Group of business people having a meeting in the board room
Group of business people having a meeting in the board room

One of the female heirs of the industrial conglomerate, the Rs 38,105 crore Murugappa Group, Valli Arunachalam on Tuesday reiterated her allegation that gender bias exists at the highest levels of the company.

Arunachalam also said this time around she would not shy away from approaching the courts on the issue.

Her outburst comes a day after the resolution proposing her candidature for the Board seat in the family's holding company Ambadi Investments Ltd was defeated by majority shareholders at the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

"It is a clear indication that gender bias exists at the highest levels of the Murugappa group," Arunachalam said.

"It was always our wish that the family issues remain within and are settled at the family level, but clearly it seems the family is more concerned about protecting its draconian perspectives and practices, even if it means forcing us to take the battle to courts. We will not shy away this time," Arunachalam said.

According to her, the question remains as to why a female heir with a doctorate degree, 24 years' work experience in Fortune 500 companies, and numerous patents and publications to her name, cannot be inducted to the board, even three years after her father's death, despite being a representative of the same shareholding.

Taking a dig at another family member, Arunachalam said while a 23-year-old male heir with a master's degree and no job experience can be inducted to the board soon after his father's passing.

On her not being voted in the AIL's boardroom Arunachalam said she was upset at the manner in which the family, which is the majority shareholder in this case, has conducted itself.

"Our family branch has been asking the majority shareholders in AIL to settle our shareholding in a fair manner. We made multiple attempts to ask the family to settle us as per my father's wishes by purchasing our stake in AIL at fair value," Arunachalam said.

Arunachalam said her family had proposed many ways in which they can settle the matter amicably, including mediation, but the other wings of the Murugappa family have refused.

"For more than a year now, I have been asking for a board seat, pending the settlement, to make sure our rights are preserved as a promoter and major shareholder.

"Finally, they agreed to allow my Board nomination, but they did not appoint me in the interim, and asked me to wait for the next AGM, which was more than 9 months away. Now, yet again they have made clear their intent of continuing the oppressive and vexatious conduct against us," she charged.

Following the provisions of section 160 of the Companies Act, Arunachalam had proposed her candidature for the Director's post by a notice to the company on August 5, 2020 along with a deposit of Rs 1,00,000.

As per the results of the resolutions passed at the AGM uploaded on AIL's website, 49 shareholders with voting rights of 91.36 per cent had voted against Arunachalam's appointment as Director while four shareholders with 8.64 per cent voting rights voted in her favour. There was one invalid vote.

Ambadi Investments owned by the Murugappa Group promoter family is the ultimate holding company of the group.

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Free Press Journal