M12, Microsoft’s corporate venture fund, would extend its investing coverage to India to help entrepreneurs innovate and grow with Microsoft’s reach, expertise, and technologies. Rashmi Gopinath, partner at M12, will be leading M12’s investments in India.  Microsoft continues its portfolio of investment in the Indian startup ecosystem with M12 announcing its first India investment, Innovaccer, a startup working to solve data interoperability challenges in healthcare and helping health systems enhance their clinical and financial outcomes with a data-first approach.

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Venture capital investments in Indian tech Business-To-Business [B2B] start-ups have been trending upwards with over US$3.09B raised in equity funding across 415 deals in 2018, 28 percent more than $2.41B invested in 2017 [Source: Tracxn 2018]. Moreover, an increasing number of enterprise B2B startups are being founded in India that cater to a global customer base, most notably in artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, software as a service [SaaS], data analytics and Internet of Things [IoT]. These sectors continue to be top strategic priority focus areas for Microsoft and M12 as well. In addition, India offers unique competitive advantages by being home to top technical talent in the world including deep tech areas such as computer vision, robotics, blockchain and autonomous driving. These factors position India favorably to support highly innovative startups that can effectively compete on a global scale.

Nagraj Kashyap, Global head of M12 and Corporate Vice President, Microsoft, said

We are thrilled to broaden M12’s reach to include India. India is a market rich with entrepreneurs creating world-class startups that are poised for success on a global scale. In working with these innovative startups, we believe together we will help disrupt enterprises and industries ripe for digital transformation.

Innovaccer is a shining example of the startup opportunity in India. The healthcare SaaS startup has offices in both India and the United States, offering a comprehensive Healthcare Data Platform and intelligent care application modules for over 10,000 healthcare providers across 500 practice locations. Leveraging machine learning and healthcare-related contextual expertise, Innovaccer enables its users to consolidate financial, claims, patient, and operational data together to provide a comprehensive patient 360-view for better decision-making, care coordination, and reporting.

Abhinav Shashank, CEO Innovaccer, said

Our unique value proposition is a holistic healthcare data platform that offers data aggregation and key analytics to help healthcare systems and insurance providers to align with value-based care models and realize significant cost savings and operational efficiency. We are excited to work with M12 and Microsoft in order to leverage their best-in-class technical, industry, and go-to-market expertise to help address needs for healthcare organizations across the world.

M12 is comprised of experienced VCs and Microsoft veterans – with team members on the ground in North America, Europe and Israel. Globally, M12 has invested in over 70 startups in areas ranging from cybersecurity and artificial intelligence to business SaaS and industrial drones. While the investment team functions like a traditional VC firm, the portfolio development and venture engagement groups strengthen the lines of communication between Microsoft and many of the innovation communities around the world. It has access to, and knowledge of, Microsoft’s strategic assets, enabling it to value add in excess of the contributed capital.

About M12

As the corporate venture arm for Microsoft, M12 [formerly Microsoft Ventures] invests in enterprise software companies in the Series A through C funding stage with a focus on big data & analytics, business SaaS, cloud infrastructure, machine learning & artificial intelligence, productivity and security. As part of its value-add to portfolio companies, M12 offers unique access to strategic go-to-market resources and relationships globally. The Company has offices in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, London and Tel Aviv. Please visit M12 VC for more information.

It is estimated that by 2025, there will be 1 Lakh active startups in India employing about 32 Lakh people. India has observed a substantial growth in the startup industry. As per a statement issued by the ex-Union Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, India has shown a promising startup growth of 36% in 2017. This trend is set to grow exponentially in the future.

Image Source – Inc42

However, with this rise in the number of startups, there has also been a hike in the ‘dead pool’ of startups. While the socio-economic system plays a vital role in ticking this number, lack of proper guidance to the startups still remains the prime cause for a lot of them to never see the light of day. While there are multiple startup accelerators now that are in place to help the startups, most of them focus either on sector-specific startups or startups that are ready to be funded. This leaves startups that are on the ideation stage and those in the unconventional sectors particularly vulnerable.

In order to address these issues, Espark-Viridian is back with the fifth edition of #AccessXcceleration, inviting early-stage startups across all sectors to participate. Interested candidates can apply between January 14, 2019~February 18, 2019. And over the period of the next four months, the acceleration program will roll out two modules providing participating startups with a dedicated mentor who would provide them with business insights, problem-solving strategies, individual mentoring sessions, besides guiding each business idea based on their specific needs.

Module 1 – It has been designed to focus on ideation for the startups. Through a validation process, startups get a platform here to discuss their startup idea in great depth, test their prototype, and guide them to reach the MVP stage. Based on requirements, the module also helps the entrepreneurs to come up with an effective pivot strategy.

Module 2 – It focuses on providing a platform to the entrepreneurs to design their startups in a lean operating framework. Following that, they design the process flow to make it reach a stage where the idea is suitable to be pitched to investors. The acceleration program also provides emerging entrepreneurs a platform to network, interact, exchange ideas, and learn from each other.

The program also includes sessions and workshops across both modules to provide knowledge-based business solutions to the young entrepreneurs. They are led by expert mentors from fields such as marketing, business development, operations, and legal, to cover every functional aspect of a startup.

The centres of Espark-Viridian are strategically located all over the country to cover regions that have seen the highest growth of startups in the past few years. Espark-Viridian is currently present in Bengaluru, Mumbai, Greater Noida, Ahmedabad, and Chandigarh. Espark invites you to kickstart your startup voyage with #AccessXcceleration by applying at https://goo.gl/fFyaH8

Kerala Startup Mission, the nodal agency of Govt. of Kerala for technical entrepreneurship in the State has partnered with Unity Technologies to launch a Centre of Excellence for AR/VR and gaming. Through this Centre of Excellence, Unity will extend support to startups developing products, services, and games on platforms including mobile, PC, and various AR/VR hardware. This Centre of Excellence will also have a special focus on providing different levels of training on AR/VR developer tools to students and professionals in the State. The partnership is a significant step forward for developing an AR/VR ecosystem in Kerala.

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Shri. M Sivasankar IAS, Secretary Department of IT & Electronics, Govt. of Kerala, said

The AR/VR market is expected to witness huge growth globally in the next 5-6 years. This growth in demand for AR/VR content and solutions will be accompanied by the sprouting up of a new set of businesses. This Centre of Excellence for AR/VR Developer tools with Unity Technologies is a step taken by the Govt of Kerala towards creating an ecosystem for new businesses to grow and cater to the global demand.

Hubert Larenaudie, Vice President of Asia Pacific at Unity Technologies, said

Unity is at the center of the AR/VR ecosystem, powering 60%+ of all content and we see this industry growing significantly over the next few years. This Centre of Excellence for AR/VR developer tools is a step taken by the government of Kerala to create an ecosystem for these new businesses to grow and thrive.

Saji Gopinath, CEO, Kerala Startup Mission, said

Kerala Startup Mission is committed towards creating an enabling ecosystem for young ventures working on various emerging technologies. With its rich pool of creative talent, Kerala has the opportunity to become a hub for this extended reality disruption, which is a combination of content and solutions powered by hardware and distribution platforms. This emerging industry will, in turn, create new jobs that require new sets of skills. We will be working with ICT Academy of Kerala for skilling interested students and professionals on these design and development tools.

In line with the Knowledge City initiative of Government of Kerala, KSUM has a special emphasis in promoting startups working in various emerging technologies like AI, Cyber Security, AR/VR etc. Over the past one year, KSUM has touched bases with more than one hundred [to be precise] startups in these emerging technologies and has provided these startups with various support mechanisms including technology access through Future Technologies Lab, Innovation Grants, seed loans, exposure programs, and market connects. Future Technologies Lab also runs evangelization drives across the State to attract more professionals and students to take up research, learning and development programs in these newer technologies.

Santhosh Kurup, CEO, ICT Academy of Kerala, said

In the Industry 4.0 world, AR/VR is a vital technology that has applications in multiple domains, hence youth with skills and competencies in AR/VR will have a unique advantage in the future jobs market. ICTAK is delighted to be skilling interested students and professionals on these design and development tools.

About Kerala Startup Mission

Kerala Startup Mission is the nodal agency of Government of Kerala for promoting technology entrepreneurship in the state and is the implementing body for the Kerala Technology Startup Policy that supports the startup ecosystem by means of different components such as infrastructure, incubators and accelerators, human capital development, funding, and exposure programs. For more information, please visit Kerala Startup Mission.

Early stage startup accelerator Espark-Viridian launched Case In Point 2018-19 to ignite the spark of entrepreneurship throughout the country. Case In Point 2018-19 is in the second year of the flagship case study solving competition organised by Espark-Viridian. Case In Point helps budding entrepreneurs to understand the problems that a real startup faces. This provides them with an opportunity to assess their entrepreneurial and problem-solving abilities. You can find more details about Case In Point 2018-19 in our coverage here.

After an overwhelming response, the last date for attempting the online quiz has now been extended to 8th January 2019. You can attempt the case studies at http://www.espark-viridian.org/caseinpoint/ 

Finales will be conducted across 3 cities – Delhi on 19th January, Bengaluru on 22nd January and Mumbai on 24th of January. The winners will be awarded prizes from a gratification pool of ?2 Lac. They would also be awarded 6 months of free Cloud Telephony Solutions [Super Receptionist Basic Plan] by their Tech Partner, Knowlarity.

Participants selected from the first round would be divided into teams in the finales. They would be expected to come up with a feasible solution based on the detailed case study provided during the round. The presentation to the judges will be part of the decision-making process to select the winner.

Their endeavour to grow the Indian ecosystem is being supported by Faculty of Management Studies [Ecosystem partner], Innov8 [Ecosystem partner], What after College [Ecosystem partner], Startups India [Ecosystem partner], Young Engine [Ecosystem partner], Bizztor India [Digital partner], Inc42 [Digital partner] and Knowlarity [Tech partner].

About Espark-Viridian

Espark-Viridian is a startup accelerator for early and growth seeking startups. They offer a 4 month multi-centre, multi-sector accelerator programme across 5 centres in Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Gandhinagar, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. To know more visit Espark-Viridian

Winners of the India Innovation Growth Programme [IIGP] 2.0, showcased their award winning technologies under a Demo Day held in Bengaluru today. The innovations included 12 industrial and 4 social sector technologies, from 2017 and 2018. The India Innovation Growth Programme [IIGP] 2.0 is a unique tripartite initiative of the Department of Science and Technology [DST], Government of India, Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts. Supporting the Government of India’s missions of ‘Start-up India’ and ‘Make in India’, IIGP 2.0 enhances the Indian innovation ecosystem by enabling innovators and entrepreneurs through the stages of ideation and innovation, to develop technology-based solutions for tomorrow.

Complemented by several implementation partners, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry [FICCI], Indo-US Science and Technology Forum [IUSSTF], Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship [CIIE] at IIM Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and the Tata Center for Technology and Design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the programme aims to build an innovation pipeline in India through a high-impact programme focused on the social and industrial innovation ecosystem.

Launched in 2007, India Innovation Growth Programme [IIGP] has been one of India’s longest standing public-private partnerships. The programme has provided mentoring and hand-holding assistance to over 400 innovators coming from diverse sectors from across the country; generated over 350 commercial agreements and over $900 Million of economic value for India. [Source – Second Impact Analysis Report by Ernst & Young in 2015].

Winners of IIGP 2.0 [Source]

Through two annual parallel tracks viz. University Challenge and Open Innovation Challenge, IIGP 2.0 identifies and supports both industrial and social innovations. As part of the Demo Day event, 16 start-ups made presentations about their technologies and also interacted with potential investors and the wider startup ecosystem of Bengaluru.

[L-R] Jacob Crasta, Samir Kumar, Jagmohan Singh, Harkesh Mittal, Manoj Kumar, Himanshu Malik, R Varadharajan

These start-ups attended an intensive one-week Bootcamp at IIM Ahmedabad which included classroom sessions focused on measuring financial performance, financial modeling and valuation, design thinking, leadership, business models, pricing, etc. as well as one-on-one mentoring sessions, pitching training and networking opportunities. 10 start-ups in 2017 and 16 start-ups in 2018 were selected as winners and received grants worth Rs. 25 Lacs each as well as an opportunity to participate in an intensive global exposure visit to the United States of America to learn and access the US start-up ecosystem.

Many new companies seek to increase their investment capital by attracting potential investors. When a organization decides to enter the stock market, their starting offers for investors are known as IPO. The term IPO stands for Initial Public Offerings. This is an exciting and pivotal point in the history of the company. It’s important to remember that IPO investment is not only beneficial for expanding companies, but also for huge, privately-owned entities, and corporations seeking to transform into publicly-traded businesses.

If your company has decided on offering IPO in India, then you can start by engaging the services of an investment bank or underwriting firm, who will assist you in selecting the best type of security to be issued, selecting the appropriate opening price offerings, the right amount of shares and lastly, the time-frame.

IPO investment should not be confused with the term public offerings. The latter is used extensively by many people and is an umbrella term that includes IPO, but has a wider connotation. There are a plethora of ways through which the company can go public, and an IPO follows a specific set of procedures. Following are the preparatory steps that are involved in the IPO in India process:

  • A dedicated IPO team typically consists of professionals like underwriters, lawyers, exchange and securities commission experts, and certified public accountants.
  • Vital company data like financial performance and anticipated future operations are assimilated for the formulation of the prospectus. After this is done, the information is circulated for the purpose of soliciting reviews.
  • An official audit is conducted after the submission of the financial statements.
  • Finally, the date of the offering is decided, and the prospectus is filed by the organisation with the SEBI.

Company employees can get the opportunity to invest. However, this largely differs across different organizations. Here are some factors that should consider before deciding to invest in IPOs.


The collaboration between the company and an investment bank for the purpose of formulating the IPO is known as underwriting. It also includes the determination of the stock price and a thorough financial analysis. Subsequently, an announcement concerning the IPO investment scheme is made.


Before the company is listed, the shares are given to staff by the management, so number of stocks to be given to an employee or not is company’s discretion and employee has no say. He can only accept or decline.


The initial stock prices for IPO in India is generally low, and employees can capitalize on this opportunity. This is the best period for staff-members to indulge in IPO investment within their organization.


The stock price generally surges between the time of the IPO investment and secondary market offering. Thus, employees who purchase shares are required to hold them for a particular period before they can start selling. This IPO in India lockup can extend for up to 180 days, barring insiders from making quick initial profits that occur due to rise in stock rates. Hence, there is a fair amount of risk involved for the employees.

These important points should be carefully considered by all employees before they decide on making any kind of investment. It’s essential to make the right decisions to benefit from such deals.

Early stage startup accelerator Espark-Viridian has launched Case In Point 2018 to inculcate the spark of entrepreneurship within our country. Case In Point 2018 is in the second year of the flagship case study solving competition organised by Espark-Viridian.

Case In Point helps budding entrepreneurs to understand the problems that a real time startup faces. This  provides them an opportunity to assess their entrepreneurial and problem solving abilities.

Post the warm reception of CIP 2017 which had its finale in Delhi, Espark-Viridian is expanding the accessibility of the event pan India. This time the event’s finale will be conducted across 3 cities – Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai and has a gratification pool of Rs. 2 Lac. The winner would also be awarded with 6 months of free Cloud Telephony Solutions [Super Receptionist Basic Plan] by their Tech Partners, Knowlarity.

Speaking on the flagship event, Espark-Viridian Director Vibhuti Channa explained

We were overwhelmed with the response last year and had participants travelling from all parts of the nation to be a part of the finals. We want to make Case In Point more accessible for the budding entrepreneurs across India.

CIP 2018 would be held over 2 rounds. The first round would invite applicants to register individually and participate in an online case study competition. The case study will be based on real challenges that are faced by a startup. The second round would be held at a physical location in 3 cities – Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Participants selected from the prior round, would be divided into teams. They would be expected to come up with a feasible solution based on the detailed case study provided. The presentation to the judges will be part of the decision making process to arrive at the winner.

Their endeavour to grow the Indian ecosystem is being supported by Faculty of Management Studies [Ecosystem partner], Innov8 [Ecosystem partner], What after College [Ecosystem partner], Startups India [Ecosystem partner], Young Engine [Ecosystem partner], Bizztor India [Digital partner], Inc42 [Digital partner] and Knowlarity [Tech partner].

Espark-Viridian hopes to benefit the young developing entrepreneurs minds and add value to the Indian startup ecosystem. The last date for attempting the online quiz is January 5th 2019. To know more, please visit the Espark-Viridian website at http://www.espark-viridian.org/caseinpoint/

About Espark-Viridian

Espark-Viridian is a startup accelerator for early and growth seeking startups. They offer a 4 month multi-centre, multi-sector accelerator programme across 5 centres in Bangalore, Chandigarh, Gandhinagar, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. To know more visit Espark-Viridian

Start-up culture is at its’ boom in India. Start-up attracts Venture Capital [VC] or Private Equity [PE]. VC/PE investment sometimes requires hiring specialists. For Start-ups, it’s not easy to offer competitive pay to attract talent. Employee Share Option Scheme [ESOP] as part of salary package offered, comes in handy. At other times, ESOP is offered to retain talent and give a sense of ownership.

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Flipkart deal has showered fortune on its employees holding shares under ESOP. Paytm and Citrus are other examples. But it’s the positive part of the story. Some startups shut down after receiving investment. Their ESOPs never get listed on any exchange or are bought back by any investor. ESOPs are not always about startups. Most of the big corporate like HDFC, ITC, Wipro, L&T etc. have awarded shares to recognize and reward employees.

Like many other things, ESOP story is two sided as well. This article talks about ESOP from employee side. The article will cover following aspects of ESOP:

  • What is an ESOP?
  • ESOP as part of offered package [Remuneration negotiation]
  • Eligible employees
  • Procedure of ESOP
  • Pricing of ESOP and lock-in period
  • Taxation
  • When you losses your rights under ESOP?
  • ESOP vs bonus

In the following article, we will discuss ESOP from the view of employer i.e. company.

What is an ESOP

ESOP is usually known as Employee Stock Option Plan in legal terms it may be called by different names as

  • Employee Stock Option Scheme
  • Employee Stock Purchase Scheme
  • Stock Appreciation Rights Scheme
  • General Employee Benefits Scheme
  • Retirement Benefit Scheme

By whatever name called, all the above schemes offers shares/securities of the Company for direct or indirect benefits of its employees. Here the important thing to be noted by an employee is that the ESOP needs not to be necessarily offered by the Company at whose payroll you are working. You may also receive ESOP from your holding company or from any other company of the same group.

In layman’s language an ESOP is an offer given to employee by his employer to buy shares of the Company at a predefined price and in a phased manner.

ESOP as part of offered package [Remuneration negotiation]

Always analyze risk associated with accepting an offer having ESOP. Startups are unlisted entity. So, ESOPs by startups will not have liquidity as is available in case of listed entities.

Pay package is often structured such that shares under ESOP are granted at the end of first year [like retention bonus] and then you must wait for vesting period of shares to benefit from share grant. This means you are investing for long term.

Last but not the least, under ESOP, shares are not given to you for free. You must pay the predefined purchase price. If all does not go well with the organization, the predefined price may be a higher price than the face value and market value of those shares, resulting in loss of speculated gain. Though, we all know that higher the risk the higher the gain.

ESOPs can be offered only to permanent employees.

My advice is to take calculated risk. Research ESOP grant timing, purchase price, eligibility and vesting period before accepting ESOPs as part of pay package.

 Eligible employeesESOP can be offered to below types of employees

  • A permanent employee of the company who has been working in India or outside India
  • A director of the company, whether a whole time director or not, but not to an independent director
  • An employee of holding company

Options under ESOP can’t be granted to promoters or person belonging to promoter group.

Most inquired questions about ESOP is – Can the new employee receive options under ESOP? Well, Compensation Committee of a company has the power to decide who will receive options under ESOP. A company is free to decide criteria for granting ESOP. ESOP scheme may be structured in a manner that option can be granted to senior employees to reward their loyalty, to young talent to retain them and to new employees to attract talent.

Procedure of ESOP

The implementation on ESOP consists of three steps-

  1. Grant of option
  2. Vesting of option
  3. Exercise of option

Let’s take an example. Mr. A received 100 no. of options from his Company which will vest @25% each year from the end of first year of grant.

Here no. of grant is 100. Vesting each year at completion of one year of receiving of grant will be 25. Mr. A can exercise his right to buy shares/options so vested at the end of each year. Please note Mr. A can’t buy the shares/options before their vesting.

Some employee wonder if they can claim the difference in the share price [i.e. ESOP price – Market price] on exercise date. It can be done only if ESOP is managed by a trust, securities of the company are listed on stock exchange and ESOP scheme has such provision.

At the time of receiving ESOP always check whether your Company is listed or unlisted and options so received give you right to invest in shares of your company or your subsidiary/holding/group company. Please remember that shares of unlisted public company or private company can’t be sold in stock market. In that case, the only liquidity left is when an investor of the company is ready to buy those shares or the company itself decides to buy-back its own shares.

Pricing of ESOP and Lock-in

As an employee you are not going to receive any free share under ESOP. Exercise price is the price at which you can buy the options vested in your name. Current regulation gives freedom to the company to determine the exercise price provided accounting regulation is taken care off. Thus, the company can give you shares at discounted price.

ESOP scheme may specify a lock-in period. Lock-in means after buying the shares under ESOP you cannot sale it till the lock-in period is over. This is usually one year from the date of exercise of option.

  • Taxation – Shares purchased under ESOP are taxed twice:
  • At the exercise of option – At the time of exercise of option the price difference between the Fair Market Price of said shares and the exercise price is treated as perquisites in the hands of employee and shall be taxed under the head income from salary. That tax will be deducted at source by the employer and will reflect in Form 16 of the employee.
  • At sale of shares – ESOP shares will be liable for short-term capital gain or long term capital gain as the case may be, at the time of sale. For calculation of tax the price difference between fair market price at the date of sale of shares and the fair market price at the date of purchase of these shares will be considered. As at the time of purchase the difference between exercise price and fair market price would have already been taxed as perquisites.

When you lose your right under ESOP

If you retire, resign or die, ESOP is governed by specific terms of scheme. Below is a general discussion of these circumstances

i.)  Termination – The options not vested on that date expire. Options already exercised by the employee, remain with the employee. A period is provided for exercise of options already vested.

ii.)  Resignation – The options not vested on that date expire. Options already exercised by the employee, remain with the employee. A period is provided for exercise of options already vested.

iii.) Death or permanent disability – All the granted options will immediately become vested in the name of legal heir of the employee to whom the options were granted.

As an employee you shall also check the clause for treatment of bonus/right shares, if any, offered during the period of grant till the time of exercise of option. Effect of change in capital structure or corporate restructuring like mergers/amalgamations shall also be checked.

ESOP vs bonus

Indians prefer higher package or bonus than ESOP. ESOP only gives an option to invest in shares of the company at a pre-determined price. If ESOP is granted as a reward for your loyalty or to retain your without compromising the bonus or incentive structure, it is an added advantage.

Note – The article was originally published here and is reproduced with author’s consent. The author is Nikita Singh who is a Corporate Legal Advisor with expertise in overseas acquisition, IPO, ESOP, M&A, buy back and share swap FEMA compliance. She is attempting to make the legal world a layman’ walk through her articles and extensive exposure to corporate world. She can be contacted here and her LinkedIn profile is here.