'No Reason Why I Can't Be A Board Member': Woman Heir Hints At Gender Bias In Murugappa Group
The patriarchal nature of most Indian households believed to exist only in socially and economically backward areas. However, examples of patriarchy in well-educated individuals with high social and economic capital have often come forward.
Valli Arunachalam, her mother and sister jointly inherited an 8.15 per cent stake from her father, MV Murugappan, the former chairman of ₹37,000 crore Murugappa group. But she was denied the board membership in Ambadi Investments Ltd that owns a controlling stake of the group. A place on the board wouldn’t be a problem if the heirs were male.
About 91 per cent stakes in the group including Ambadi Investments Ltd are held by the family, and the remaining by the public. Valli Arunachalam is demanding that female heirs of the family be given an equal opportunity in the family business on the same terms as the male heirs.
Valli has alleged the group promoters of having gender bias against women getting into the family business for denial of a place in the Ambadi Investments Ltd’s board after their father’s demise in 2017.
“My father, in his will, bequeathed everything to me, my younger sister and my mother, and clearly stated his wish to give us equal rights and to represent our branch in the family business,” Business Line quoted Valli as saying.
She also gave the board the option of buying out her shares at a “fair price”. That offer was rejected. As of November 2019, no decision had been taken by the all-male board at Ambadi Investments Ltd.
“So far, they have not given us a reason why I cannot be on the board. In my e-mail communications to the family members on the board, the response was that I was demanding this like a succession right. My response was that my demand was based on the shareholding,” she said.
“My sister and I are well educated, we have many years of experience in the industry, and there is no reason why our skills cannot be transferable or applicable to the family business,” she added.
Valli’s claim is in accordance with the Hindu Succession Act, according to which ‘Any property possessed by a Hindu female is to be held by her absolute property and she is given full power to deal with it and dispose it of by will as she likes’.
Since there has been no response from AIL’s current board or any of the family members, she is now exploring other alternatives, including legal options.