Bose started Zilingo in 2015 when she was only 23 years old; the company is now very nearly valued at a billion dollars

This story was first published on April 13 2022, and updated on April 14, 2022. 

Zilingo Pte, one of Singapore’s most notable startups, has suspended its chief executive Ankiti Bose in a shock move after questions began circulating about efforts taken to raise new funding for the company, according to a Bloomberg report.

“Proper due process has been and will be followed. The board is committed to protecting the interest of all stakeholders in a just manner while fulfilling its fiduciary obligations,” said Zilingo in a media statement on April 13. 

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Zilingo Pte, which supplies technology to apparel merchants and factories, was attempting to raise between US$150 million to US$200 million with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. During the process, however, investors began to question the company's finances as part of its due diligence process. 

“It is usual for major investors and investment bankers to do their due diligence. As a result, some major investors had concerns with Zillingo’s accounting and hired an independent firm to investigate the matter,” shared Professor Tong Yen Hee who lectures at Nanyang Business School. “As most start-up firms are not yet profitable, revenue or some other top-line measures that track sales, are common financial metrics used to value such firms. Thus, accounting for these metrics is particularly subject to potential managerial bias.”

As a result, funding talks that would have likely pushed Zilingo’s valuation to over US$1 billion were stalled.

Zilingo Pte's investors, which include Temasek Holdings Pte and Sequoia Capital India, have started an investigation into this. On March 31, Bose was asked to join a meeting with three board members where she was told about “serious” complaints about discrepancies in accounts and mismanagement, Bloomberg reported.

Additionally, Zilingo’s auditor has also raised questions about its accounting and the concerns centre around the allegation that the company has not filed annual financial statements since 2019 and that it has not accounted for transactions and revenue from thousands of merchants. 

So far, Bose is reportedly fighting back against these allegations and insists that her suspension came about as a result of complaints she had made about harassment.

“It is entirely plausible and perhaps more likely than not that the two [Ankiti’s past harassment complaints and the ongoing financial scandal] are completely unrelated,” explained Professor Anilkumar Samtani, the head of the Division of Business Law at Nanyang Technological University.

“The board of Zilingo could potentially be held liable for breach of their statutory and fiduciary duties if they fail to investigate any reasonable complaints or discoveries that point to accounting irregularities and one could suggest that they may be duty-bound to do so,” he continued.

She has since hired attorney Abraham Vergis of Providence Law Asia to represent her.

“We are of the view that our client’s suspension has been procured by invalid and defective means; that the investigation commenced into her is unfair and lacking in due process, and that she has been suspended without proper and reasonable cause,” her attorney wrote publicly. 

“Until and unless Ankiti is found liable for breach of any of her duties in relation to this matter, the usual presumption of innocence would apply,” said Professor Anilkumar. “It would be incumbent on the company and all related entities to refrain from any definitive pronouncements of guilt in relation to Ankiti as that could result in potential defamation suits in the future.”

The news comes as a shock for those who recognise Bose as an exemplary figure who was breaking ceilings in the fight for female representation in male-dominated industries such as the tech start-up scene.

Bose launched Zilingo in 2015 when she was only 23 years old with her co-founder, Dhruv Kapoor. Under her watch, the company quickly grew in valuation. It was valued at $970 million in early 2019 when it raised $226 million from investors.

Her suspension will run till May 5.

Tatler has reached out to Zilingo for comment.


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