Sunday, September 09, 2012

Dam Square, Amsterdam

Into my yonder you flow
You charmed me years back
Was I free and clean then
Or were you untouched,sublime

I soak you in my eyes again
And I breathe you in me
Why the spirit of meadows and the bridges
Do not incense this city square

Wouldn't my mind yet fly
Or my heart soar
As rush fills in the moments
the love within
the beauty around

I sit by In a cafe in your heart
Cyclist in shorts and suits
With kids and hockey sticks
cycle by
Striking shades of tourists
delight my eye
Soil of my mind is tilled,churned
Clouds of happy memories jog by
Tulips of smiles they harvest by.

Karma they say is a bitch
Bewitches and asks for new charms
For these moments of repose
Raise your Heinken.
Bid the water boats Good bye.

O land - 
To all birds that pass by thou,Feed them grains that are cheerful 'n' free
When thee fly to other lands, thee shall paint the Sunflower fields.

Scene : I was trying to come up with a few words to describe the beauty of Amsterdam and they were not coming and then the above lines poured out..

Anuj Lakhotia

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Time and me

एक फितरत और देखि वक़्त की
खामोश हैं पर मुस्तैद हैं
खुशियाँ उडाऊं तो पकड़  ले
अश्रु गिराऊं तो चुन ले
सब कुछ समेत लेता हैं
मैं उडूं तो यह दौड़े
मैं ठहरूं तो यह थमें
एक मुकाबला करता हैं |

संग  इसके खेल में ,थोडा हुनर सीख लिया
इस के कुछ  रहस्यों को भेद दिया
इसके कुछ दिनों को छुपा दिया
कुछ रातों की बाहों में  खेल लिया
लम्हे थे कुछ इसके, नाम अपना लिख दिया
जब जब इसकी सरहद को न पार कर सकें
इसे लफ़्ज़ों  में गिरफ्तार कर लिया |

These lines were written expressing a different perspective for a few lines written on time by a friend.

Anuj Lakhotia

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Equity Compensation - Things to consider

If you have been bitten by the start-up bug and are considering equity offers from start-ups, read on.

1.       Equity or Esops
Equity differs from Employee stock options as it makes you a stockholder, eligible for dividends and makes you a participant in certain decision making.

Employee stock options convert to shares only after the options have vested and you have exercised your options.  Options have a minimum vesting period of one year as per SEBI guidelines.

Ideally, founders are granted equity or Restricted stock units (RSUs)- equity that is granted after certain restrictions like performance, time spent are met. RSUs can be optimized for taxes when granted at par value.  Companies are reluctant to offer this as it comes with an increased overhead of an extra stockholder and other legal requirements like an escrow etc.

Exercising the options includes paying the exercise price and a tax payment. In India, a perk tax is charged as per your income tax slabs on the notional income earned by the appreciation of the underlying shares.

Ideally, the exercise value should be at par value for employees to reap benefits of share price appreciation. 
Late stage investors often ask for an additional optional pool to be created for newer employees and may keep the exercise price at the investment price.
Find it out if the company is willing to pay the taxes else the employee will have to bear this. This can be quite significant and you would be paying taxes on unrealised income. The guidelines are not clear if the loss can be adjusted in future taxes if the shares never become liquid.

Also note that the holding period for capital gains for RSUs starts at the day when you get them. The holding period for shares earned via stock options start only after you have exercised the options.

Options also have an expiry period before which they need to be exercised. A standard norm is ten years.

2.        Grant period and vesting schedule
The stocks come to employees at a given vesting schedule.  Every year you get a proportion of your total equity grant as defined by the company Esop policy document

A standard norm for early stage companies is equal vesting (25% of total stock granted) across first four years of service. Late stage companies have a shorter vesting cycle as they are expected to be closer to a market exit.

Early to growth stage company can have a bigger proportion (say 50%) coming in the first year and remaining divided equally across the cycle.Companies can form one single scheme for all employees or multiple schemes.

The vesting dates are important as it gives you access to equity for RSUs or a right to exercise the option in case of esops.Your options can vest to you on a monthly or an annual basis.

 A good norm from an employee perspective would be to have a “cliff” of one year for the first vesting and post that the vesting to be monthly or quarterly.

3.       Number of shares, Percentage stake ,Valuation and Exit returns

It is important to know your total number of shares as well as the percentage equity stake.

Angel funded or early stage companies often do not have good benchmarks to establish share prices. They may use aggressive revenue multiples on aggressive revenue targets to make the offered equity valuation look attractive.

It is important to understand the business plan, key metrics before agreeing on such numbers.

Early employees and significant contributors can ask for a higher percentage stake when negotiating for their overall remuneration. There is a higher risk for early stage companies than growth stage companies and hence a prospective employee should accommodate for the same. One should research the norms for equity grants for his/her role.

Once the company has an exit, often the venture investors are returned the invested amount first (preference clause) and later the returns are divided among all the stockholders ( this may include the venture investors). For start-ups that do not generate stellar returns this shall further dilute the returns of an employee.

4.       Impact of "Liquidation/Funding" events

Employees who are given common stocks will have their stake diluted in the company if fresh shares are added to new investors. E-commerce companies generally have longer gestation periods and may raise as many as five rounds of funding – the percentage stake dilution can hence be significant.
Certain class of shares may have a clause to have a proportionate fresh shares issued on any new share addition to keep the percentage stake from going down.

Investors often have a preference clause and a participative clause for next rounds of funding. This may give angel investors a way to exit their investments to later stage investors.

Esop Policy document also may have obscure "clawback clauses" which gives company/investors the right to purchase  the shares back from an employee.The Policy document also has guidelines if the employee can sell his shares to external parties. Also, guidelines on how the stock sale may happen if the company goes for an IPO.

5.       Impact of "Change of control" events

Often cash strapped start-ups get merged/acquired by other companies or key founders may leave. In such cases, the role of an employee may not remain the same as management control changes. Few employees may also be forced to leave the organisation. In such cases, there should be a provision for accelerated vesting
Standard norms include “Single trigger” acceleration of atleast one year on change of control.
“Double trigger” acceleration includes multiple events such as change of control and employee firing. In such cases all unvested shares should vest immediately .

6.       "Grace period" and ability to take the stocks post termination of employment

Grace period is the time post termination of employment in which the employee can exercise his vested options to convert them to shares. This gives employee time to generate funds for paying the taxes or the exercise price. If the stocks are listed on the markets, then the employee can exercise the shares depending on the market performance.

This can be normally from 3 months to one year.  An employee should be able to take his stocks with him post termination of employment.

I am also new to this and I write this after having received 2 such offers and working at one e-commerce start-up. Several posts on  have helped me understand this aspect of start-up world. Please feel free to share your suggestions.

Anuj Lakhotia

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Memories of Moving On

पिरो ले माहि
यादें आसमान में ;
रंग भरेगी ये
कल की फुहार में |

आ दूर चल इनकी पुकारों  से
पुराने वादों के ताजे  घावों  से;
समेत ले  बिखरे हुए ख्वाबों  को
आएँगी राते  फिर से इन्हें सजाने को |

क्या खोया तुने, उसे जोड़े क्यों
टूटे शीशों में खुद को खोजे क्यों
समय की लहरों में इन्हें  बह जाने दे
जल कर राख इन्हें हो जाने दे
ये बैठे तो तू चल दे
ये  थकाए तो तू हंस दे
सुना इन्हें कहानिया कुछ नयी सुबह की
बयान कर फसाने उन सुनहरी रातों के

पिरो ले माहि
यादें आसमान में ;
रंग भरेगी येही
कल की फुहार में |

यूँ ही खेल खेले ज़िन्दगी
कभी आये जाए
कभी मुस्कुराएं
यह ज़िन्दगी |

Friday, March 09, 2012

क्या तुम्हारी बात हो ?

ज़िन्दगी में 'कुछ हो',
तो - बात हो |

माटी से मंजिलें बना सको,
तो -तुम कुछ बात हो |
उजले चेहरे तो तमाम हैं,
एक सरल सच्ची मुस्कान हो,
तो -उम्दा बात हो |
चीर सागर मच्छी ला सको,
तो - एक करामात हो |
मोड़ आते हैं, पड़ाव आते हैं,
रस्ते का साथ फिर भी दे पाओ,
तो -तुम्हारी बात हो |

साल तुम्हारे घर में गुजरे,
चद्दर और बर्तन बदलते;
खून तुम्हारा विश्व बदल जाए,
इस लिए - माँ तुम्हारी बात हो |
जंग में लथपथ हो बदन ,
रूह, फिर भी भी ललकार लगाए,
इस लिए - सिपाही तुम्हारी जयकार हो |

आवाजों का शोर हैं हर मस्तिष्क में,
बातों से दिल पिघला सको
तो -तुम्हारी बातों की बात हो |
झूठ की लहरें बुलंद हैं,
सच्चे निशाँ कुछ छोड़ जाओं
तो- तुम प्रेरेना की बात हो |

इस पल कुछ न हों,
बस यूँ ही बिंदास हों,
तो - तुम उत्साह की बात हो |
ज़िन्दगी में 'कुछ हो',
तो - बात हो |

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bring me to home life

Chatters from home distant,
fill up my heart-
And light up my smile
Winds blowing south
Bring a scent of delight-
And chime bells of festival times
Bring me to home life, Bring me to home life !

(High pitch, fast pace)
Fete fills my way
And takes my weight away.
As the noise fades -
on employed roads,
Homecoming songs, I must say
Bring me to home life, Bring me to home life !

The touch of my room's floor
And the photo in my drawer-
Create those full smiles
Dial in the golden friends
Stories munch up the times.
Bring me to home life, Bring me to home life !

Birds fly to the woods
Ports get to the boats
Rains come down to the earth
Bring me to my paradise
Bring me to home life, Bring me to home life!
Connect me to my, Bring me to home life !

(This was written while i was packing for diwali and some good homecoming tunes were playing in the background. Enjoy!)

Anuj Lakhotia

Saturday, September 03, 2011

An eulogy

तुम चाय की इलाइची हो,
तुम स्कोत्च एक विलायती हो ,
तुम ग़ज़ल एक दुमदार हो
तुम साथी एक यादगार हो !

संग तुम्हारे पीना सीखे ,
पैमाने से गहरा उतरना सीखे,
खूबसूरती से जीना सीखे,
दरिया में बहना सीखे !
और क्या,
यह कविता भी तुम ही से लिखना सीखे !

हम साथ तुम्हारे चले
तो ज़िन्दगी में मुकाम आये
तुम साथ हमारे रहे ,
तो मुकामों में ज़िन्दगी आई !

गुरु, तुम एक कमाल हो ,
गुरु, तुम एक मिसाल हो ,
गुरु, तुम एक धमाल हो ,
अभी तो,
मेरी ज़िन्दगी का गुलाल हो !

राहें तुम्हारी आबाद रहे,
उन राहों में हम रहे,
साथ हमारा हर दम रहे,
साल ऐसे न कम रहे !

Anuj Lakhotia