Shilpa S Ranipeta
She was rejected when a vote was held on Monday during the AGM of Murugappa Group’s holding firm Ambadi Investments.
The Rs 38,000-crore family-run Murugappa Group has voted against giving Valli Arunachalam a seat on the board of its family holding company Ambadi Investments. The patriarchal family-run business has only given board positions and responsibilities of running the business to the men of the family. Valli Arunachalam, the daughter of the late MV Murugappan, former executive chairman of the Murugappa Group and the grandson of Murugappa Group founder Dewan Bahadur AM Murugappa Chettiar, challenged the status quo last year by demanding that she have a say in the family business. Valli had sent a notice on August 5, 2020 to the company along with a deposit of Rs 100,000 to propose her candidature for a director’s position.
Ambadi Investments held its annual general meeting on Monday and 91% of the board voted against her appointment as director, sources told TNM.
When MV Murugappan passed away in 2017, he left the 8.15% stake he held in Ambadi Investments to his wife and his two daughters. Over the past two years, Valli, the older daughter, has been fighting for a say in the family business. She has neither been able to sell the family’s stake to another family member, nor get a seat on the board of Ambadi. As a shareholder, she has a right to exercise her position and vote.
Ambadi investments is the holding company of the group and has direct shareholding in the group companies. 91% percent of Ambadi Investments is held by the Murugappan family. Of this, 8.15% now belongs to Valli, her sister and her mother. Valli and her family also hold stakes in the group’s listed companies.
The law is on Valli’s side as well. The Supreme Court ruled on August 11 that the Hindu Succession Act, 2005, can be applied retrospectively to daughters who were alive when the law was brought in, irrespective of whether their father was alive or not. This means that daughters who were born even before 2005 have coparcenary rights to the joint Hindu family property. Coparcenary refers to a person who can claim a legal right to ancestral property by birth.
In an earlier interview with TNM, Valli said that she was told she cannot be inducted onto the board because she doesn’t have an ‘intimate working knowledge of the company’. Women of the Murugappan family have never been given an opportunity to gain any experience on that front, Valli alleged.
“When they said I don’t have a working knowledge of the company, I told them that women were never given the opportunity. To this, I was told that women have never asked to be on the board. But here I am. I have been repeatedly asking for it for the past two years. So why are they discriminating against me based on my gender?” she told TNM in January.
Courtesy The News Minute