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Ankiti Bose Hits Back After Zilingo Terminates Her As CEO; Claims She Was Fired For ‘Insubordination’

Ankiti Bose Hits Back After Zilingo Terminates Her As CEO; Claims She Was Fired For ‘Insubordination’

In a statement to Inc42, Bose said she would be pursuing legal action against the board

She claims to have been dismissed not due to irregularities but due to her 'insubordination' involving lead investor Sequoia and its managing director Shailendra Singh

Bose has been in discussions with Varde Partners and Indies Capital to repay the loans recalled by these Zilingo debtors

Zilingo cofounder and now the ex-CEO Ankiti Bose has hit back with a series of allegations after the company announced her termination as the chief executive officer, following an investigation into financial irregularities.

In a statement to Inc42, Bose said she would be pursuing legal action against the board and alleged that she has been fired not due to irregularities but due to her ‘insubordination’ involving lead investor Sequoia Capital India and Sequoia managing director Shailendra Singh. The Zilingo cofounder holds 8.58% stake in the company and is in the fray to repay Zilingo’s outstanding loans to the tune of $40 Mn after creditors recalled these loans in the wake of her suspension earlier this month.

Here’s the full statement from Zilingo cofounder Ankiti Bose:

I have been suspended for the last 51 days on the basis of an anonymous whistle-blower complaint which I have been told came in connivance. This week I trusted my board and told them in detail about the amount of harassment and duress I have undergone in the past few years and today I am informed that my employment has been terminated on grounds of “insubordination” amongst other things.

I was suspended on the basis that the Company had instructed Kroll to investigate the complaint. I have in good faith proceeded to be interviewed by Kroll on the very day I was told of my suspension.

However, a Kroll document later revealed that Kroll had in fact been appointed not by the Company but by Sequoia Capital. Later it was clarified that the company had later on hired Kroll. In fact, it was Mr Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital who informed me that I was suspended by decision of the Board when it later transpired that the Board had not yet done so.

After I had raised my concerns with the Board about Sequoia Capital’s outsized involvement, Mr Shailendra Singh resigned from the Board and was replaced by Mr Sandeep Kher.

Mr Sandeep Kher was the first signatory on my Termination Letter – from the very firm I have requested be refused for conflict of interest. At the point of my purported termination, I have yet to be presented with the findings of both Kroll AND Deloitte and my reports being incomplete, the board has wrongfully terminated me today for “insubordination” without giving me a chance to address fully the concerns that have been raised.

I have only asked for due process and not gotten it.

In fact, I was actively engaging with Kroll to provide them with the information and documents requested.  I had even offered to liaise with colleagues and vendors to prepare a more complete respond to Kroll’s queries. My purported termination while I am still engaging with Kroll speaks for itself.

It is also telling that the main reason for my dismissal has nothing to do with the financial allegations, but “insubordination”.

I fully reserve my rights to pursue this to the fullest extent of the law.

Inc42 has reached out to Bose to understand how she plans to go ahead with the bid to repay Zilingo’s loans as well as the implications of the Kroll investigation. Besides this, Zilingo has appointed Deloitte to look into the allegations of sexual and workplace harassment that were raised by Bose after her suspension.

The status of this inquiry remains unclear, however, sources close to Bose have alleged that Deloitte has not sought the relevant details from Bose about the harassment allegations.

Loan Recalls Add To Zilingo’s Woes

As per reports, Bose has been in discussions with Varde Partners and Indies Capital to repay the loan amount. The two firms provided a loan of $40 Mn to Zilingo when Bose was the CEO in July 2021. The loan is valid till July 2023. If her bid is successful, Bose will receive the convertible notes currently held by these two debtors. The convertible notes could then be redeemed increase her stake in Zilingo.

The fashion startup was founded in 2015 by Bose and Dhruv Kapoor, who is the product and technology head. Through its suite of applications, it enables fashion merchants and suppliers to access manufacturers around Asia. It also helps by enabling different procurement rates, optimised logistics services, financial services, insurances, loans and analytics for them.

However, in its early days, the company also spent heavily to build a consumer-facing fashion ecommerce business, where it burnt millions and this is where many allegations of mismanagement had emerged, as per Inc42’s investigation.

Besides clashes with Singh, Bose and cofounder Kapoor’s relationship had also been strained over differences in their vision for the company and the cultural disparity between operations and technology in Bengaluru and Singapore. Now, questions about its accounting practices, cashburn, the suspension of Bose and her termination now have hit the once high-flying startup hard.