Saturday, 15 August 2020

Innovation at the AGM

At the AGM of IRIS Business Services Limited, the firm of which I am the Founder & CEO, we broke new ground.

The law allowed us to have a virtual AGM, the law required us to allow only those shareholders to speak who submitted a request in writing in advance of the AGM.

At IRIS, we have always held the shareholder in high esteem, whether the person had 100 shares or 1 lakh shares. We have always adhered to the highest levels of governance, often going beyond what the law required of us. Which is why it did not seem right to us to take comfort behind the provisions of law and tell our shareholders that they cannot be heard unless they registered in advance. What if they wanted a clarification on an issue that cropped up at the AGM ?

One way would have been to open the floor up for discussions. But from our own experience, it was obvious to us that maintaining order may be difficult. Far too often have we have attended meetings where more than one person jump into say something when someone else was speaking. The administrative headache of maintaining order is just too much and the reputation risk from offending someone's ego who did not get to speak on demand even more. A moderated session is much easier to handle when there are not many people in a meeting.

As we explored the various options, we stumbled on to an option that was simple to execute. We created a group of shareholders on Whatsapp. To start with we included every shareholder whose mobile number was available with us, which, as we discovered, was not too many. Thats when we filed an announcement with the stock exchange announcing the formation of the group and shared a link to the group too, inviting shareholders to join. Within the next 48 hours, the numbers grew.

We told members that the group had been formed to facilitate live interaction between shareholders and the management. We requested them to post questions on the group with the assurance that all questions received until the end of the AGM proceedings would be answered.

It worked out very well. More than a dozen questions, every one of them meaningful and insightful, were asked. Every one of them was answered and it looked like every attendee went away happy. It is possible that a few questions may have come from people other than shareholders too, but we were okay with that. The link to the group was available publicly and we did not think it necessary to keep people out.

I think with this initiative we broke new ground when it comes to engaging with investors. I am also glad that we did it. I would strongly recommend this to every listed company and especially to small caps who are victims of a trust deficit because of the shenanigans of a few.

If any CEO or CFO or IR professional wants to know more, I am happy to help, Do reach out to me.

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