The leadership crisis at Singapore-headquartered fashion e-commerce company Zilingo has turned messier with the former CEO Ankiti Bose, who was suspended recently, having now sent a legal notice to the company's board levelling charges of harassment and abuse. The legal notice, a copy of which has been seen by BT, also levels charges against Zilingo's co-founder and CTO, Dhruv Kapoor, and its COO, Aadi Vaidya, that the two had not helped her when she first informed them of the harassment that she was facing. Meanwhile Sequoia Capital India, which happens to be one of Zilingo's main investors, told BT that they were "shocked and disappointed" by the allegations that came up in March 2022, when a whistleblower informed the company management of the financial wrongdoings in the firm.
Bose was suspended by the Zilingo board on March 31, 2022 after a whistleblower apprised the company investors of financial wrongdoings in which Bose was alleged to be involved. The Zilingo board subsequently ordered an investigation into the issue of financial fraud and corporate misgovernance within the company. Sources privy to the development said that investigation ordered by Zilingo pertains to the delayed company financials, inflated revenue figures, and VAT payments which allegedly happened under Bose's leadership.
Sources close to Bose also told BT that she was singled out by the company investors, in particular Sequoia Capital India (which has 26.5 per cent stake) in the firm. Immediately after Bose was ousted from the company, Sequoia Capital India's managing director, Shailendra Singh had also stepped down from the company board.
The legal notice delineates several instances of harassment and abuse that Bose faced. One, in particular, dates back to August 28, 2020, wherein Bose received "threats from fake accounts," which the notice states, were "created with disappearing email accounts from foreign servers." These emails, as per the letter, contained "rape videos and pornhub threats (attached) -- all of it came from employee accounts but seemingly not from employees."
"Ankiti was extremely distraught, scared to leave Singapore and this is all on record -- Aadi and Dhruv are all aware of this and did not help her -- she had to resort to going to the lawyers," the legal notice read.
The legal notice also talks about how Bose's "mental and physical health issues," were being "connivingly used to disparage her by some of her male colleagues and questioning her ability to lead them."
"Again, because they control so much of the internal organisation, it was very hard for her to take any steps without taking a legal yet confidential course of action," the legal notice read.
Meanwhile, a Zilingo board spokesperson told BT in a statement, "Several days after her suspension on March 31, Ankiti Bose brought to the board’s attention, for the first time, certain harassment-related issues pertaining to past time periods. For the sake of clarity, no harassment complaints are made against investors or their nominees. The Board is committed to following due process to look into all related events from the past which have now been brought to their attention."
When asked about the reasons which led to the suspension of Bose from Zilingo, the company said that in March 2022, shareholders of Zilingo and members of the board received a complaint. This was the trigger for the investigation.
"The major investors of the company authorised the board to put the CEO, Ankiti Bose, on suspension pending an investigation of the matters raised, the major investors and the company are working closely with an independent firm for the investigation," Zilingo spokesperson told BT. Zilingo further said that the reports on any changes in management structure are purely speculative in nature.
A Sequoia Capital India spokesperson told BT in response to a query that the investment firm has a specialised team that routinely helps many portfolio companies with fundraising and making investor connects.
"The team has been part of fundraising discussions together with financial advisors, for Zilingo, just like it is with other companies. The team operates on information shared by the companies. Major investors, including Sequoia India, were shocked and disappointed by the allegations that surfaced in March 2022," Sequoia Capital India said in a statement.
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