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Stayzilla Founder Yogendra Vasupal In Trouble! It’s Time To Raise Our Voice For Him

Smruthi Kishore

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Hotel room aggregator Stayzilla’s CEO and Founder Yogendra Vasupal was arrested and sent to jail by Chennai Police Commissioner after a case was filed against him by Jigsaw Advertising, accusing him of fraud.

Stayzilla, the registered private limited company, owes money to the advertising firm and not Vasupal himself in his personal capacity. What is to be noted is that instead of filing a civil case, a criminal case was filed against Vasupal and that is why he is behind bars now.

To our utmost shock, Stayzilla’s Co-founder Sachit Singh received a box from an anonymous source. Inside the box, there was a voodoo doll and his son’s photo on it. The writing on the package said: “The most special way to say you care.”

Yogendra Vasupal wrote in his blog about the incidents he had been facing from his landlords as well as his investors. In this, he detailed the two cases Stayzilla faced.

He wrote: “If you are seeing this line, it means that the pre-saved draft was published without the time to remove a line. Likely, because I am under duress with no time to edit.

I want to bring to light the problems that I and Sachit are facing. We are also seeking any help that you have to offer. I had announced that Stayzilla will be rebooting its operations on Feb 23rd. While things are progressing well with respect to the reboot (more on that later,) I have realized that while we all want India to Start up and Stand up, the regulatory framework + corruption does not let one pick up after they fall. Instead, it works overtime to bury them.
Here are the facts on 2 cases. The first case is against a politician who was our landlord. We have video and audio proof of an assault and then a verbal threat to kill. The second case is against us from a media agency with whom the company had a dispute over the deficiency of services and to whom we had asked to take it up in court. The stark difference in the approach taken by the police in these 2 cases should tell you something important.

Case 1: Landlord

We had been working out of our office in Bangalore for roughly a year. When we got to know in the end of January that the next 3–5 weeks was going to be touch and go, we thought it would be better to sit down with the landlord and explore various options and prepare for contingencies. In the initial meetings, I had to bear a lot of verbal insults of being called a failure multiple times and how a failing company is destroying the reputation of his building. I ignored all those repeated insults to find any common ground with the Landlord. Over multiple meetings, he started getting even more agitated demanding immediate payment (for which he had accepted a post-dated cheque of March 7th) and became violent.

Watch the video here:

He assaulted my admin staff in front of me threatening to kill him with the revolver in his car. The video and audio (in Kannada) are there below for your perusal.”
After this assault, I got to know from my admin team that he has been a regular source of trouble for them with him insulting and accosting them at every turn. In fact, the smoking area in the company was moved from the ground floor (adjacent to the bike park) to the terrace because he used to pass comments on any women staff who took their breaks there. Unfortunately, this was brought to my attention almost towards the end. I was not able to find any CCTV footage beyond a month old and proceed in the right legal manner. And so decided to pursue the latest assault instead of ignoring it through the right legal means. The key reason was the fact that this was a perennial problem and the behavior I had witnessed was not a one off thing. All of us, after all, make mistakes once in a while.

Case 2: Media Agency

Almost a month later, on March 9th, 2 policemen in Bangalore came home in mufti and stated that I am wanted in the station for questioning. I called my lawyer immediately and was informed by him that if there wasn’t a summons or a warrant, I don’t have to go. I got back to the cops whom I seated at my home and informed them of the same. I then asked them for more information on the reason they wanted me. I was told that there is a case against me by somebody from Chennai for cheating, intimidation and etc. I recognized the name of the complainant and informed them that there was a dispute between 2 companies and we had asked the other company to take it up in the court. I don’t personally owe anybody money and I am wondering how can they get confused on such a basic matter as this was a clear civil case. I also pointed out that we have been asking the other company to take it to court if they felt they were wronged as we felt within our right. I also pointed out that my company is also owed close to 7 crores from various debtors but I am not going around filing false criminal cases against them.

I was then made to speak with the inspector who told me that until now they had not filed a complaint or registered a FIR at that point and to come to the police station. I told him that this complaint was filed in Chennai already and that my lawyer had interacted with the police in Chennai and appraised them of the whole matter and about the bogus nature of the complaint. I also informed him that we have been verbally threatened on call multiple times by owners of that company.

And that I don’t understand why I had to go to 2 stations in 2 different states for the same case.
The Inspector then lay down the line stating that sending mufti policemen was the first way, the second way was that they will file a FIR and send uniformed policemen and have me arrested and jailed. After being taken aback for a split second, I realized that as long as I fear to go to the Jail, I will always succumb to baseless threats. I then told him if it was my fate to go to jail, I will. Post which I will win this baseless case in court and prove him wrong. Ended the call with that.

The mufti policemen at home were still trying to convince me to go to the station to respect their superior’s wishes (“after all we are all in the same locality and will keep seeing each other” said one). I learned that the Inspector from the Chennai police station was there at the Bangalore station and was the source of the complaint. I was shocked. Just the previous night my Lawyer had stated to me that he had met the Chennai Inspector over the weekend and that he had guided my lawyer to respond to the false complaint first and then provide our complaint on the threats and harassment from the owners of the media agency. My lawyer was asked to bring the draft response on the following Monday to settle the matter — 13th March — as the Inspector was taking a personal trip for 2 days. That’s when

I realized that things are not neutral as the Inspector had communicated one thing to my lawyer while doing something else and was acting in bad faith.
The same day policemen went to Sachit’s house asking for him, went to my home over the weekend asking for me. When my parents or his parents asked for the reason, they said that there was some complaint and that they did not know what it was about. My father lost it and asked them how they could be looking for a person with know what they were looking for and if they were just trying to create the nuisance.

We immediately called his wife and kids to my home. 8 hours later they were safe with us. In the meanwhile, our lawyer got his known colleagues in Chennai activated and the next Monday (Fen 27th) we went there to handle this (while giving this interview on the same day). We met up with the lawyer and he advised us that he would first go to the station to understand the case and then call us there. He finally managed to meet the Inspector only on Sunday as he was also busy with other things.

On Sunday, I got to know that the complaint filed against us had false accusations like Sachit going to the vendor’s office to threaten with 2 henchmen of some MLA. That I used to call him and threaten him with dire consequences if he pursued the matter. I laughed and said I had never spoken to him and would love for him to get any call records proving the same. And that Sachit was the one who was threatened by people visiting the office and on call. We even had the CCTV footage of those henchmen coming to our office. At that point, I thought that this vendor was smart to have used his illegal actions as the template of his complaint against us. Now in hindsight, with the bad faith shown, I am not sure if it was the vendor who was smart or was he being guided by the Inspector/higher ups to protect himself better.

The same day, my lawyer gave the gist of the case outlining that this was between 2 companies (where Stayzilla had already paid over 80% over a period of 3 years, where cumulative amount paid is 6.5 Crore Rupees) and that the dispute began with a “severe deficiency of services” and we have repeatedly asked the other party to go to court if they felt there was any wrong. It was also pointed out that the Pvt Ltd company had certain protections offered in terms of this kind of cases.

Further, the call recording of the vendor and his family threatening Sachit and his family was also shared. My lawyer walked away with the impression that the Inspector was professional and that it made sense to work with him to close the case and followed his instructions to first close this case before filing the real case of threat, intimidation, outraging the modesty of women next.

It is curious that after giving that advice and before our response could be perused, he came to Bangalore to pursue this further. In fact, when my lawyer in Chennai got to know that the Inspector was there in Bangalore, he tried reaching the Inspector multiple times through unanswered calls.”

The entire Startup community stood up for Yogendra Vasupal with #ReleaseYogiNow. After reading this story from his blog, people from the startup community, as well as social media users, are demanding him to be released from the jail.

 

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India Gives Green Signal To Net Neutrality!

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The country of millennials, India just made a big announcement regarding the latest rules of net neutrality. India wants to make sure they provide an open and fair internet for nearly half a billion people! 

Here’s what is in store for the Internet in India!

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) approved net neutrality rules that bans blocking and zero rating of internet data. The framework of net neutrality which was published last year as a recommendation from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI,) was the culmination of years long campaign for net neutrality. However, they were seeking public opinions on potential changes to internet regulations since 2015. TRAI had recommended the implementation of neutral internet rules in 2017. Now, years later, the news of approval from the government of India comes to the headlines. The new rules by the DoT prevent any internet service provider (ISP) from blocking, throttling, slowing down or granting any special treatment to any content available on the internet. However, these rules do not apply to critical IoT services or specialized services including autonomous vehicles and remote surgery operations. According to sources, TRAI head R.S. Sharma said while comparing the rules to ambulances that can legally disobey traffic rules, or in this case, get prioritized status to maintain service quality. Speaking about the Internet service providers, they need to agree to the deal when they sign license agreements with the Department of Telecommunications. Those who violate the rules could have their licenses cancelled. Internet service providers cannot perform actions involving blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any content!

Here’s what the official Twitter handle of TRAI posted!

Internet access services should be governed by a principle that restricts any form of discrimination or interference in the treatment of content, the Indian regulations stated.

 

 

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Facebook To Be Fined A Fortune Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal!

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In 2017, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launched an inquiry into voters’ data being obtained and used by political campaigns. This was following the Observer’s early investigative reports, into Cambridge Analytica, the political research firm. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have been under scrutiny, for harvesting the data of millions of Facebook users around the globe, with the total number of people affected now at 87 million. The social media giant Facebook will be fined $ 664,000 for failing to protect users’ information by the UK’s privacy watchdog. While a fine of $ 664,000 is the biggest possible punishment available to the ICO, it is the same amount of money Facebook makes in just a few minutes. At the time of the infraction, the law on processing data was set out under the Data Protection Act of 1998, which imposed a maximum penalty of £ 500,00. However, Under the new Data Protection Act 2018, companies can be fined up to 4 % of global turnover, a substantially more serious penalty. In Facebook’s case, a fine could be as high as $ 1.9 bn, based on its revenue.

Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner said she would penalize the social network platform as her office investigates how the data of millions of users was improperly accessed. Earlier, the CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by the U.S., and the EU lawmakers over how Cambridge Analytica accessed the personal data of such a huge number of Facebook users. During the EU referendum, Facebook was found to be at fault for failing to be clear about how the information had been harvested by others. According to reports, Denham said Facebook has failed to provide the kinds of protections they’re required to do under data protection laws.

However, the penalty could change as the agency would discuss the matter further with Facebook. Generally, the ICO does not reveal its initial investigations but this time, it shared the details of the amount of the penalty because of the hyped public interest toward the scandal. Also, the agency would next give an update in October, this year.

Erin Egan, Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, acknowledged in a statement Facebook should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015. Apart from this, the UK privacy watchdogs said the fallout from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal is only the beginning. The UK’s early efforts could inform ongoing investigations elsewhere in Europe as well as the United States, where a probe by the Federal Trade Commission could result in a penalty well into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also looking into Facebook’s ties to Cambridge Analytica.

 

 

 

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OYO Acquires Mumbai Based Tech Firm AblePlus

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The homegrown hospitality firm OYO acquired the Mumbai based Internet of Things (IoT) company AblePlus, in order to enhance its technology portfolio. AblePlus specialises in developing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to bring intelligence into every aspect of business. Speaking about the acquisition, neither of the firms disclosed financial details about the deal. With this partnership, OYO aims to create a sustainable ecosystem powered by technology and artificial intelligence for managing its operations. The Chief Technology Officer of OYO, Anil Goel, said with the introduction of IoT into the basic precincts of hotel management, we aim to enhance customer and partner experiences by roping in the best of technology capabilities that are changing how India sees hospitality today.

With the country moving forward at a very fast pace in terms of technology developments, OYO is extremely elated with its latest acquisition of the technology firm, AblePlus. Anil Goel stated we are delighted to announce our acquisition of AblePlus towards pioneering the application of IoT in Indian and global hospitality segment and creating a global impact. Both Akash Goel and Bonish Gandhi (Co founders of AblePlus) are extremely talented individuals and we are excited to welcome them onboard. Through partnerships like this, we envision a smooth road ahead for building the world’s largest technology-enabled hospitality brand. 

Recently, OYO also introduced the first initiative of Digital Arrival & Departure Register, which has been adopted by the state governments of Haryana and Rajasthan. Apart from that, OYO also makes use of Machine Learning (ML) based algorithms to personalise the user’s journey. The company is also looking forward to launching technology integrated solutions for its easy functionality. According to sources, the company is aiming to introduce voice enabled assistance in rooms for controlling appliances, lights and other various services. Goel added through increased technology intervention that enables the remote monitoring and management of rooms across properties, we will be able to achieve improved operational efficiency, thus creating a superior stakeholder experience. As one of the first startups that are early adopters of IoT powered technologies, we look forward to delivering new, advanced applications for key vertical markets that will offer an elevated customer experience.

Not so long ago, Oyo announced its foray into the Chinese market. The hospitality firm is keen on expanding its company as well as enhancing its operations! As of now, OYO operates in more than 160 cities across India, China, Malaysia and Nepal with over 5,000 exclusive hotels in its chain and 1,00,000 rooms.

 

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