Amrinder Sidhu, director of Singapore legal at Micron Technology, specialises in construction, financing, incentives, litigation, divestiture, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, IT, data privacy, compliance, investigations, sourcing and outsourcing of manufacturing services, and corporate secretarial work. Sidhu, who joined Micron Technology in 2012, provides strategic legal and government relations support to the organisation.
ALB: Tell us about your legal career so far, and what led you to taking up this role.
Sidhu: I was born in a Sikh family and grew up in a small holy town Ajmer in Rajasthan, India. My father is a lawyer who is known for his integrity and ethics not only in his profession, but also in social life. I have been raised with these values and principles. My father has fought many legal battles for different types of sufferers and it’s hard to explain the joy and their feelings when they get justice. I have grown up in that environment with values of equality, fairness and have been very much influenced by it. The legal profession is demanding and if you are not passionate about the values this prestigious profession bestowed upon you, you may become a good lawyer, but never a great one.
I was fortunate to read law with ILS Law College, Pune. The year I graduated (2005), ILS was ranked first amongst the Top Ten Law Colleges in the country by the India Today, ORG-MARG poll survey. Immediately after graduation and being called to the bar in India, I got an opportunity to work in Singapore with Tan Kok Quan Partnership. This was not only my first job but also my first time ever travelling outside India. I was thoroughly impressed with the professionalism here and wanted to learn more about international trade in Asia. So, I went to read my Master of Laws in International Business Law, which was taught at NUS and East China University of Politics and Law in Shanghai.
After completing my Master of Laws, I joined Wong Partnership in 2007 with their financial services (capital markets & corporate) practice where we worked on various movers and shakers deals. In 2010 I joined Australia and New Zealand Bank doing legal transactional work for their sourcing, outsourcing, commercial & institutional banking. Thereafter, in 2012 I got an opportunity to work with one of the most innovative semiconductor company of our time, Micron.
ALB: What have been some of your highlights from your time in charge? And what are some leadership lessons you have learnt?
Sidhu: Highlights where I contributed substantially are regarding Micron’s expansion in Singapore, Malaysia and India:
In Singapore, we played a key role in its multi-billion-dollar expansion of its flash memory technologies, adjacent to our existing manufacturing complex at North Coast Drive, Singapore. We successfully partnered with various stakeholder to help them close two land parcel deals of approximately 170,000sq m land plot for the multi-billion-dollar facility expansion and the construction agreements for our multi-billion-dollar facility in record time. We collaboratively worked through deal issues, such a mitigating legal risk, to determine the best lease structure and construction agreements for such massive expansion. This expansion brings a new life to the semiconductor industry in Singapore and adds great economic value to the entire ecosystem of high-end smart manufacturing.
In Malaysia, we played a vital and innovative role in supporting Micron’s expansion in Penang. We partnered with various stakeholders and successfully concluded government incentive negotiations, site selection and land parcel lease agreement of approximately 52 acre in record time. Penang is recognized as a centre of excellence for semiconductor and storage products, offering numerous advantages, including a high-quality supply chain for the electronics industry; logistics, sustainable manufacturing infrastructure; a conducive business environment; access to talent; and strong government support. Micron’s investment in Penang will serve to enhance local education through collaboration with universities for research and development in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while sparking a passion in the next generation of scientists and engineers.
In India, we played a key role in our India expansion business strategy, site selection, government relations, securing real estate and managing legal corporate compliance activities. Micron’s expansion in Bengaluru and Hyderabad complements the company’s global centres of excellence around the world, providing design and product engineering functions for next-generation memory and high-value storage solutions. Being part of the core expansion team, I feel proud that we were able to complete legal deliverables such as legal entity set-up, successfully closing real estate lease agreements with the landlords in record time.
The key lesson learnt is, that don’t ever underestimate the value of any individual no matter where they are placed. It’s the team, the people you meet, and the relationships you build that helps you navigate complexities to close a project successfully. Further, I learnt the importance of placing value on having “tenacity” and caring for “people”. This approach results in the team’s overall success which is far more satisfying than that for an individual.
ALB: What are some of the big challenges the business has been facing in the past few months, and how are you looking to tackle them?
Sidhu: The spread of COVID-19 has impacted people around the globe. Despite all best efforts, the general impact of this pandemic on people and businesses globally has been drastic, disrupting supply chain, demand and normal working standards. This has increased work for legal counsels around advising various businesses on issues such as, employment, force majeure, interpretation and implementation of various government COVID-19 guidelines. Further, we are busy supporting the interpretation and implementation of various government requirements, relevant regulations, industry standards and best practices for the safety of our team members, suppliers and customers across our sites. Sometimes COVID-19 guidelines would require clarifications from relevant government authorities regarding their applicability and implementation in the way of working of our business. So, we have been proactively supporting business to liaise with various government authorities.
ALB: How important is the company’s culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster both within the team, as well as your business as a whole?
Sidhu: Each company has its own culture which determines its overall health, values and mission that it lives by, and what its employees and customers feel. How an employee of an organization feels has a lot to do how he/she interacts with the outside world. So, to me company’s culture is very important as that defines who we are. At Micron our values define who we are. We have five core cultural values that honour the long history of who we have been here at Micron, while also setting our sights on what we know we can do better. The values that we live here with passion are people, innovation, tenacity, collaboration and customer focus.
The people value is close to my heart as we truly care about each other here at Micron and work with the spirit of fellowship towards meeting our company goals. Further, the culture of giving back to the communities in which we operate is also close of my heart. We are developing effective programs that promote science, technology, engineering, and math education and take pride in growing the next generation of scientists and engineers, encouraging young people to explore the high-tech careers of the future.
ALB: How would you describe your approach to technology? How has the use of tech within your team evolved since you started at the helm, and what is your blueprint for the next year or two?
Sidhu: Human life is given by the great architect of the Universe, but the way to live is created by humans in which they developed technology step by step using science. Now technology has become as essential as breathing. So, today we even cannot think of living without technology. The evolution history of technology is lengthy and complex, which is difficult to express in few words even though I would like to say in brief that not only our legal system but in all fields everyone was previously doing their daily activities physically on the resources given to us by nature, slowly and slowly humans then turned to using machines and equipment prepared by them in their daily routine activities.
In our primitive legal system where we were using pen, paper, books and keeping record registers. The discovery of computer revolutionised and modernised the primitive legal system and is now integral part of our legal work. COVID-19 has simply expediated the use of technology in our operations. This is the period where I believe technology is going to create numerous new opportunities for all of us which will help drive better collaboration, innovation and productivity. We must get prepared to always think technology, think AI and machine learning in our day to day activities.
The entire landscape for legal system will become more dependent on technology and the use of AI in the new normal and as social distancing continues. Reliance on traditional processes such a wet-ink signatures, fax, hard copies will be replaced by e-signatures, emails and electronic copies. The change will be faster in countries where governments have started embracing the use of technology and relevant legislations in enabling their legal system. So, for legal function to stay competitive, it will become important that we find innovative solutions to help drive technological advancements in areas of investigations, recoding statements, maintaining contracts digitally and smartly, finding solutions for legal documents to be signed electronically and ensuing contract management systems are adopting AI using predictive analytics so that past legal issues can be meticulously spotted and resolved in real time.
ALB: How have your legal requirements evolved in recent times (either generally or as a result of the pandemic)? How does that change the way you use external counsel and other legal services providers?
Sidhu: During the pandemic our roles have become even more important and technologically transitioned. The majority of us are now working remotely. Further, we are seeing court hearings, dispute resolution such as arbitrations happening digitally without need for physical attendance. Previously legal teams would rely upon hard copies and physical presence was required of signatories for executing legal documents, and now we are constantly innovating to find ways in implementing smart solutions where legal documents are signed not only via computer, but also on mobile phones for better efficiency and stored digitally to ensure our support to business operations is running smoothly even during the pandemic period.
Our relationship with external counsels is always evolving and is key to any legal matter success whether it is contentious or non-contentious. We feel proud of the external counsel relationship that we have developed over time and how closely we work with them to navigate current pandemic and to develop legal strategies. Further, there has been technological advancement in this relationship with external counsels which is driving better costs of legal fees and best use of everyone’s time. All this is helping in creating win-win situation both for us and our external counsels.
ALB: What motto do you live by?
Sidhu: I’m influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and one of his quotes that still impacts me is: “I’m not handsome, but I can give my hand to someone, who needs help. Beauty is in heart and not on face.” I live by the values of equality and fairness that I have been raised with and feel that everyone must be given an opportunity to be heard.
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