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.
Very sad and wrong. Bail petition can be moved only tomorrow now, was delayed- to get certified copy of FIR and SDM order. #ReleaseYogiNow
— Shradha Sharma (@SharmaShradha) 15 March 2017
— EmotionalQuotient (@Umashankar35) 15 March 2017