KOCHI: At the age of 74, Babu George Valavi is involved in the battle of his life. The stakes are high. Very high. If he wins, he and four family members get to take home a whopping Rs 1,448.5 crore, and he believes he has a strong case.
The story of Babu Valavi, a Kochiite, begins when he along with four other close relatives bought 3,500 shares constituting about 2.8% of Mewar Oil and General Mills Ltd — then an unlisted Udaipur-based company — in April 1978. Years have gone by, 43 to be precise. Over that period, the company got itself listed on stock exchanges, changed its name to PI Industries, and is doing pretty well with a market cap of over Rs 50000 crore currently.
As on Monday, the share price was quoted at Rs 3,410 apiece. And going by the original 2.8% stake, the Valavi family should now be owning around 42.48 lakh shares. At the current valuation, those shares are worth an eye-popping Rs 1,448.5 crore.
But there is a problem. Babu and the other four family members were kept uninformed about the company’s progress, and have been denied the company’s riches in the form of dividends, bonus shares, splits, etc., over these years, he alleges. Brazenly, the company now says Babu and his family members are no longer its shareholders as their shares were transferred to others in 1989.
Babu began associating with Mewar Oil and General Mills as its sole distributor (a clearing & forwarding agent) for almost a decade in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He says though begun as an edible oil company, it branched out to pesticides, and he was the C&F agent for the company’s pesticides product both in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Babu’s brother, the late George G Valavi — a big businessman who was into shipping in Bombay during the 1970s and 1980s owning five ships — and PI Industries’ founder-chairman P P Singhal knew each other on the Bombay business circuit and became family friends.
“When Singhal passed away in Bombay, it was my brother who used his contacts to arrange a charter flight to carry the body to Udaipur,” Babu recollects. Those days, when the company was looking for a distributor for their product in South India, Babu took up the business following his brother’s suggestion. “We bought the company’s shares too during that period,” he says. Since the shares were not traded initially and the local newspapers were not publishing the share prices, Babu kept the original share certificates safely in the cupboard.
“In 2015, my son started managing our activities and when he found the share certificates, we approached Karvy Consultants (the registrars of PI Industries) to demat (the process of moving physical share certificates to electronic bookkeeping) after finding that the shares are listed,” he says.