Tag Archives: Incubators

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Contributions in Incubators

Every company having a net worth of INR 500 crore or more, or turnover of INR 1000 crore or more or a net profit of INR  5 crore or more during the immediately preceding financial year is subject to the provisions related to Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”) under the Companies Act, 2013 (the “Act“). The CSR related provisions of the Act are applicable to not just companies incorporated in India, but also to a foreign company that has its branch or project office in India. For a deep dive on the general conditions attached to CSR, and how to structure your CSR activities please refer to our previous post here. In this post, we will focus on the various ways CSR can be taken by incubators.

CSR in Technology Business Incubators located within Academic Institutions:

The most straight forward way is through grants given to government recognised Technology Incubators. Under entry (ix) of Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013, a company is allowed to undertake activity under their CSR Policy for “contributions or funds provided to technology incubators located within academic institutions which are approved by the central govt”.

The process for obtaining approval of the Central Government as Technology Business Incubators (TBI) is captured in brief below:

  • A Host Institute (HI) which is generally an Academic/Technical/R&D Institution or other institutions with proven track record in promotion of technology-based entrepreneurship, is required to submit a proposal to National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • If the HI is not an academic institution, then it should be a legal entity registered in India with clear purpose of promoting research, innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is desirable to have partnership with at least one academic institute of repute.
  • Financial support for establishing a TBI is also extended to a not-for-profit legal entity registered as a trust/society/section 8 company. For-profit incubators are not given financial support by the DST.

A snapshot of the formal requirements and stages involved in constituting a TBI is provided here for ready reference[i]:

Stage Detailed requirements
Stage I – Proposal Two hard copies + soft version in MS word document in prescribed format; necessary enclosures, and consent for Terms and Conditions; must be forwarded by the Head of HI (with necessary endorsements).

Necessary enclosures that must be included:

Registration Certificate of the HI; Memorandum of Association/Bye Laws of HI; Audited Statement of Accounts for the last three years; and, Annual Reports for the last three years.

Stage II – Evaluation by NEAC and in-principal approval Evaluation of proposal is done by National Expert Advisory Committee (NEAC) on the standards innovation, incubation, and technology entrepreneurship which meets at least twice in a year. Proposal must be submitted up to one month before the meeting of NEAC.

If TBI is not-for-profit entity then, after in-principle approval they are eligible to funding from Govt. subject to these conditions:

·  Registration of TBI as not for profit society/trust or a section 8 company

·  separate bank account in TBI’s name

·  minimum 1000 sq. ft. of furnished space for hosting the TBI

·  minimum lease for land must be 15 years provided by HI

Stage III – Post Approval Conditions After the approval the following conditions must be met by the TBIs:

·  The TBI must be administered by the apex body called Governing Body.

· The Governing Body needs to be chaired by the Head of the Host Institution.

· The Governing Body of the TBI should meet every six months to review progress of TBI and provide policy guidelines for the operations of TBI.

· Each TBI would have a dedicated CEO & a compact team who works full time for TBI.

· Host institution would constitute a selection committee with a DST nominee as a member for the selection of the CEO.

· A suitable incentive mechanism (share of surplus, earning of TBI, equity stake, etc) should be evolved by the host institution for the CEO and his team. HI is free to decide on the remuneration of CEO.

·  TBI should execute appropriate agreement with incubatees. The residency period and the exit policy may also be defined clearly in the agreement.

Stage IV – Monitoring The TBI is expected to attain self-sustenance within five years of its being. However, after the approval, the Department of Science and Technology may constitute teams to monitor the progress of TBIs.

CSR in non-TBI Incubators

As per the Companies (Corporate Social Responsibility) Amendment Rules, 2018 dated 19 September, 2018[ii], provisions of the CSR Rules have been amended to widen the definition of CSR. It clarifies that the CSR Policy of the Company must include activities that are related to the ‘area or subjects specified’ in Schedule VII of the Act. Earlier, the provision only mandated activities mentioned in the CSR Policy to be related to the specific activities listed under Schedule VII of the Act. Through this amendment, the MCA has provided more freedom to companies in choosing their preferred CSR engagements under the CSR Policy.

Pursuant to the amendment, funding of activities by incubators not being TBIs approved by Central Govt. is now possible. However, the same should be within the scope of the CSR Rules.

Other important considerations for CSR by foreign companies:

Compliance with Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA):

Under the FCRA, approval and license from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is required for accepting and utilizing grants under CSR from foreign companies (which qualifies as foreign contribution) to non-profit entities. Thus, foreign companies undertaking CSR will have to ensure that any third-party entities that it seeks to engage for its CSR activities have an FCRA license (For our post explaining the issue, read here).

Earlier Indian companies with majority foreign stake holding were also considered as a ‘foreign source’. However, after amendments made by the Finance Act, 2016, contributions made by companies whose foreign shareholding are within the limits specified under the FDI regulations are not be considered as ‘foreign source’. Thus, Indian subsidiaries of foreign companies do not fall within the ambit of FCRA compliances for their CSR activities.

[i] Detailed procedure may be referred to, available at:   http://www.nstedb.com/institutional/Approved%20Revised_guidelines_of_TBI.pdf

[ii] Available at:

 http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesCSRPolicyAmendRules2018_19092018.pdf

Author: Avaneesh Satyang

Startup India – announcements of many initiatives

Action Plan on Startup India: A Brief Overview

Startup India Action Plan (“Action Plan”), launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 16 January 2016, is part of a flagship initiative of the Government of India for boosting the startup ecosystem in India that will drive sustainable economic growth, generate large scale employment opportunities. It aims to accelerate spreading the startup movement in existing tier 1 cities to tier 2 / tier 3 cities, semi urban and rural areas, in a wide range of sectors, varying from digital/technology sector to agriculture, manufacturing, social sector, healthcare, education, etc. In the recent years, India has witnessed a dynamic trend of people with no or little business background emerging to be the new age entrepreneurs.  The upsurge has had a massive outreach and the impact has been the launch of the “Startup India: Stand up India” campaign, followed by the detailed 19 point Action Plan that interestingly is an unprecedented move even in comparison to other strong startup ecosystems of the world and as pointed out by Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of Softbank, “this is the beginning of a Big Bang for India”.

The word ‘startup’ has been around for quite some time now and it comes as a relief that the Action Plan, for the first time, defines ‘startup’, albeit for the purpose of government schemes only. The definition reads as follows:-

“Startup means an entity, incorporated or registered in India not prior to five years, with annual turnover not exceeding INR 25 crore in any preceding financial year, working towards innovation, development, deployment or commercialization of new products, processes or services driven by technology or intellectual property.

Provided that such entity is not formed by splitting up, or reconstruction, of a business already in existence.

Provided also that an entity shall cease to be a Startup if its turnover for the previous financial years has exceeded INR 25crore or it has completed 5 years from the date of incorporation/registration.

Provided further that a Startup shall be eligible for tax benefits only after it has obtained certification from the Inter-Ministerial Board, setup for such purposes.” (Emphasis supplied)

The definition is important in order to understand the eligibility criteria for the various benefits that the Action Plan talks about. However, what remains to be seen is how the definition gets formalized by way of a statute or notification and how the concerned authorities, for example the Inter-Ministerial Board, interprets “working towards innovation, development, deployment or commercialization of new products, processes or services driven by technology or intellectual property” for the purposes of certification. Usage of words such as “new” may open up dialogues on what may be considered as new and what should be the criteria for determining “new”.

Broadly, the Action Plan talks about schemes and initiatives to be undertaken in four major categories:-

(a) Ease of doing business: For easing operational aspects of the workings of a newly incorporated company

  • compliance regime based on self-certification with labour laws and environment laws;
  • no suo motu inspection with respect to labour law compliances for the first 3 years
  • only random checks in ‘white category’ startups with respect to environmental law compliances;
  • mobile app to provide on-going accessibility for registering startups, tracking the status of the registration application, filing for compliances and obtaining information, etc.;
  • legal support and fast tracking patent examinations; 80% waiver of patent filing fees;
  • relaxed norms for public procurement;
  • faster exits,
  • income tax exemption for a period of 3 years,
  • extension of capital gains tax exemption to ‘computer or computer software’)

(b) Funding: For enhancing funding support through a Fund of Funds with an initial corpus of INR 2,500 crore and a total corpus of INR 10,000 crore and through credit guarantee fund via National Credit Guarantee Trust Company/SIDBI with a budgetary corpus of INR 500 crore per year for the next four years; extension of exemption from Section 56(2)(viib) of the Income Tax Act 1961 to investments made by incubators above fair market value; seed funding to potentially successful and high growth startups;

(c)  For promoting visibility through national and international fests and encouraging innovation through national and state level awards; and

(d) Programs and Centres: For structuring and enhancing the startup ecosystem through various programs such as Atal Innovation Mission (AIM), Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU), Innovation core program in schools and establishment of Startup India Hub, 500 tinkering labs, incubators, innovation centers and Research Parks.

In the inaugural speech, the Prime Minister has also made special mention of the lack of patent experts/lawyers as the patent protection remains one of the biggest concern of newly incorporated companies working in the fields of innovation and technology. As such, the Action Plan talks about fast tracking mechanisms to exclusively cater to startup patent applications in order to protect the intellectual property rights of startups at an early stage. Another key highlight of the Action Plan is the panel of facilitators and lawyers to assist startups in filing and disposal of patent applications. Government shall bear the entire fees of the facilitators for any number of patents, trademarks or designs that a startup may file.

Overall, the Action Plan goes a long way in identifying the various problems persistent in the startup ecosystem today and aims to bring thousands of entrepreneurs from across India into this discourse and force the growth of a transformed, diversified and inclusive economy.

Introduction of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Bill, 2015 (Read more at https://novojuris.com/2015/12/28/bankruptcy-bill-2015/) and recent announcements by the Reserve Bank of India of incentives to ease business norms and drive growth in the ecosystems, which inter alia include:

  • creation of a dedicated mailbox to provide assistance and guidance to the startup sector,
  • permitting receipt of deal value on a deferred basis in case of a transfer of ownership of a startup,
  • accessing rupee loans under the External Commercial Borrowing framework with relaxations, etc., indicate the Government’s existing and ongoing commitment to actualizing the Action Plan.

However, it leaves one wanting for more answers with respect to how the various actions points will be formalized and implemented by the concerned authorities and the timelines that we are looking at, amongst other things. The nuances that may be associated with ‘simple’ form for registering startups and the practical aspects of uploading documents for registration through a Mobile App; executing faster exits in 90 days; allocating funds for the announced rebates; effective management of the Fund of Funds and strategizing rollover of its profits are some of the questions that loom large. However, ambitious times call for ambitious ventures and the Action Plan certainly has opened up a whole new horizon.

India Budget 2013-14 : Impact on Angel Investors and Startups

We had shared this note privately to many of the angels and startups who are raising investment. And then, quite a few interesting conversations emerged. Sharing here for the larger audience.

Here’s the link to the Budget Speech http://indiabudget.nic.in/bspeecha.asp. The references made below are to this Speech.

Angel Investors pooling in money and obtaining SEBI registration as Category I AIF Venture Capital Fund shall be given a pass through benefit from Income Tax perspective.

Two important references in point 95 and point 143.

‘Pass through’ means the legal entity (which has pooled the money) need not pay taxes and the same is taxed in the hands of the LPs.

In May 2012, SEBI repealed the VC Regulations and brought in Alternate Investment Fund Regulations (AIF Regulations). Under AIF there are three categories. Category I AIF is the one relevant for our discussion here, which  invests in start-up or early stage ventures or social ventures or SMEs or infrastructure or other sectors or areas which the government or regulators consider as socially or economically desirable and shall include venture capital funds, SME Funds, social venture funds, infrastructure funds and such other Alternative Investment Funds.

Further, AIF Cat.I has a minimum pool size of Rs. 20 crores and each LP’s ticket size of Rs. 1 crore amongst other requirements.

The point is, Angel Investors will have to meet the SEBI registration requirements in order to obtain the tax benefit.

The Finance Act 2012 brought in an amendment to tax the share premium which is above the fair value of investment by the resident angel investors and not proven satisfactorily to the tax assessing officer.  This amendment is effective 1 April 2013.  The hope was this would be reversed, but no.

Text of Points 95 and 143 of the Budget Speech:

95. Angel investors bring both experience and capital to new ventures.  SEBI will prescribe requirements for angel investor pools by which they can be recognised as Category I AIF venture capital funds.

143.        Venture Capital Funds have been allowed pass through status under the Income-tax Act.  The relevant regulations of SEBI have been replaced by Alternative Investment Fund Regulations.  Hence, I propose to extend, subject to certain conditions, pass through status to category I Alternative Investment Funds registered with SEBI as venture capital funds. Angel Investors who are recognised as category I AIF venture capital funds will also get pass through status.

Incubators

Incubators located within academic institutions and approved by Ministry of Science and Technology or MSME can now raise money from large corporate and the corporate get the benefit of its CSR obligation (Corporate Social Responsibility).  The CSR obligation is proposed in the Companies Bill 2012, which is passed at Lok Sabha and awaits approval from Rajya Sabha (expected in a couple of months) and the President’s assent for it to be an Act (legislation).

Under the Companies Bill, corporate (private and public) that make an average profit of at least Rs 5 crore  or have a worth exceeding Rs 500 crore, or their turnover exceeds Rs 1,000 crore in the last three years will have to spend 2% of the net profits in CSR.

So, apart from DST and DIT funds the incubators can now also get funding from large corporate. It also appears that there is an approval process required by  the Ministry of Science and Technology or Ministry of MSME

Text of point 76 of the Budget Speech

76. Incubators play an important role in mentoring new businesses which start as a small or medium business.  The new Companies Bill obliges companies to spend 2 percent of average net profits under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  I am glad to announce that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs will notify that funds provided to technology incubators located within academic institutions and approved by the Ministry of Science and Technology or Ministry of MSME will qualify as CSR expenditure.

Exit opportunities:

Company buyback: Company will have to pay 20% tax on such buyback.  There was no tax incidence on company buy-back.

The consideration paid by the company for purchase of its own unlisted shares which is in excess of the sum received by the company at the time of issue of such shares (distributed income) will be charged to tax and the company would be liable to pay additional income-tax @ 20% of the distributed income paid to the shareholder. The additional income-tax payable by the company shall be the final tax on similar lines as dividend distribution tax. The income arising to the shareholders in respect of such buy back by the company would be exempt where the company is liable to pay the additional income-tax on the buy-back of shares.

Listing: The listing process under BSE-SME exchange is further simplified for startup companies.  The Listing norms for the SMEs (at a very high level) are as below.

  1. Net Tangible assets of at least Rs. 1 crore as per the latest audited financial results
  2. Net worth (excluding revaluation reserves) of at least Rs. 1 crore as per the latest audited financial results
  3. Track record of distributable profits in terms of sec. 205 of Companies Act, 1956 for at least two years out of immediately preceding three financial years and each financial year has to be a period of at least 12 months. Extraordinary income will not be considered for the purpose of calculating distributable profits. Other wise, the networth shall be at least Rs 3 Crores.
  4. Other Requirements:  (i) The post-issue paid up capital of the company shall be at least Rs. 1 crores (ii) The company shall mandatorily facilitate trading in demat securities and enter into an agreement with both the depositories (iii) Companies shall mandatorily have a website

The Finance Minister in the Budget provided for listing on the SME exchange without having to make an IPO.

95. Small and medium enterprises, including start-up companies, will be permitted to list on the SME exchange without being required to make an initial public offer (IPO), but the issue will be restricted to informed investors.  This will be in addition to the existing SME platform in which listing can be done through an IPO and with wider investor participation.

FDI versus FII:

There has always been some confusion on FDI and FII and this time around there seems to be (somewhat arbitrary) explanation provided by the FM.  The RBI regulations reference “FDI” limits, so we’ll now need to evaluate if this clarity adds to a whole lot of other confusion.

Text of sub-point under point 95

In order to remove the ambiguity that prevails on what is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and what is Foreign Institutional Investment (FII), I propose to follow the international practice and lay down a broad principle that, where an investor has a stake of 10 percent or less in a company, it will be treated as FII and, where an investor has a stake of more than 10 percent, it will be treated as FDI.  A committee will be constituted to examine the application of the principle and to work out the details expeditiously.

Disclaimer: This is not a legal opinion and should not be construed as one. Please speak with your attorney for any advice.