Temasek-backed Zilingo, which fired CEO Ankiti Bose, to be liquidated: Sources

Zilingo, a once high-flying company, pitched into a downward spiral after complaints of financial irregularities. PHOTO: ZILINGO

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s Zilingo is set to enter liquidation, capping a months-long crisis that shocked Asia’s technology and start-up industries.

The fashion tech company’s board appointed EY Corporate Services as provisional liquidator, sources familiar with the matter said, asking not to be named as the matter is private.

The board informed major shareholders and creditors of its decision, they said. The board declined to comment for this story.

The liquidation process spells an end to a start-up whose implosion and months-long battle for survival sent shock waves through South-east Asia and India’s tech industries.

The once high-flying company pitched into a downward spiral after complaints of financial irregularities, culminating in the dismissal of high-profile co-founder and chief executive officer Ankiti Bose in May 2022.

Ms Bose, 31, continued to deny any claims of wrongdoing throughout the crisis and argued she was being unfairly targeted.

As the clash between Ms Bose and the board escalated, she hired an attorney to fight back against what she described as a “witch-hunt”.

Ms Bose argued that she was getting blamed for decisions and practices that were well known by senior managers and directors.

The liquidation comes after Zilingo creditors Varde Partners and Indies Capital Partners found a buyer for some of its assets, the sources said.

Those assets have been transferred to the new owner for an undisclosed purchase price, they said.

Zilingo had been one of the highest-profile start-ups to emerge from Singapore.

Singapore’s investment firm Temasek expressed concern that the meltdown was tainting its reputation and urged the company to fix the situation.

Other prominent investors included Sequoia Capital India, the regional arm of the Silicon Valley company that backed Apple and Google.

At the heart of the company’s breakdown was the soured relationship between Ms Bose, a celebrity CEO who criss-crossed the globe to speak at tech gatherings from Hong Kong to California, and her long-time supporter, Mr Shailendra Singh, head of Sequoia India.

Allies for years, they fell out as financial pressures mounted. Mr Singh lost faith in the management skills of the young founder he had championed, while Ms Bose believed he betrayed her by pushing her out of her own company.

Zilingo was valued at close to US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in a 2019 funding round, when Ms Bose was 27. But the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on its business, and the company was forced to cut jobs as revenue dwindled.

Its chief financial officer Ramesh Bafna, a former chief financial officer of fashion e-commerce platform Myntra, left last May, a mere two months after joining the start-up, and chief operating officer Aadi Vaidya departed soon afterwards.

In June, the board started weighing options, including liquidation and a management buyout, Bloomberg News reported at the time. That included a presentation from its financial adviser Deloitte to sell off the company’s assets. Mr Dhruv Kapoor, who co-founded Zilingo with Ms Bose in 2015, made the pitch for a buyout.

Once operating in at least eight countries with hundreds of workers, Zilingo had most recently fewer than 100 staff in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh after a major downsizing amid the crisis. BLOOMBERG

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