Contact Us

    Understanding The Difference Between Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary And Branch Office

    Published Thu, 15 Feb 2024 | Updated Thu, 15 Feb 2024 Corporate Law

    1707989613-WhatsApp Image 2024-02-12 at 10.32.54 PM.jpeg

    In today's globalized economy, expanding businesses are constantly seeking new opportunities for growth and market penetration. India, with its vast population and emerging market, has become an attractive destination for foreign companies looking to establish a presence. When considering entry into the Indian market, companies often have to decide between two options: setting up a Branch office or establishing a wholly owned Indian subsidiary. While both options offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, it is essential to understand the differences between the two to make an informed decision.


    Expanding into a new market requires careful consideration of various factors, including legal requirements, tax implications, liability, and operational flexibility. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the differences between a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary and a Branch office in India.


    A Branch office is an extension of the Parent Company located in a foreign jurisdiction. It operates under the same legal entity as the Parent Company and does not have a separate legal personality. The primary purpose of a Branch office is to carry out the same activities as the Parent Company, allowing it to expand its reach and market presence.

    Permitted Activities of a Branch Office

    A Branch office in India is permitted to engage in various activities, including:

    • Exporting and importing goods
    • Rendering professional or consultancy services
    • Conducting research work related to the Parent Company's areas of expertise
    • Facilitating technical or financial collaborations between Indian companies and the parent or overseas group company
    • Representing the Parent Company in India and acting as a buying/selling agent
    • Providing IT services and software development
    • Offering technical support for products sold by the parent/group companies
    • Operating as a foreign airline or shipping company

    Liability and Taxation of a Branch Office

    One key aspect to consider when establishing a Branch office is the liability. In the case of a Branch office, the Parent Company bears full liability for the debts and obligations incurred by the Branch. This means that any legal actions or financial liabilities are the responsibility of the Parent Company.

    Benefits of Having a Branch Office

    1. Direct Monitoring: The Parent Company holds a higher level of authority due to its Branch office. A Branch office is considered a subsidiary type of business, meaning that the Parent Company has full control over its operations. This real-time control facilitates quick decision-making and adaptation to market changes.
    2. Brand Reputation: The Branch office in India maintains the same brand value as the Parent Company by using its name.
    3. Unified Management: A Branch office allows for centralized control and management, ensuring uniformity in business operations and strategies. This can be particularly advantageous for companies with a highly integrated global business model.
    4. Simplified Setup: Establishing a Branch office is often a quicker and less complex process compared to setting up a wholly owned subsidiary. The Branch operates under the name of the parent company, reducing the need for a new legal entity.
    5. Cost-Effective: Branch offices can be a cost-effective option as they avoid the need to establish a separate legal entity. This can be beneficial for companies looking to test the Indian market before committing to a more substantial investment.

    From a taxation perspective, a Branch office is treated as a foreign corporation in India. The Branch office is subject to Branch tax, which is calculated at a higher rate compared to corporate income tax for subsidiaries. The tax rate for a Branch office can vary depending on the income generated.


    A wholly owned Indian subsidiary, on the other hand, is a company incorporated under Indian law. It has a separate legal personality from the Parent Company and is considered a resident Indian company. The Parent Company owns 100% of the shares of the subsidiary, providing full control over its operations.

    Permitted Activities of a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary

    A Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary can engage in the same activities as the Parent Company, along with additional activities permitted under Indian regulations. The subsidiary has the flexibility to expand its operations and undertake new business ventures within the framework of Indian laws.

    Liability and Taxation of a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary

    One of the key advantages of a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary is the limited liability it offers to the Parent Company. The liability of the Parent Company is limited to the extent of its shareholding in the subsidiary. This means that in the event of any financial obligations or legal actions, the Parent Company's assets are protected.

    From a taxation perspective, a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary is considered a resident Indian Company and is subject to corporate income tax. The tax rate for subsidiaries is determined based on the company's annual turnover and can vary accordingly. It is important to consult with tax experts to ensure compliance with Indian tax laws.

    Benefits of a Fully-Owned Indian Subsidiary

    The following is a compilation of five main benefits of a Wholly Owned Subsidiary:

    1. Separate Management: The Indian subsidiary operates with its own management structure, which differs from that of the Parent Company
    2. Limited Liability: One of the primary advantages of a wholly owned subsidiary is the limited liability it offers. The Parent Company's liability is restricted to the extent of its investment in the subsidiary, protecting its assets from potential risks associated with the subsidiary's operations.
    3. Foreign Investment: In the case of an Indian subsidiary, 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) is permitted without any prior authorization, but it does require retroactive filing or notification to the Reserve Bank of India.
    4. Control: The Parent Company has complete control over the operations, management, and decision-making processes of the subsidiary. This level of control allows for efficient implementation of the Parent Company's business strategies in the Indian market.
    5. Profit Retention: Profits generated by the wholly owned subsidiary can be retained within the subsidiary or repatriated to the Parent Company, providing flexibility in managing funds and reinvesting in the Indian market or elsewhere.


    When deciding between a Branch office and a wholly owned Indian subsidiary, several factors should be taken into consideration. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the final decision will depend on the specific needs and objectives of the company.

    1. Liability and Control: One of the primary considerations is the level of liability and control desired by the Parent Company. If maintaining full control and assuming the liability for the Branch office's actions is a priority, a Branch office may be the preferred option. However, if limiting liability and having a separate legal entity are important, a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary would be more suitable.

    2. Taxation and Compliance: Tax implications and compliance requirements should also be carefully evaluated. A Branch office is subject to Branch tax, which may result in higher tax liabilities compared to a subsidiary. On the other hand, a subsidiary is subject to corporate income tax but may benefit from certain tax incentives and exemptions available to resident Indian companies.

    3. Operational Flexibility: Consideration should be given to the desired operational flexibility. A Branch office is limited to carrying out the same activities as the Parent Company, while a subsidiary has the freedom to explore new business ventures and expand its operations within the framework of Indian regulations.

    4. Cost and Complexity: The cost and complexity of establishing and maintaining a Branch office or a subsidiary should also be taken into account. Setting up a Branch office is generally simpler and less expensive compared to incorporating a subsidiary. However, ongoing compliance requirements and administrative costs may differ between the two options.

    5. Local Perception: Wholly owned subsidiaries are often viewed as more committed and invested in the local market, as they represent a dedicated presence. Branch offices may be perceived as a temporary or exploratory venture.


    Expanding into the Indian market requires careful consideration of the options available, including establishing a Branch office or a wholly owned Indian subsidiary. Choosing between a Wholly Owned Indian Subsidiary and a Branch office depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, long-term goals, and the level of control desired by the Parent Company. Wholly owned subsidiaries offer greater autonomy and limited liability but come with a more involved setup process. On the other hand, Branch offices provide a quicker entry into the market with simplified operations but may lack the legal and operational independence of subsidiaries. Before making a decision, companies should conduct a thorough analysis of their business requirements, market strategies, and risk tolerance.

    Collaborating with legal and financial experts at Companies Next can be instrumental in streamlining the establishment and continuous operations of both Branch offices and wholly owned subsidiaries. Our expertise ensures meticulous adherence to the diverse regulatory framework in the Country, providing invaluable support for businesses aiming to establish a presence in India through these distinct structures.


    #Eforms   #issueofshares   #MCA