The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is contemplating implementing a ‘Snapchat model’ for facilitating listing of Indian startups.
Snapchat had at its initial public offering last year offered shares without any voting rights. The company also did not provide investors with revenue forecasts to keep regulatory burden low, ensuring no business hindrance.
The move caught the market's attention as it allowed founders to tap the market without giving up decision-making freedom. It also helped in avoiding greater shareholder scrutiny that comes with raising public money.
A panel appointed by SEBI has discussed the proposal of allowing companies to sell shares with differential voting rights at its first meeting held last week to boost startup listings, Business Standard Reported.
The market regulator has been attempting to boost startup listings in the market, but its previous attempts failed to excite the market. Sources told the paper that most of the committee members listed ‘ceding control’ as a key consideration that prevented startups from going public.
The SEBI panel feels that allowing startups to sell shares without giving up control could be a game changer as this would reduce chances of diluting the stake of the founding members.
The proposal has got mixed reactions from experts. Sudhir Bassi, a partner in Khaitan & Co told the paper that it a good proposal since it allows a startup to separate its ownership and economic interests.
“There are also similar provisions in the Companies Act known as differential voting rights. Such provisions will allow the boards of startups to take decisions that are in the best interests of the company without having to fear a corporate coup or backlash from minority shareholders. However, having a strong corporate governance structure is a prerequisite for allowing any such provision,” he said.
A section of the market has also raised concerns over accountability and stated concerns that interests of minority shareholders could be overlooked. The panel discussed restricting the platform to only seasoned institutional investors such as private equity to address the issue.
Sources said the SEBI committee will conduct further consultations with all stakeholders and submit a report to the market regulator next month.