Mauritius is going through a phase of transformation from a middle income to a high income country. How do you think this moment needs to be managed in order to keep growing?
Both the public and the private sector have a lot to do. The public sector, I mean the government and the authorities, have to make sure that the infrastructure is ready to allow the country to develop itself. We need high speed internet, excellent communication, a strong air and sea transport network, etc. All these infrastructures must be well implemented for us to have the opportunity of keep on growing.
On the other hand, the private sector has to invest in training. Employees need to be constantly trained, they must be sent to other countries to learn quickly and from other perspectives, in order to improve their skills.
The private sector and the public sector have to improve themselves and to work closely. This is the only way for the country to grow.
The plan of the government is to transform Mauritius into a business hub; taking advantage of the role the country plays as a bridge to enter the African continent. What are the main challenges in the pursuit of this objective?
People are not going to come to Mauritius just because it is a gateway to enter the African continent. If we stay here and wait, nothing will happen. For us to go to America, Europe, Asia, etc. to explain them that we are a gateway to enter Africa it’s not going to work. If they want to go to Africa, they can go to Africa by themselves!
Mauritian investors have to go to see the Americans, the Europeans, and the Chinese, etc. and propose them that if they are developing a product or a service, they can be their partner and that they will take their products with no cost to Africa. That’s the only way those people will come to Africa through Mauritius.
We are very close from Africa and we have a lot of facilities in this market, this means we can make money. We have also great agreements with Africa. But if we sit to wait for them to take the plane to come and see our tropical island, it will never happen!
The legal system in Mauritius has a double foundation; with the national legal framework but also the Common Wealth regulation. This gives to investors more security, but how does it impact in the solicitor companies in the country?
We only have different systems because we have been owned by different countries before, by France and Britain for example. This is clearly an advantage for us. We can understand both systems, we can speak both languages, etc. This system gives us advantages that other legal systems don’t have. We are able to accommodate investors from Common Law system and from Civil law system. And this works very well.
Mardemootoo solicitors started operating in 1971 and nowadays it is one of the leading solicitors in the country. How would you describe the evolution of the company through all these years?
In 1971, my dad started this company by himself with some employees. In 1995 I started working for the company.
My father is a civil lawyer, this means he deals with families. Personally, I’m a banking and corporate lawyer so I opened a new department. That’s the reason why we changed of office and employed new lawyers. That’s how we started. And now we are the largest one, in terms of the numbers of lawyers working for us.
Your firm provides services for companies in several sectors (banking and finance, maritime, ICT, mergers and acquisitions, company laws…). Within these services, what is the added value you give to these companies and how do you manage to operate with excellence in all those areas?
I hope this would be that we operate with excellence. Today, clients are more sophisticated and they only need us to go to the court when they have a problem or before the court when they are trying to engage a relationship with partners or other firms. We write the contracts and help their companies. Those are the two main things that we are doing. Other than that, there is a third category of service where we provide day-to-day assistance to companies for any problems they can have. I think that’s our added value. We are advising them how to protect their interests.
MS collaborates with leading firms in Asia, Africa, Europe and America. What kind of interaction do you have with these international firms? … What are your strategies to increase your visibility and have a major global exposure?
They have clients who are doing business through Mauritius, American lawyers can’t advise them concerning the Mauritian law, and each lawyer gives advice depending of their own law. That’s why they have to bring a Mauritian lawyer. That happens all the time, the role of Mauritius is growing and more and more businesses are being done through Mauritius. That’s why each time more and more we work for foreign clients. We are forming a network with other worldwide lawyers; if they need someone in Mauritius they can call us and if one of our clients needs a lawyer in London we would contact a firm there. We take care of them and vice-versa. It’s how it works.
Our strategy to increase our visibility is to be part of a large network of lawyers and then entering into strategic partnerships with big law firms. Also we are working on speaking at professional conferences.
As Mauritius sets itself under the international spotlight, opportunities increase but so does the competition. In which clients segment are you currently focusing on? How do you present Mardemootoo Solicitors to new clients, to be the firm of choice?
We are currently focusing on banking and corporate finance.
We are independent and we have the largest pool of resources so instead of having one lawyer on your file you can have two or three lawyers working on your file for the same cost. The fact that we are one of the largest firms on the island means that we have a lot of experience and a good network.
MS counts already with international presence and recognition. Entering the Chambers Global Ranking this year and being member of the Leading International Lawyers network. What would you say, is the key of the firm’s success?
Before last year we never paid attention to visibility. I think it was a big mistake from our part. We were too busy and we didn’t think about marketing or having more visibility.We realized that the environment is really becoming global today and that international visibility is really important. It’s better later than never!The Chambers Global Ranking always asked us to be part of it but we did not see the interest since last year like I said, that’s why we finally agreed to participate.
We believe that every company needs to have clear goals but it is the vision of its leaders that can take it to reach these objectives. In this context, what is your vision for Mardemootoo Solicitors in the next 5 years?
To be the leading law firm in the region and to be a company where all the lawyers are successful and happy to work. It’s really important for us to have a great legal environment.
Another key factor for the proper operation of any organization is its human resources. MS currently counts with seven solicitors, eight legal analysts and seven paralegals. What are the criteria when selecting the members of your team? How do you share with them your vision and help them make it theirs?
Our selection depends on their education, their age, their commitment to work and their availability. We don’t care to take new lawyers who just start to work even if they have no experience as long as they are good and committed.
Mr. Mardemootoo, looking at your professional background we find a wide experience in this industry and through MS you have been a Key actor in the increase of Mauritius’ competitiveness. From a more personal perspective, when you look back at all your years of experience, what do you feel most proud of?
I set up three things: this firm, the corporate advisory firm and the first human right environment law firm. It’s called “Speak human rights”, there we give free lawyers and advice. That’s what I feel most proud of.
To conclude this interview, Mr. Mardemootoo, our readers are more interested on the leaders we interview than on the company or institution itself. In that context, what message would you like to send to our worldwide readers of HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW?
We are proud of our connections and network and to be a strategic partner for our clients. We are really focused on our legal work for our client but we are also very good in our own connections and network and we can do a lot to accompany our clients over Africa and Asia. If a client is going through Mauritius to enter Africa or Asia we can do a lot to open plenty of doors for them and I think this is a real plus.