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IndiaTech.org will lobby for differential voting rights to Indian company founders

IndiaTech.org, a non-profit organisation which lobbies for domestic e-commerce and internet firms, will push for Indian company founders getting Differential Voting Rights, reports the Economic Times, quoting the group’s CEO Rameesh Kailasam. This would allow companies, especially startups to raise capital without losing ownership control.

DVR or differential voting rights shares are like ordinary equity shares but with differential voting rights. Shares can have higher or lower voting rights as compared to the ordinary equity shares. As in, while a normal shareholder of a company can vote as many times as the number of shares she holds, someone who holds DVR shares could either, cast 100 votes for every share they hold or, conversely, needs to hold 100 DVR shares to cast one vote. Companies issue DVR shares to raise investment without diluting voting rights or to prevent a hostile takeover. On the other hand, investors who do not seek voting rights can avail these shares at a lower price compared to regular shares. Typically, these shares also tend to offer higher dividend.

To do this, Kailasam will constitute a lobby group that will include founding members of IndiaTech.org and other industry players, which will then hold consultations with the government and concerned regulators to implement the necessary legislations, the report says. This entire process will likely happen in about a year as the lobby group will require all concerned ministries, regulators (SEBI, RBI) and industry players to be on the same page for a commonly approved legal framework, the report adds.

Indian startups brush with big investors

Sachin Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart reportedly exited the company owing to a lack of special rights for founders following Walmart’s 77% stake purchase in the Bengaluru-based company. On the flip side, Ola reportedly changed its shareholder terms to strengthen the legal rights of the company’s founders against those of its investors, which include SoftBank and Tiger Global.

To put things into perspective, on a global level, several major companies such as Facebook, Google, Tencent and Alibaba all have systems in place which ensure owners have significant voting rights, regardless of their holdings in the company.

IndiaTech.org’s revival

We’ve reported last month that the lobby group, despite appointing a new CEO, was not active in a long time. The company’s website was also inaccessible as recently as a week back. However, it was back in the news when it backed the recently drafted e-commerce policy, which proposed the idea of Indian company founders getting DVRs or dual voting rights.

Founded last year, IndiaTech.org, in its own words, is a “non-profit, voluntary industry association, with an aim to lobby or battle against ‘deep pocketed’ global competitors for ‘fair market’ in the country. Another objective of it was to push the government to make policies favoring domestic startups as it wants local companies to dominate the space in the country. The group reportedly believed that if India’s local firms did not succeed, India would likely lose $10 billion of foreign direct investment and over $1 billion of tax revenues per year. Its members include MakeMyTrip, Ola, Hike, SoftBank, Steadview Capital, Quikr, Matrix Partners, Policybazaar, Kalaari Capital, Urban Ladder, Lenskart, Epiq Capital, A91 Partners and IDG Ventures.

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