Bankruptcy Policies and Procedures: A Safety Net for Indian Start-ups

India has become a hub for start-ups in recent years, with an increasing number of entrepreneurs turning to the start-up ecosystem to build their businesses. Start-ups play a vital role in driving innovation, job creation, and economic growth. However, the entrepreneurial journey is riddled with uncertainties, and not all start-ups succeed. In India, bankruptcy policies and procedures serve as a safety net, providing a structured framework to address financial distress and failure. This article aims to explore the significance of bankruptcy policies and procedures for Indian start-ups, highlighting their role in mitigating risks and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship. 

What is Bankruptcy? 

Bankruptcy, as defined by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) of India, refers to the state of financial distress in which a company is unable to meet its financial obligations to creditors. The IBC, enacted in 2016, introduced a comprehensive framework for insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings in India. It replaced several outdated and fragmented laws, streamlining the resolution process and promoting a more efficient and transparent ecosystem for distressed businesses. 

Rescue Mechanisms for Start-ups 

Recognizing the unique challenges faced by start-ups, the IBC introduced a special provision called the “fast-track process” for small companies, including start-ups. This provision expedites the resolution process, offering a time-bound mechanism to address financial distress. Under the fast-track process, the resolution plan needs to be approved within a maximum period of ninety days, ensuring a swift resolution for start-ups and minimizing disruptions to their operations. 

Data from the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) indicates that as of September 2021, a total of 16,270 corporate insolvency cases have been filed since the implementation of the IBC. These cases involve businesses from various sectors, including start-ups, and demonstrate the utilization and effectiveness of the bankruptcy procedures in safeguarding stakeholders’ interests. 

Filing for closure 

When a start-up decides to shut down its operations, it must follow the legal process of filing for closure. The process of closure depends on the type of company the start-up is registered as. The following are the two most common types of companies in India and their respective processes of closure: 

  1. Private Limited Company: For a private limited company, the start-up needs to pass a special resolution and obtain approval from the Registrar of Companies (ROC) to file for closure. The ROC will then issue a public notice inviting objections to the closure of the company. If no objections are received within 30 days, the ROC will issue a certificate of closure. 
  1. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): For an LLP, the start-up must pass a resolution for winding up and file an application for closure with the ROC. The ROC will then publish a notice inviting objections to the closure of the LLP. If no objections are received within 30 days, the LLP will be considered closed. 

Filing for bankruptcy 

If a start-up is unable to pay its debts and is insolvent, it can file for bankruptcy. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) provides a comprehensive framework for the insolvency and bankruptcy process in India. The process of filing for bankruptcy under the IBC involves the following steps: 

  1. Initiation of insolvency: The start-up must file an application for insolvency with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). 
  1. Appointment of an interim resolution professional (IRP): The NCLT will appoint an IRP to take control of the company’s affairs and manage the insolvency process. 
  1. Formation of a creditors committee: The IRP will form a committee of creditors (CoC) comprising the company’s creditors. The CoC will evaluate the company’s assets and liabilities and decide on the future course of action. 
  1. Resolution plan: The CoC will invite resolution plans from interested parties. The resolution plan that receives the highest vote from the CoC will be approved by the NCLT. 
  1. Liquidation: If a resolution plan is not approved, the company will be liquidated, and the proceeds will be distributed to the creditors. 

Government schemes for failing start-ups 

The Indian government has launched several schemes to support failing start-ups. The following are some of the schemes that failing start-ups can utilize: 

  1. Start-up India Seed Fund Scheme: The scheme provides financial assistance to start-ups to support their operations and help them overcome financial difficulties. 
  1. Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE): The scheme provides credit guarantee to micro and small enterprises, including start-ups, to enable them to access loans from banks and financial institutions. 
  1. Atal Innovation Mission: The mission provides support to start-ups through funding, mentoring, and networking opportunities. 

Moving Forward 

Several success stories have emerged where start-ups have been able to bounce back from financial distress by leveraging the bankruptcy resolution framework, preserving jobs and nurturing a culture of innovation. Bankruptcy policies and procedures can provide a safety net for Indian start-ups that are facing financial difficulties. By allowing businesses to restructure their debts or liquidate their assets, bankruptcy laws can help to prevent the complete collapse of a start-up. These policies not only protect the interests of creditors but also promote a culture of entrepreneurship by enabling failed start-ups to restructure, recover, and contribute to the economy. 

It is important for start-ups to be aware of their legal options and utilize government schemes to ensure a smooth exit. Failing start-ups can utilize government schemes such as the Start-up India Seed Fund Scheme, CGTMSE, and Atal Innovation Mission to overcome financial difficulties. The Bankruptcy Code, 2016 has also had a positive impact on the Indian start-up ecosystem by providing a safety net for businesses that are facing financial difficulties, and is proving helpful in promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in India.  

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