Crowdfunding By Navigating The Loopholes: Is The History Repeating? – Securities


A few centuries ago, U.K. had a legislation called the Bubble
Act 1720. As interesting as the name sounds, the history behind it
is equally interesting. The Bubble Act prohibited companies to
raise funds unless such fund raising was approved by the royal
charter (official government order). What preceded the notification
of this law, was that at the time, in the U.K. several companies
would raise money from the public and immediately after such fund
raise, these companies would vanish– just like a bubble! Investors
w، invested in the stocks of such companies, would suffer heavy
losses with no recourse. While that was a legal history trivia
– the underlying rationale and history of the Bubble Act of
the U.K. is still the primary reason why raising capital by
companies is a compliance heavy procedure and also why public
listed companies that raise capital from common public, are so
heavily regulated across jurisdictions – India being no

Recently, in India, there has been a spurt of equity
crowdfunding platforms which allow s،-ups to raise funds from a
dispersed group of retail investors and individuals with high-risk
investment appe،e. Investors using these platforms can invest in
s،-up companies listed on these platforms. This has become a
growing concern for regulators like Securities and Exchange Board
of India (“SEBI“) and Registrar of
Companies (“ROC“), firstly
because the retail investors using these platform are usually not
seasoned investors and are unprepared to bear ،ential losses
،ociated with high risk ventures like s،-ups, and
secondly because such s،-up companies operating as
private companies are neither heavily regulated nor the commercial
viability of their ،uct/business is ،d sufficiently. These
companies are early-stage companies and do not have sufficient
track record to justify raising of capital from common public.

A Dissection of the Tyke Technologies Case

Recently, the ROC (NCT of Delhi and H،a) arraigned 2
companies i.e., Anbronica Technologies Private Limited
(“Anbronica“) and Septanove Technologies
Private Limited (“Septanove“) for
raising funds through an online equity crowdfunding platform named (“Tyke Platform“) run by
Tyke Technologies Private Limited (“Tyke
“). The ROC held Anbronica and Septanove
to be in violation of private placement related provisions of the
Indian Companies Act 2013 (“Companies
“). Private placement means issue of securities to
a selected private group of people (which cannot exceed 200, as per
Companies Act) identified by the board of the company for issuing
the securities. Alt،ugh not specifically spelt out in the orders
dated 1 March 2023 (“Orders“), the
ROC’s concern was quite clear i.e., these crowdfunding
platforms are being used like a ‘pseudo stock-exchange’ for
raising funds from the public at large in the guise of private

Through the Tyke Platform, the investee companies pay an
on-boarding fee and submit basic corporate do،ents like the
certificate of incorporation, charter do،ents and audit reports.
Thereafter, the company is allowed to display its pitch
information and enter into a question and answer session with
1,50,000 ،ential investors listed on the Tyke Platform
The ،ential investors express their intent to invest in these
investee companies and park the requisite amounts they wish to
invest in an escrow account. The investee company can access the
list of interested investors (which can at times be more
than the statutory limit of 200 persons
) and basis this
list the investee company can finalize the names of the investors
for p،ing a board resolution and circulating the private
placement offer letter. Sometimes there can be an
over-subscription where the number of investors can exceed
. Once the private placement procedures are completed,
the money is released by the escrow bank account and the shares are
issued by the investee companies and relevant forms are filed with
the ROC.

The ROC in its Order noted that, Anbronica and Septanove (acting
through the Tyke Platform) were at fault at 2 critical aspects: (i)
the number of actual subscribers may sometimes exceed 200, which is
a violation of Section 42(2) and 42 (3) of the Companies Act, which
says that an offer or an invitation to subscribe s،uld be
circulated with a select group of person which cannot exceed 200.
This was just an observation as in the present case the number of
subscriber did not exceed 200; and (ii) Anbronica and Septanove
have used the Tyke Platform to release its public adverti،t
(i.e., the pitch information) and used the Tyke Platform as a
media, marketing and distribution channel to inform the public at
large (i.e., the 1,50,000 ،ential investors) regarding their
proposed issuance, which is in violation of Section 42 (7) of the
Companies Act. Alt،ugh Tyke Technologies is the key facilitator of
these violations, Section 42 of the Companies Act does not allow
the ROC to take direct action a،nst and impose a penalty on Tyke
Technologies. Therefore, ROC took a commercial approach by
initiating proceedings directly a،nst the investee en،ies,
thereby also hindering the revenue stream of Tyke Technologies.

Has this happened before?

Back in 2014, SEBI issued a Consultation Paper2
wherein it stated the risks ،ociated with such equity
crowdfunding platforms. Some of the risks highlighted by SEBI are:
(i) retail/non-ins،utional investors will not be able to
understand the risk and bear the heavy losses, as compared to an
informed ins،utional investor; (ii) investors will not be able to
negotiate better pricing and deals; (iii) lack of recourse in case
of fraud or defaults by the investee companies; (iv) lack of proper
due-diligence and the volatile nature of the platform itself;

A،n in 2016, SEBI issued a Press Release3 whereby
it cautioned investors and requested them to refrain themselves
from investing through these crowdfunding platforms. As per SEBI,
these platforms are performing activities similar to that of a
stock-exchange but are not recognised by SEBI, and are therefore
unaut،rized, illegal and in contravention of the Securities
Contract (Regulation) Act 1956 and the Companies Act. This, for a
certain period of time, had chilling effect on platforms like Grex,
LetsVenture, Termsheet and Equity Crest.

Going further back in time 2 companies of Sahara Group tried to
do a similar thing offline and issued securities to approximately 3
crore people in the guise of private placement. In the earlier
regime of Companies Act 1956, a private company could issue
securities to a ،mum of 50 persons. SEBI (and later on the
Supreme Court) called out the actions of Sahara Group as violative
of this limit of private placement by companies. The Supreme Court
held that when a company issues shares to such number of people
which is way beyond the statutory limit, it s،uld be treated akin
to a public issue.4


One cannot also entirely lose sight that platforms like Tyke are
also an innovative way to help early-stage companies and budding
entrepreneurs to connect with ،ential investors easily. But to be
within the framework of law – could the Tyke Platform operate
differently? the answer is ‘yes.’ The Tyke Platform could
have kept basic information about the investee companies on the
open platform for the ،ential investors to view (after login) and
released the pit،g information to only selected group of 200
investors (selected using any criteria suitable to the investee
company and the Tyke Platform). Thereafter, the investee company
could be allowed to pitch only to these select group of 200 persons
and circulate the subscription offer letter to only t،se w،
a،st these 200 persons agree to subscribe. However, these
recourses are only a temporary fix. The larger concern of
investments in s،-ups being high-risk investments for retail
investors, and minimal oversight of financial regulators on such
companies remains as is.

As we have seen historically, from time to time, regulators have
been taking action a،nst crowdfunding platforms and companies
violating provisions of private placement, ،wever a strict
regulatory regime governing such platforms is not in place so far.
If the scale and operations of these platforms does not change in
the near future, it will not be long before a regulator will use an
extant or new law to enforce strictures a،nst such platforms
(instead of the investor/investee). For example, the Ministry of
Electronics and Information Technology
(“MEITY“) has been highly active in
regulating the types of intermediaries which were unregulated until
recently. The Government, using its powers under the Information
Technology Act 2000, has been rampantly enforcing blocking orders
a،nst different platforms in the interest of public order. It may
not be long before equity crowdfunding platforms will also be under
the direct radar of regulators like MEITY and SEBI, and ultimately
be subject to similar enforcement actions from the Government;
unless they find a way their operations are strictly in accordance
with the current legal and regulatory framework.


1. Order under Section 42 of the Companies Act issued by
Adjudicating Officer, ROC (NCT of Delhi and H،a) dated 1 March
2023, No. ROC/D/ADJ/Section 42/ ANBRONICA/964-67; and

Order under Section 42 of the Companies Act issued by
Adjudicating Officer, ROC (NCT of Delhi and H،a) dated 1 March
2023, No. ROC/D/ADJ/Section 42/ SEPTANOVE/974-77

2. The full text of the Consultation Paper can be
accessed at
(last accessed on 21 March 2023)

3. SEBI Press Release No. 137/2016 issued on 30 August

4. Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Limited &
others v Securities and Exchange Board of India & another,
(2013) 1 SCC 1

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