (providing unique identification to 1.3 billion Indians), improving the ‘Ease of Doing Business’, ‘Digital India’, tackling logjam in courts and bettering the business and investment climate of the country. While, I believe that India is in extremely capable hands, it is also important to understand that, for India to tackle this grave problem, a concerted partnership is required between all stakeholders – potential and existing disputants, governments, judiciary, professionals and facilitators like us. This will ensure that only those matters worthy of the courts attention and judicial resources will find a place on the docket, while the remaining are dealt with in a systematic, civilized and optimal manner. This way, courts can dispense justice, governments can govern, businesses can flourish, and the citizens can enjoy a stress-free life.

This government has been an enabler and a key contributor to the budding entrepreneurial spirit in India. In fact, Presolv360 is privileged to be recognised by the Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, and listed on the website of the Department of Justice. Besides, Presolv360 has also been recognised under the Start Up scheme of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

We have seen a lot of discussion in Australia this year regarding artificial intelligence. What have been some of the ‘hot topics’ in India?

Artificial intelligence has become a worldwide phenomenon. ‘Virtual legal assistants’, or legal research tools, a derivative of artificial intelligence, has gained tremendous prominence and is expected to replace some of the legal population. ‘Smart contracts’ is another area garnering attention, while ‘blockchain in contract management’ is picking up momentum too.

What is your ‘legal forecast’ for the next few years?

A shift is imminent, a shift from a curative mindset to a preventive one. This means you will be able to pre-empt problematic relationships, manipulate data to predict toxicity levels and determine a reliable outcome in case a dispute arises. All this at a click of a button. The world will be a fertile ground for pragmatism and a battle ground for opportunism.

If you could give one piece of advice to a law student or early career professional, what would it be?

Unbuckle the seatbelt, step out of your comfort zone, and jump from the airplane – there’ll be troubled weather along the way, but the view and the experience will make it worthwhile!

 

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