In a surprising turn of events, co-founder of homestay aggregator Stayzilla, Yogendra Vasupal, alleged that he was arrested under mysterious circumstances. He also rubbished the cheating charges levelled against him over unpaid dues.
Vasupal wrote a detailed account of his ordeal in a blog post titled "Help! I need everybody". The blog has been posted by his wife Rupal Yogendra on Wednesday after his arrest on Tuesday.
Vasupal said that his business partner Sachit Singhi
was also threatened. "Sachit got some doll delivered to his home on March 9 with the image of his son. We are still figuring out what this means," Vasupal wrote.
According to Vasupal, he had conflict with his landlord and another media agency. He filed an FIR against the former who is a local MLA, while the media agency filed a complaint against him. The start-up CEO highlights the contrast in the manner the police handled both the cases in great detail in his blog. He posted pictures and videos too.
Conflict with landlord
Vasupal wrote that the landlord had been intimidating and harassing his staff members for a long time. The landlord, he said, was agitated over a payment for which he had got a post-dated cheque for March 7. However, after the landlord assaulted him and his team, Vasupal wrote he approached the police to file an FIR.
"After trying to persuade the in-charge to take the case, we returned with only a promise that the complaint will be heard by a senior officer who can decide the next steps. We went the next day in the morning at 9:30 am. We got an FIR filed by 2pm after various officers got to know that I had video evidence of the assault and that the media had started getting interested in it," Vasupal wrote.
The landlord returned, however, with a few people to threaten Vasupal. He approached the police again, he wrote. "When I got to the office, I found 10 policemen there to protect -- 4 of them inside with the landlord, remaining outside. The landlord was comfortably seated and the policemen were pleading with him to leave the premises, which he did after two-and-a-half hours of cajoling. I thanked the police and told them that I understood their compulsion," he further wrote.
The media agency case
Vasupal pointed fingers at the Chennai Police alleging that they misled him. Vasupal alleged that his company had a dispute with the media agency over "deficiency of services" and he had asked them to take up the matter in court.
He claimed that on March 9 two policemen visited his residence in Bengaluru asking him to accompany them to the police station for questioning regarding this case.
"I was told that there is a case against me by somebody from Chennai for cheating, intimidation, etc. I recognised the name of the complainant and informed them that there was a dispute between two companies
and we had asked the other company to take it up in court," Vasupal wrote.
Vasupal added that he told the police, "I don’t personally owe anybody money and I am wondering how they can get confused on such a basic matter, as this was a clear civil case. I also pointed out (to the police) 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 Rs 7 crore by 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 an FIR at that point. I told him that this complaint was filed in Chennai already and that my lawyer had interacted with the police in Chennai and apprised 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 din’t understand why I had to go to two stations in two different states for the same case," he noted.
He claimed that the Chennai Police kept saying different things to him and his lawyer.
“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 two henchmen of some MLA. That I used to call him and threaten him of dire consequences if he pursued the matter," Vasupal wrote.
"Sachit was the one who was threatened by people visiting 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,” he added.
Threats to Sachit
"These are the images of the black magic dolls with an image of Sachit’s kid allegedly sent to his home on March 9," Vasupal wrote adding a few images.
While posting the blog, Vasupal's wife added that he was taken to the magistrate at 10.00 pm though courts do not function after 6 pm.
"His whereabouts from when the cops took him into custody today from 11 am to 6 pm where not known and the lawyer and our family had to go from one station to another looking for him. This shows how money and influence can supercede true and thorough investigation in a country which talks so much about start-ups and culture," she wrote.
Start-up community's support
On Tuesday evening, StayZilla co-founder Singhi, wrote in an e-mail to investors that “Yogi (Vasupal) is missing!!!” and that he was last been seen at the office of the commissioner of police in Chennai. “We need immediate help. Not sure what’s happening with Yogi and we have not known his whereabouts for last 3 hours for now. And, I think even I’ll be in custody soon,” Singhi wrote.
Singhi alleged that one of the vendors, Aditya from Jigsaw Advertising, had been harassing them.
He cited a series of events from December 2, 2016, to the day the promoters decided to shut the company.
He also mentioned that a local legislator asked them to meet and they’d been getting threatening calls. There was also allegedly a call from a local police station to Vasupal to come over, wrote Singhi.
Singhi's e-mail has been widely circulated on social media following which many start-up CEOs voiced their support for Vasupal and his partners. Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge also assured that he took up the matter with his counterpart in Chennai.
Complaint filed by Jigsaw Advertising
StayZilla's recent stepback
StayZilla decided to halt operations in February and said it was looking at a different business model. "This has been one of the toughest decisions I have taken so far but it is the right thing to do. The hardest part is saying goodbye to a perfect team that has accomplished a lot by putting homestays on the map of India," Vasupal had said, in a blog post last month.
The company has raised $34 million in four funding rounds from Nexus Venture Partners, Matrix Partners and Sequoia Capital.