Zia Mody is an Indian corporate lawyer and businesswoman who is famous for being one of the powerful women entrepreneurs in India, listed by Fortune India in 2018 and 2019. She is the daughter of the former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee.
Zia Mody was born on Thursday, 19 July 1956 (age 65 Years; as of 2021) in Mumbai. Her zodiac sign is Cancer. Zia Mody did her initial education at Elphinstone College, Mumbai, Maharashtra. The Voyage to excellence by Nischinta Amarnath and Debashish Ghosh She studied Law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, England, and earned an LLM degree from Harvard Law School, Massachusetts in 1978. Zia Modi’s LinkedIn profile
In 1979, Zia passed the New York State Bar examination, soon after completing her college degree in the US, following which she was qualified as an attorney in the State of New York. She is the founder and partner of a legal business enterprise, AZB & Partners.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Hair Colour: Salt and pepper
Eye Colour: Dark Brown
Religion & Caste
Zia Mody follows the Bahá’í Faith. In an interview, while telling about her religious beliefs, she said,
“I follow the Baha’i Faith (a monotheistic religion emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind), a religion founded by our Prophet Baha’u’llah over 150 years ago. Apart from the faith having an irrefutable principle of men and women being absolutely equal in the eyes of God (which made it very attractive for me!), it is a religion of choice.” Live Mint
Parents & Siblings
Zia’s father is Soli Sorabjee (a former Attorney General of India), and her mother’s name is Zena.
She has three brothers.
Husband & Children
Zia Mody’s husband is Jaydev Mody who is the chairman of Delta Corporation Limited. She has three daughters- Aditi Mody who is a Furniture designer in Mumbai, Aarti Mody who is a Lawyer in Mumbai, and Anjali Mody who works with Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Founder & Managing Partner
Zia Mody is the founder of AZB & Partners, Mumbai.
- Standing Committee on Mutual Funds in Securities and Exchange Board of India
- Capital Market Committee of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
- Deputy Chairman and as Director of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, Hong Kong
- The Governing Board of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA)
- CII National Council
- Reserve Bank of India Committee on Comprehensive Financial Services for Small Businesses and Low-Income Households, 2013
- The Godrej Committee on Corporate Governance set up by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (2012)
- The World Bank Administrative Tribunal, Washington D.C. (2008-2013)
- The Vice President and Member of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) (2010 -2013)
- The Deputy Chairman and Non-executive Director of HSBC Asia-Pacific Board
- New Era High School, Panchgani, Maharashtra
Zia was on the panel of the expert committee initiated by the Law Commission of India on ‘Amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.’ This panel was set up to review the provisions of the Act due to the several inadequacies founded in the functioning of the Act (2014).
Zia started working with Baker & McKenzie in New York City after completing her studies in 1979. She worked with Baker & McKenzie for three years and returned to India in 1982. In India, Tata Group, Reliance Industries, Aditya Birla Group, the Vedanta Group, and General Electric are some of the top Indian organizations to which Zia has given her contribution as a lawyer. Giant private equity firms including Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and Warburg Pincus have also taken advice from Zia Mody. Zia has provided legal services to both national as well as international clients.
Founder of AZB & Partners, Mumbai
After returning to India in 1984, Zia Mody initiated her own sole-proprietorship law firm ‘Chambers of Zia Mody.’ She practised law in Mumbai. She merged her law firm with other renowned legal firms to form AZB & Partners. Ajay Bahl and Bahram Vakil are the partners in AZB& partners along with Zia Mody. In 2004, AZB & Partners was started with 12 lawyers. It is regarded as one of the biggest law firms in India with 400 legal professionals and many offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Banglore, and Pune.
AZB & Partners was invited by Tata Steel to give legal advice on its $500 million purchase deal with NatSteel (a Singapore-based Mining & Metals company) in 2004. Tata Motors hired Zia Mody as its legal advisor for the acquisition of the Jaguar Land Rover in 2008. This case was advocated by Zia and the acquisition amount, in this case, was US $2.3 billion. Later, AZB & Partners also guided Sunil Mittal under the leadership of Zia Mody to purchase ‘Zain Telecom,’ a South African mobile telecommunications company (2005-2010), for over US $9 billion.
Mentor to the amateur entrepreneurs in India
Liberalization policy by the Indian government widened up a lot of opportunities and chances for foreign enterprises to initiate in India. In 2014, in an interview, Zia Mody strongly believed that liberalization policy has changed the growth and development of small ventures in India. She said-
At the council, you are not really on your own. You are somebody’s junior. I wanted to do something on my own and the timing was right in the early 1990s. Things were growing in India because of liberalization. A lot of foreign companies were looking to set up shops in India. India was really the buzzword that time.”
Zia added that for successful budding entrepreneurs, the mandatory traits should be passion, commitment, and hard work. She further concluded her statement by saying that you need to keep your work streamlined by updating yourself with changing policies of the government. She said-
Why would anyone come to the chambers of Zia Mody instead of going to a blue-chip firm like Mulla & Mulla? But I started at an exciting time in India when many changes were being made in the laws. We had to keep ourselves constantly updated. Even though we were small, we did a good job of convincing clients. We were right up there in terms of timing and commitment. Those were the times when responsiveness would get you a premium. And we tried to differentiate ourselves by being responsive and working hard. Our reputation started to grow, and we started getting more and more work.”
Zia Mody, as a former Indian beachhead advisor, is frequently seen providing advice to amateur Indian entrepreneurs specifically who are analyzing to deal with foreign enterprises in the export business. In 2015, Zia gave advice on dealing with the organizations in New Zealand. She guided, instructed, and provided an overall overview of the policies restricted by the Indian government for New Zealand exporters. She facilitated the way to protect intellectual property in the market.
Guide to the amateur women entrepreneurs in India
Zia Mody has written various articles to vitalize and stimulate the innermost self of the budding women professional entrepreneurs in India. Some of her famed articles include ‘Work hard, delegate, encourage and learn to say no: my advice to young professional women,’ ‘Blood, sweat and tears,’ and ‘The changing landscape of regulatory oversight for India INC.’ In 2019, at a conference, while expressing her views on the competencies of Indian women, Zia elucidated the ignorance Indian women confronted. She provided the approximate figure that 48% of women quit their chosen careers at different points in time in their life because we were still living in a patriarchy. She said-
While it is still a man’s world, you can work on the men. I think gradually they are waking up to the fact that women’s contribution is invaluable. Nobody is doing women a favor beyond a point. Women are bringing immense value to the industry, so an organization would be pretty stupid to let them go.”
Her focal point was women ennoblement, and she counselled them to reteach and reboot their cognitive processes in problem-solving and making judgments. She added,
You will get passionate if you are confident about what you know. If you are confident about what you know in your domain, if you have domain, you have value, the workforce will find a way to get back to you. This becomes easier when heads of organizations are women, as women are nimble and flexible.”
The two smart and confident women lawyers who are considered upcoming and budding legal divas of India follow India’s one of the best-known legal lawyers, Zia Mody. Fereshte Sethna and Anuradha Dutt (the important persons of the equally low-profile law firm- Dutt Menon Dunmorrsett (DMD)) are two of them. Zia Mody regularly speaks on acknowledging and ameliorating the talent of young businesswomen in India. In a video in 2020, Zia was appealing to the Indian private sector to concede the abilities and expertise of Indian women in leadership and control. She said that in private organizations women had achieved valuable and remarkable positions. She further gave the global statistics and said that 10% of women were in senior PE positions globally. She further affixed the statement that the Limited Partnerships should urge General Partnerships in India to show result-oriented actions on gender diversity in India. She stuck to the point that the traits and skills of women in Indian society were not really appreciated in India. Mody revealed that the women in India could not access high quality of education, both in urban and rural regions of India.
In a keynote address in 2021, at the WESA (Women Entrepreneurs Support Association), Zia Mody shared worthy and personal advice with amateur businesswomen on time management. Zia said that amateur women entrepreneurs in India should make sound decisions in adversities and must burgeon in their entrepreneurial journey with a long vision and aim. She said,
All of us realise is the fact that the main enemy in life is time. I think we very often get the balance wrong – it is important to be the master of your time and your diary. I have been viciously outsourcing the thing that I don’t need to do. I insist on my day being as efficient as possible.”
She further declared that in modern, India young women entrepreneurs face severe challenges. She stated,
I think the problem with us, as women, is that it becomes hard sometimes to manage everything together. And, what you give up is your work. I think at those times, we should pause. Do not take decisions when you are under stress. Take a few days off. Do not give up at the worst times when you are going through trauma. Reach out to the infrastructure (e.g., family) which supports you.”
Mody further advised the Indian women on being empirical in thoughts and actions. She said that in difficult circumstances of career, it was normal to find yourself in unexpected challenges, even if you had initiated very strongly. She concluded,
I urge all of you to dream big and continue to hold onto that dream. It is true you have to make compromises here and there. The minute you lose the passion for what you do – you won’t sustain.”
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Zia has been featured in the Forbes list of “Power Women in Business.”
- She has been listed in the top 50 Most Powerful Women list published by Fortune India.
- She was also named one of India’s 100 Most Powerful CEOs by The Economic Times in 2004 and 2006.
- She is also the recipient of the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence as the Businesswoman of the Year, 2010.
- Business Today listed Zia as one of the 25 most powerful businesswomen in India several times from September 2004 to 2011.
- She is a recipient of the Financial Express Knowledge Professional of the Year Award.
- She was titled as band 1 lawyer for Private Equity from 2012 to 2015 by Chambers and Partners Global.
- She won the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Awards, 2015.
- She earned “India Managing Partner of the Year – 2016” by Asian Legal Business (Thomson Reuters).
- She was titled as the ‘Leading Individual for Banking, Finance, Corporate and M&A and Investment Funds’ in the Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, 2016.
- She received the ‘Star Individual’ for Corporate/M&A Band 1 lawyer for Banking & Finance 2012 to 2016.
- She was recognized as a Top 13 female Acritas Star globally by Acritas Star in 2018.
- She was one of the 300 leading female transactional experts by IFLR1000 Women Leaders, 2018.
- Zia Mody is classified as a ‘Leading Individual’ for Banking & Finance, Corporate and M&A, and Investment Funds in The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, 2018.
- She won “Professional of the Year – 2017” at the inaugural UK India Awards.
- She was termed a “Market Leader” for Mergers & Acquisitions by IFLR1000 Financial & Corporate Guide in 2018.
- She was recognized as a “Market-Leading Lawyer” for Corporate/M&A by AsiaLaw Profiles 2016 to 2018.
- She is the winner of Legal Icon of the Year 2019, Legal Era.
- She is recognized as “Leading Lawyer,” one of the 300 leading female transactional experts, IFLR1000 Women Leaders, 2019.
- She was awarded ‘Freedom of the City’ honour by the City of London Corporation, 2020
- She won the Leading Individual for Corporate and M&A and Investment Funds, The Legal 500, 2020.
Note: She has many more awards and accolades to her name.
- Travel Destinations- Kenya and Goa
- According to Zia Mody, she has learned to play the piano at the Royal School of Music. She adores reading religious books.
- Zia is fond of travelling and horse riding.
- In 2013, Zia Mody’s friend Shanoor Forbes (an official with an Airline company in India) told media that Zia had a penchant for choosing and picking ill-tempered horses. Shanoor Forbes explained an incident-
Zia took one horse that none of us would ride on because he was very temperamental. He used to startle easily. But Zia always liked that horse and won many races with it. Zia’s favorite was named Sacrius, known for toppling its riders. She bagged several trophies at the Amateur Rider’s Club.”
- Soli Sorabjee, the father of Zia Mody, presented her the award for ‘Outstanding Woman Business Leader’ of the Year at CNBC-TV18’s 2013 ‘India Business Leader Awards on 13 January 2013 during a ceremony at the Trident Hotel in Mumbai.
- Obed Chinoy (a Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker, and activist) and Norman Miller (an American journalist) are the two famous and eminent global personalities who significantly impacted the initial years of the law practice of Zia Mody. In an Interview, Zia regarded Obed Chinoy and Norman Miller as her mentors.
- In 2014, in an interview, Zia Mody narrated her childhood love story that eventually led her to get married to Jaydev Mody. She explained the romantic side of her relationship. She said-
This is an old childhood sweetheart story. Jaydev was my boy-next-door and we would pretend to play cricket and bowl and beat till it would get so dark you could not see the ball or the bat. I used to be very fond of riding, so he would come to the racecourse and do a fairly bad job of riding, so we could be together. As the years went on, it was just something that was very special. I think even today, as I always tell my children, my best friend in the world is my husband.”
- Zia Mody explained in an interview in 2014 that she always contributed charity to Baha’i Fund (a religion) as her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother were all Baha’i. While conversing about her religion she narrated that according to Baha’i law, she had to give a certain percentage of her savings every year to the fund. She said-
I became a Baha’i at the age of 21. My mother, grandmother and great grandmother were all Baha’is before me. My father is a Zoroastrian. My husband is a Hindu. One of the critical tenets of Baha’i faith is that it is a privilege to donate and the fund-giving is called the “life blood of the faith”. Only a Baha’i can contribute to the Baha’i Fund. The Lotus Temple in Delhi is a proud icon for the entire world’s Baha’i community and delights millions of visitors each year. It was entirely funded only by Baha’is from all over the world and, therefore, took 20 years to build. In addition, we are required under the Baha’i law to give a certain percentage of our savings every year to the fund.”
- Zia Mody is often praised by many of her legal clients as she is one of the foremost corporate attorneys in India. In the books of her clients, she is a great problem solver and meticulous. She is aim-oriented and rigorous with a ‘quick grasp.’ The Chairman of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, admired the work of Zia and said that she was much more than just a lawyer. He said-
One of the things that impress me is Zia’s ability to distill a business issue and offer an integrated point of view.”
- Zia Mody loves to party sometimes, and she manages her busy schedule to spend time with her family and friends, even after being a busy lawyer and a businesswoman. In 2016, Zia Mody’s daughter Anjali shared a photograph on her Instagram account in which Zia Mody was seen with Mahesh Jethmalani (a senior advocate at Bombay High Court), celebrating her birthday in Goa in August 2016.
- Zia Mody oftentimes spoke about gender equality in India. She narrated an incident while she was expressing her views at a gender conference in Mumbai in June 2017 that she had to fight against the patriarchal mindset when she delivered her third daughter. She said-
I will never forget this incident. I was in the hospital, having just delivered my third daughter and since there was no private room, I was sharing one with a few other women. There, I met a Kashmiri lady, who started crying when she heard that I had a third daughter. That was the most depressing hour.”
- Zia is a music lover, and she is often spotted relishing the nightfalls of percussion music at South Mumbai, Arts venue, Jamshed Bhabha Theatre.
- Zia wants to repeal the archaic laws that have lost their relevance in the Indian judiciary.
- Zia describes herself in one sentence as intentionally passionate and eternally curious.
- In an interview, Zia Mody recalled the most memorable moment in her life while practising and fighting in junior courts and told that how she developed a great presence of mind. She said,
When I was a junior counsel, fighting away in various courts, learning how to dance in court, and develop a quick presence of mind.”
- Zia Mody is a dog lover. She often posts pictures of her pet dogs on her social media accounts.
- Zia Mody has featured in many special issues of various renowned magazines and tabloids with her successful life achievements as a lawyer.