Date: 22/03/2017

Industry ecosystem leaders join hands to appeal for expedited release of Stayzilla founder

Immediate need to lay guidelines on business closures

 

Yogendra Vasupal, ‎Co-founder and CEO of Stayzilla, continues to be in Jail in Chennai for over a week with no sight of his bail applications coming up for hearing.  This is very unfortunate and we strongly urge the relevant authorities in the state of Tamil Nadu to intervene on the issue and support an early hearing of the bail plea, said a joint statement issued by industry ecosystem leaders and associations.

Start-ups have become the growth engine of innovation for India and the Prime Minister’s vision for Startup India has given a tremendous boost to the youth of the country and their dream to be an entrepreneur. However, as startups grow and scale, they will pivot, change priorities or close down. Hence it is important that the right legal framework is provided to address any business closures. Any actions that go beyond the provisions of the law to create undue fear and harassment to the founders and their families as have been reported in this case, would raise the insecurity for startup founders, and make the cost of failure unacceptable to the vision of Startup India. This will set a very undesirable precedent.

Stayzilla is still a functional company and has not ceased its operations. The company has declared that it intends to restructure operations, and reboot its model and will also repay their partners and vendors. We request that the bail application be expedited and a proper legal procedure be followed to resolve the dispute.

The startup ecosystem needs to be nurtured and such acts of harassment that extend to children and family of the founders are condemnable.  Entrepreneurship is India’s future and everybody needs to respect the law of the land and not engage in any unlawful activities.

Sincerely,

Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman, CII Startup Council

Dr. A Didar Singh, Secretary General, FICCI

Ravi Gururaj, Member Executive Council and Chair Product Council, NASSCOM

Sharad Sharma, Co-Founder and Member Governing Council, iSPIRT

Shubho Ray, President, IAMAI

Naganand Doraswamy, Member Governing Council and President(2013-2017), TiE Bangalore

R. Narayanan, President, TiE Chennai

Pramod Bhasin, President, TiE Delhi

Pradeep Mittal, President, TiE Hyderabad

 

Supported by Industry Associations

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Open Letter From Founders on Stayzilla Issue

 

Date: 20th March, 2017

 

To,

Shri. Rajnath Singh Ji

Hon’ble Home Minister

North Block, Central Secretariat ,

New Delhi-110001

 

Dear Sir,

We would like to express our concern and draw your attention towards the manner in which Yogendra Vasupal (Yogi), Founder and CEO, Stayzilla was arrested with regard to the matter registered as FIR 71/2017 CCB Chennai and the alleged influence including harassment by the concerned officials in Chennai, Tamilnadu.

Although we do not wish to prejudge to the matter, the Stayzilla case and it's locked up founder underscore the hardships of being an entrepreneur in India.  If ever there's a right to be an entrepreneur, that's clearly been violated. Period.

The question is not how this will affect entrepreneurship today, but how young Indians looking to become entrepreneurs in the future will give up even before starting up.

You can find as many technical flaws and loopholes about a client-vendor contract (which by the way can be contested in the long term), and go roundabouts regarding how "an innocent" vendor was forced to abuse, intimidate and even send voodoo dolls with the picture of entrepreneur's kids.

The point is, all this appears to be a Bollywood nightmare, and unlike the movies, there are no real life superheroes to fight the battle. How you wish there actually was a superman who could stop it then and there. This doesn't necessarily wipe out the faith in judiciary. If anything, a fair judicial probe and hearing, is the only hope from hereon.

But all this does shake the faith when it comes to starting up in India, building a company from scratch. As a founder, we already have enough battlefronts, from acquiring customers to funding growth and ensuring the startup doesn't die. You add a disgruntled vendor using position of power and influential network to make you go through hell, and suddenly, it becomes a battle lost.

When Yogi was walking on a Chennai street, couple of cops in plain clothes drove past, snatched his mobile phone and asked him to come to the police station. they assured him they were aware of all the intimidations from Aditya. By the time he reached the police station, things changed.

He started getting pressurized to confess to "a crime" he never committed. His refusal to confess to a crime he never committed only made the things worse for him.

Has Yogi siphoned away money?

Was he running away from any enforcement agencies or the debtors?

Has he ever threatened and visibly intimidated the vendor and his family?

How will he protect his own family when he is locked inside the jail, and those announcing ways to intimidate his wife and kids (on Facebook) are out in the open?

If the answer is none of the above, then why on earth has he been locked up in jail for a week, away from his wife and two children?

Of course the judiciary will eventually get to the bottom of this case after a fair trial, and God willing, Yogi will walk out of the jail. But what Yogi and his family are going through now make India look like the worst place, a nightmarish choice to become an entrepreneur. He has not had a bail hearing despite being jailed for 7 days. This is already had global repercussions and besmirched India’s reputation in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

We are standing up together as a community and believers in the vision of Honble Prime Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi for  “Startup India. Stand-up India” to call for a free and fair investigation into the dispute and strongly oppose any abuse of power to subvert the law of land. We humbly request you to look into this matter and ensure that expeditious justice is provided to Yogi.

Sincerely,                                    

  • Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Paytm)
  • Bhavish Aggarwal (OlaCabs)
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Cc:

Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry

Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO, Niti Aayog

Mr. Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu

Mr. Rajiv Mehrishi, Home Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs

Mr. Ramesh Abhishek, Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion

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