Saturday 29 August 2020

How Arvind Kejriwal can gain from the turmoil in the Congress

I am convinced that if Arvind Kejriwal plays his cards well, he may emerge as the biggest gainer from the chaos in the Congress. 

Allow me to explain. 

While we do not know who the 300 Congressmen are who are supposed to have agreed with the sentiments in the letter, it is likely that that the political future of those who have lent their names to the letter is over. Unless there are compelling reasons why the Gandhis can do nothing to them. 

So, except for a few like Kapil Sibal whose legal acumen the party cannot do without or a Mukul Wasnik who is seen as a Dalit leader or Ghulam Nabi Azad who is seen as a Muslim leader, the rest have a serious problem of staying relevant. 

Shashi Tharoor may appeal to people like us but he cannot win an election without the backing of the party in a big way. Jitin Peasad, his lineage notwithstanding, is a nobody in UP. There seems to be no place in the party for the likes of Sandeep Dikshit who simply cannot be a sycophant. From among all those who signed the letter, Sandeep is perhaps the only person who can mobilise the masses to some extent. Which is why he can even pose a threat to the Gandhis if he gets a party to back him.

Prithviraj Chavan may have been the Chief Minister of Maharashtra but with his clean image, he is actually useless to the party. He does not even appear on party posters in Mumbai, that is how much of a non entity he is. As for Renuka Chowdhury, when was the last time anybody heard anything from her anyway.  

Manish Tewari too is no mass leader who will not even be visible without a party, his eloquence notwithstanding. Or Anand Sharma, I had even forgotten all about him until his name cropped up as a signatory. A scorned politician cannot really do much if his or her relevance comes from being accorded a position of significance by the High Command and not a mass following which neither of these gents have. 

Others like Veerappa Moily have very little value for the party as their utility to the party is questionable. They are no Jagjivan Ram who sent the shivers down Indira Gandhi's spine when he switched loyalties. 

The letter would have forced the Gandhis to act if atleast one of its Chief Ministers had joined them. It is also obvious that most of the signatories have the ability to lead a new political formation which could have emerged  if someone like Kamal Nath had supported them. It is widely accepted that he has the guile backed by financial muscle to pull off something like this. 

Where does this leave the signatories. Much like Trishanku, they are caught in nowhere land from which they can extract themselves only if they act decisively. Else they will be stuck in a corner somewhere, irrelevant and unsung and forgotten. Or they could make peace with the Gandhis and go grovelling but there is no guarantee that they will be accommodated. 

But if they wish to stay relevant, and if they do not wish to join the BJP, and if they want a national platform, Arvind Kejriwal offers a viable option for them to consider. AAP's sphere of influence may be limited, but its appeal is national. 

I hope some of them think about it. It will be good for the country. 

Will Arvind let them in? I don't know. But if he does, it will be the loudest declaration that he has come of age in politics.  

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.

Letter to my colleagues

May 20, 2024 Dear colleague,  You may have seen from the financial results for the year ended March 31, 2024 that IRIS is now in the 100 cro...