Start-up Ecosystem In India

Startups ‘reverse flip’: Pine Labs, Zepto, Meesho in queue for India return


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: What is Reverse Flipping

Mains level: Implication of Reverse Flipping

Why in the news?

  • Pine Labs and Zepto are the latest new-age companies looking to move headquarters to India.


There is a significant surge in reverse flipping within India’s startup scene, characterized by a growing trend of startups choosing to relocate their headquarters or establish a presence in the country.

What is Reverse Flipping ? 

  • Reverse flipping is the process of shifting the domicile of an Indian company back to India after it had moved its headquarters overseas.
  • Indian startups are increasingly choosing to reverse flip back into India, drawn by the country’s favorable economic policies, expanding domestic market, and increasing investor confidence in its startup ecosystem.

Recent Examples of Reverse-Flipping of Unicorns-

Several high-profile startups are opting for reverse flipping to India, indicating a trend of relocating their headquarters or establishing a base in the country.

  • Walmart-owned PhonePe: PhonePe, a subsidiary of Walmart, relocated its domicile from Singapore to India. This move was likely motivated by the significant user base and potential for digital payments in the Indian market.
  • Pine Labs, Meesho, and Zepto: These are identified as the latest new-age companies intending to move their headquarters to India. Their decisions suggest confidence in the opportunities and advantages offered by the Indian startup ecosystem.
  • It Solidifies India’s Position as a Startup Hub: The successful execution of reverse flipping by these high-profile startups contributes to solidifying India’s position as a prominent startup hub globally.

How Reverse-Flipping is done? 

  • Strategic Assessment: The company conducts a strategic assessment of potential target countries, considering factors such as market size, regulatory environment, access to talent, infrastructure, tax policies, and overall business climate.
  • Legal and Regulatory Considerations: The company evaluates the legal and regulatory requirements for establishing a presence in the target country. This may involve understanding company registration procedures, compliance with corporate laws, tax regulations, employment laws, and any other relevant regulations.
  • Corporate Structure: The company determines the appropriate corporate structure for its operations in the target country. This may involve setting up a subsidiary, branch office, or joint venture, depending on the specific needs and objectives of the company.
  • Transfer of Assets and Operations: The company transfers its assets, operations, and intellectual property rights to the new entity in the target country. This may include physical assets such as equipment and inventory, as well as intangible assets such as trademarks, patents, and proprietary technology.
  • Share Swaps or Mergers: In some cases, the company may use share swaps or mergers as a method for executing the reverse flip. This involves exchanging shares with shareholders of a company in the target country or merging with an existing company to establish a presence in that jurisdiction.
  • Compliance and Approval: The company ensures compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements in both the home country and the target country. This may involve obtaining approval from regulatory authorities, such as the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) or other relevant government agencies.
  • Operational Transition: Once the reverse flip is completed, the company focuses on transitioning its operations to the new location. This may involve hiring local talent, establishing partnerships with suppliers and vendors, and adapting its business strategy to the local market dynamics

Startups are opting to reverse flip for several compelling reasons:

  • Access to a Growing Economy: India is currently the world’s fifth-largest economy by GDP and is projected to become the third-largest by 2030. This growth trajectory presents significant opportunities for startups to tap into a dynamic market with increasing urbanization, disposable income, and consumption.
  • Large and Educated Youth Population: India boasts the world’s largest youth population, with approximately 66% of its citizens under the age of 35. This demographic advantage provides a vast pool of skilled and educated talent, making it attractive for startups seeking a workforce with diverse skills and capabilities.
  • Access to Capital Markets: The Indian capital market offers overseas startups access to a large pool of capital. The listing process on Indian stock exchanges is relatively cost-effective compared to many Western exchanges, making it an appealing option for startups with limited resources.
  • Opportunity to Tap into the Consumer Market: With its rapidly growing middle class and increasing disposable income, India presents a lucrative consumer market for startups offering products and services across various sectors.
  • Synergies with Indian Companies: Reverse flipping allows overseas startups to explore synergies with Indian companies, leading to partnerships, joint ventures, and acquisitions. These collaborations help startups expand their reach and operations in India while leveraging the local expertise and market knowledge of Indian companies.

Potential tax implications in this scenario:

  • Corporate Tax: The company may be subject to corporate tax in the jurisdiction where it is based and operates. If the company chooses to establish its headquarters or base in India through reverse flipping, it would be subject to Indian corporate tax laws.
  • Capital Gains Tax: Any gains realized from the transaction, such as the separation of PhonePe and the return of the holding company to India, could be subject to capital gains tax in the relevant jurisdictions. The quantum of this tax would depend on factors such as the valuation of the company and the applicable tax rates.
  • Transfer Pricing Rules: Transfer pricing rules may apply if there are transactions between related parties as part of the reverse flip process. These rules are designed to ensure that transactions between related entities are conducted at arm’s length, and appropriate taxes are paid on profits generated from such transactions.
  • Indirect Taxes: Depending on the nature of the company’s business and the jurisdictions involved, other indirect taxes such as goods and services tax (GST) may also apply.


Reverse flipping, relocating headquarters to India, gains traction. Driven by favourable market dynamics, talent pool, capital access, and synergies. Potential tax implications include corporate tax, capital gains, transfer pricing, and indirect taxes.

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