For the 81-year-old Bhubaneswar resident, the annual general meeting (AGM) of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is an event he marks on his calendar. An investor in India’s biggest IT firm, he has been travelling 1,350 km to Mumbai for the last 20 years to be part of the proceedings.
But this year, instead of packing a suitcase, the octogenarian, who didn't wish to be identified, had to rush to get himself an internet connection to participate in TCS’ 25th AGM held on June 11. The AGM was held virtually, a first for India, as coronavirus outbreak restricts travel, movement of people and big gatherings.
“He got the internet connection just so he can join the AGM,” said Baibhav Mishra, another investor and a neighbour who helped the senior citizen with the process.
For 26-year-old Mishra, it was convenient and a good experience. According to him, virtual AGMs are efficient and save money.
Gaurav Pingle, a company secretary, couldn’t agree more. Describing the experience as sophisticated, he said, “For me, it was like being in physical AGMs.”
The same, however, cannot be said of the older investors, the majority of whom are not comfortable with technology. Signing up can be task in itself for them.
One has to go to the National Securities Depository's e-voting site and sign in using an ID and a password. After signing in, the investor is taken to the Webex link, where the meeting is hosted.
“While it is fairly a straight forward process, tell me how many people actually remember their ID and password?” asked another investor. “Many would probably give up in the middle.”
While enough time was given to shareholders to ask questions just like in physical AGMs, Sudha Jhunjhunwala tweeted that took a lot of patience from the management to listen to questions due to poor connectivity.
A 55-year-old investor complained that he was unable to ask questions as the connectivity was poor.
These glitches, say experts, are expected, given that it is first such attempt. Pingle was optimistic and said things would get smoother as people will get used to it.
The ‘new normal’ is here.