By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, Jan 7 (IANS) Does the Rs 37,000 crore Murugappa group companies have woman on their board and have they ever had one? asks Valli Arunachalam, a family member of the Murugappa group.
US-based Valli Arunachalam, the daughter of late M.V. Murugappan, has alleged that the group promoters have gender bias against women getting into family business and hence she or her sister were denied a board berth in Ambadi Investments Ltd after their father’s death in 2017.
Even as the promoters of the Rs 37,000 crore Murugappa group maintain a studied silence on the allegation of gender bias in offering board membership to a female family member, a quick check on the group’s listed companies reveal the presence of woman at the top.
The Ambadi Investments is the family’s holding company that owns stakes in various group companies.
Experts in company law told IANS that a board berth for a female or male is not guaranteed by birth into a family or getting married into the family nor it is hereditary.
However, the case is different if the law mandates reservation of a board seat for women.
“As per the Companies Act every listed company and every public company having a paid-up share capital of not less than Rs 100 crore or a turnover of Rs 300 crore or more should have at least one woman Director on their board,” D.Varadarajan, a Supreme Court advocate specialising in company/competition/insurance laws, told IANS.
According to him, there is no hurdle in co opting a female relative of a director on the company board.
The Murugappa group has nine listed companies and a quick check revealed all have a female member on their board.
However the website of the group’s general insurance company Cholamandalam MS General Insurance Company Ltd — an unlisted company with over Rs 100 crore capital — does not list a woman as its board member.
The board composition details of other unlisted companies of the group are not available.
Demanding a board berth for her or her sister, Arunachalam also said if the demand is not met, then the other branches of the family should pay a fair market value for about eight per cent stake held in Ambadi Investments.
According to Arunachalam, she is trying to enforce her father’s will to secure a board berth for the family member based on the shareholding in Ambadi Investments.
She had broached the subject of board membership with the family seniors but didn’t get a satisfactory reply and any affirmative action in that regard.