Yogendra Vasupal, the co-founder and chief executive of Chennai-based homestay booking startup Stayzilla, has been arrested by the police on allegations of non-payment of dues by an advertising agency the company worked with.
In a rare show of solidarity, startup founders like Freshdesk’s Girish Mathrubootham, Mobikwik’s Bipin Preet Singh took to microblogging site Twitter to express their solidarity with Stayzilla CEO Yogendra Vasupal who was arrested on Tuesday on charges of fraud. Others, including Snapdeal founder Kunal Bahl and inMobi founder Naveen Tewari demanded Vasupal be granted bail.
Startups have been rallying behind Vasupal and have exhorted other startups to “tweet this to Prime minister who has been extremely passionate about #startupIndia and can surely help protect an entrepreneur and his family.” Hashtag — #ReleaseYogiNow — has been taken up by Stayzilla employees and startup founders like Zarget’s Arvind P, who are tweeting to Prime Minister’s Narendra Modi’s handle.
“Many startup founders, including myself, have seen the ugliness of getting on the wrong side of people with bad intentions,” said Bahl, while Tewari exhorted “save entrepreneurs.”
“Let the law take its course, but intimidation of Stayzilla founders crosses a line. It’s unhealthy for entrepreneurship in India. Bansal was joined by Snapdeal founder Kunal Bahl, InMobi founder Naveen Tewari and Ravi Gururaj, the head of Nasscom’s product council, on the platform to support Stayzilla.
“Entrepreneurship is the future of our country; let us save entrepreneurs, they will save India,” wrote Tewari in his Twitter handle.
Nasscom Regional Director, K Purushothaman, said, “This is a clear case of harassment and ill treatment. Using such methods is not good on the part of the ad agency.”
The Indian Angel Network, one of the early investors in Stayzilla, sent out a statement: “There are challenges in every business and startups have more than their fair share. It is imperative that the legal and regulatory framework supports and encourages new ventures to emerge. Unlawful treatment will trigger a sense of fear in young minds and put the brakes on the Prime Minister’s Startup India dream.”
The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs, said Tuesday’s arrest of Yogesh Vasupal, founder of Stayzilla, would prove as a challenge to encouraging startups. TiE president R. Narayanan said, “Several youth from modest backgrounds have seen the opportunity and are trying to emulate the more visible startups such as Stayzilla. Against this background, we have a situation which has reared its ugly head and promises to send Tamil Nadu back to the medieval period.” He noted that there are civilised ways to handle this issue.
CS Aditya, the founder of Jigsaw Solutions, the firm that filed the police complaint against Vasupal, maintained that Stayzilla Scheated his company of Rs 1.72 crore to run campaigns to attract users for the marketplace for alternate accommodation. He also claimed to have proof of the founders siphoning money from Stayzilla to their personal accounts.
The development comes barely weeks after Stayzilla shuttered operations last month. In the blog, Vasupal has written in detail about events following the move and the threat he and co-founder Sanchit Singhi seem to be under.
Karnataka’s IT Minister Priyank Kharge had earlier sought help from his counterpart in Tamil Nadu to intervene in the issue. Vasupal, who shut his business last month, was arrested on Tuesday. His bail application is to be heard on Thursday.