Singapore’s Zilingo to Liquidate After Crisis at Fashion Startup

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JANUARY 24, 2023

Key Speakers at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum

Zilingo Pte is set to enter liquidation, capping a months-long crisis that shocked Asia’s technology and startup industries.

The Singapore-based fashion-tech company’s board appointed EY Corporate Services Pte as provisional liquidator, people 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 startup whose implosion and months-long battle for survival sent shock waves through Southeast 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, 31, in May.

Bose continued to deny any claims of wrongdoing throughout the crisis and argued she was being unfairly targeted. As the clash between Bose and the board escalated, she hired an attorney to fight back against what she described as a “witch hunt.” 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 people 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 startups to emerge from Singapore. Major state investor Temasek Holdings Pte expressed concern 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 firm that backed Apple Inc. and Google.

At the heart of the company’s breakdown was the soured relationship between Bose, a celebrity CEO who crisscrossed the globe to speak at tech gatherings from Hong Kong to California, and her longtime supporter, Shailendra Singh, head of Sequoia India. Allies for years, they fell out as financial pressures mounted. Singh lost faith in the management skills of the young founder he had championed, while Bose believed Singh betrayed her by pushing her out of her own company.

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

Chief Financial Officer Ramesh Bafna, a former CFO of fashion e-commerce platform Myntra, left last May, a mere two months after joining the startup, and Chief Operating Officer Aadi Vaidya departed soon afterward.

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 LLP to sell off the company’s assets. Dhruv Kapoor, who co-founded Zilingo with 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.


Courtesy/Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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