Foreign company planning to set up business operations in India has the following options:

1. AS AN INDIAN COMPANY

A foreign company can commence operations in India by incorporating a company under the Companies Act, 1956 through:

  • A. Joint Ventures; or
  • B. Wholly Owned Subsidiaries

Foreign equity in such Indian companies can be up to 100% depending on the requirements of the investor, subject to equity caps in respect of the area of activities under the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy. Details of the FDI policy, sectoral equity caps & procedures can be obtained on a specific request.

A. Joint Venture With An Indian Partner

Foreign Companies can set up their operations in India by forging strategic alliances with Indian partners. Joint Venture may entail the following advantages for a foreign investor:

  • Established distribution/ marketing set up of the Indian partner
  • Available financial resource of the Indian partners
Established contacts of the Indian partners help smoothen the process of setting up of operations.

B. Wholly Owned Subsidiary Company

Foreign companies can also set up wholly owned subsidiary in sectors where 100% foreign direct investment is permitted under the FDI policy.

For registration and incorporation, set of applications have to be filed with Registrar of Companies (ROC). Once a company has been duly registered and incorporated as an Indian company, it is subject to Indian laws and regulations as applicable to other domestic Indian companies.

2. AS A FOREIGN COMPANY

Foreign Companies can set up their operations in India through:

  • A. Liaison Office/Representative Office
  • B. Project Office
  • C. Branch Office
Such offices can undertake any permitted activities. Companies have to register themselves with Registrar of Companies (ROC) within 30 days of setting up a place of business in India.

A. Liaison Office/ Representative Office

Liaison office acts as a channel of communication between the principal place of business or head office and entities in India. Liaison office cannot undertake any commercial activity directly or indirectly and cannot, therefore, earn any income in India. Its role is limited to collecting information about possible market opportunities and providing information about the company and its products to prospective Indian customers. It can promote export/import from/to India and also facilitate technical/financial collaboration between parent company and companies in India.

Approval for establishing a liaison office in India is granted by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

B. Project Office

Foreign Companies planning to execute specific projects in India can set up temporary project/site offices in India. RBI has now granted general permission to foreign entities to establish Project Offices subject to specified conditions. Such offices cannot undertake or carry on any activity other than the activity relating and incidental to execution of the project. Project Offices may remit outside India the surplus of the project on its completion, general permission for which has been granted by the RBI.

C. Branch Office

Foreign companies engaged in manufacturing and trading activities abroad are allowed to set up Branch Offices in India for the following purposes:

  • Export & Import of goods
  • Rendering professional or consultancy services
  • Carrying out research work, in which the parent company is engaged.
  • Promoting technical or financial collaborations between Indian companies and parent or overseas group company.
  • Representing the parent company in India and acting as buying/selling agents in India.
  • Rendering services in Information Technology and development of software in India.
  • Rendering technical support to the products supplied by the parent/ group companies.
  • Foreign airline/shipping Company.

A branch office is not allowed to carry out manufacturing activities on its own but is permitted to subcontract these to an Indian manufacturer. Branch Offices established with the approval of RBI, may remit outside India profit of the branch, net of applicable Indian taxes and subject to RBI guidelines Permission for setting up branch offices is granted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

India is moving towards reforming its tax policies and systems so as to facilitate globalization of economic activities. The corporate tax rate for foreign companies is 40%. The net tax rate is far lower than this on account of various deductions and exemptions available under the tax laws. Tax holidays are available in Special Economic Zones set up to make industry globally competitive. Infrastructure Sector Projects enjoy special tax treatment/holidays. A user friendly tax administration is being introduced with round the clock electronic filing of customs documents from 31.3.04

Public Company

A public limited company is a voluntary association of members which is incorporated and, therefore has a separate legal existence and the liability of whose members is limited. Its main features are :-

  • The company has a separate legal existence apart from its members who compose it.
  • Its formation, working and its winding up, in fact, all its activities are strictly governed by laws, rules and regulations. The Indian Companies Act, 1956 contains the provisions regarding the legal formalities for setting up of a public limited company. Registrars of Companies (ROC) appointed under the Companies Act covering the various States and Union Territories are vested with the primary duty of registering companies floated in the respective states and the Union Territories.
  • A company must have a minimum of seven members but there is no limit as regards the maximum number.
  • The company collects its capital by the sale of its shares and those who buy the shares are called the members. The amount so collected is called the share capital.
  • The shares of a company are freely transferable and that too without the prior consent of other shareholders or without subsequent notice to the company.
  • The liability of a member of a company is limited to the face value of the shares he owns. Once he has paid the whole of the face value, he has no obligation to contribute anything to pay off the creditors of the company.
  • The shareholders of a company do not have the right to participate in the day-to-day management of the business of a company. This ensures separation of ownership from management. The power of decision making in a company is vested in the Board of Directors, and all policy decisions are taken at the Board level by the majority rule. This ensures a unity of direction in management.
  • As a company is an independent legal person, its existence is not affected by the death, retirement or insolvency of any of its shareholders.

Private Company

A private limited company is a voluntary association of not less than two and not more than fifty members, whose liability is limited, the transfer of whose shares is limited to its members and who is not allowed to invite the general public to subscribe to its shares or debentures. Its main features are :-

  • It has an independent legal existence. The Indian Companies Act,1956 contains the provisions regarding the legal formalities for setting up of a private limited company. Registrars of Companies (ROC) appointed under the Companies Act covering the various States and Union Territories are vested with the primary duty of registering companies floated in the respective states and the Union Territories.
  • It is relatively less cumbersome to organise and operate it as it has been exempted from many regulations and restrictions to which a public limited company is subjected to. Some of them are :-
    • it need not file a prospectus with the Registrar.
    • it need not obtain the Certificate for Commencement of business.
    • it need not hold the statutory general meeting nor need it file the statutory report.
    • restrictions placed on the directors of the public limited company do not apply to its directors.
  • The liability of its members is limited.
  • The shares allotted to it's members are also not freely transferable between them. These companies are not allowed to invite public to subscribe to its shares and debentures.
  • It enjoys continuity of existence i.e. it continues to exist even if all its members die or desert it.