The Zilingo Debacle with Ka Kay Lum

The Zilingo Debacle with Ka Kay Lum
Ka Kay Lum from the Ken discuss the scandal that engulfs the company Zilingo and her former CEO, Ankiti Bose.

Fresh out of the studio, Lum Ka Kay, deputy editor of The Ken joined us in a conversation to discuss the recent debacle for the Southeast Asia company, Zilingo and the fallout between the board and the former CEO, Ankiti Bose. Ka Kay shared the chronology of events that led to the firing of the CEO and the public fallout and examined what the endgame would look like for Zilingo.


"To me. The role of a board should be a sounding board to founders. It's very hard for us to assume that founders know everything which is why the company's directors should be a voice of reason in everything that happened. The board isn't just made up by a single person, basically various people with different line of thoughts. So why has nobody bring this up at all? I have no idea. In fact, that is what every investor that I've spoken to for this story questioned this." - Ka Kay Lum

Introduction

  • Ka Kay Lum (@kakayy , Linkedin, The Ken), Deputy Editor, The Ken Southeast Asia.
  • How did you start your career?
  • How did you end up in The Ken?
  • What’s your current role and coverage in The Ken currently? What are the topics which you cover for the region?
  • What are the career lessons which you can share with my audience?

The Zilingo Debacle

  • Reference: Zilingo’s fight to survive, with or without CEO Ankiti Bose (The Ken)
  • A quick introduction: Zilingo is a B2B fashion commerce startup, founded by Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor.
  • Let’s get the chronology from the beginning, who are the people behind Zilingo and what is the company about?
  • How does the business work for Zilingo with the merchants on their platform?
  • Who are the key investors behind Zilingo and what does their current market capitalization table (or captable) look like?
  • How did they end up being valued at USD$970m in their last round of financing?
  • Can you provide the chronology on how Ankiti Bose, CEO and co-founder of the company was suspended on 12 April and subsequently fired on 20 May 2022?
  • What are the different perspectives to the whole event from Ankiti Bose and her co-founder, the board of directors, customers and partners?
  • Are the allegations to the CEO true from the reporting that includes subordination and financial irregularities? Ankiti Bose has gone to the Straits Times, a local outlet in Singapore and claimed in the video that she did not see the final report that led to her being suspended and fired. How viable is her defense and what does it mean for the company going without her?
  • There is a silver lining from the whole debacle centered on an acquisition that Zilingo made in a Sri Lanka company called nCinga. What does this company do and how can their capabilities revive the fortunes of Zilingo?
  • What is the endgame for Zilingo as a company now given that their debtors recalled their 40m loan and what will happen to their assets like nCinga? Are there any options for the company other than shutting down or being acquired?
  • Given that corporate governance has been the center of this conversation, why has the board not taken action as the company has stopped submitting the financials since 2019?
  • One common thread that seems to be a media narrative from India to Southeast Asia from other outlets, for example, Morning Context (How Sequoia’s Shailendra Singh pushed out Zilingo’s Ankiti Bose ) and not promoted by The Ken is that Sequoia Capital has leveraged corporate governance as a weapon to oust founders from their companies, for example, Ashneer Grover from BharatPe. To be fair to Sequoia Capital, the VC firm has a stellar reputation and is probably one of the top VC firms in the world with Apple, Google, Stripe and many top startup companies under its belt. What are the facts on the ground and do you see this narrative hold any water in the conversation specifically for the Southeast Asia and India market? [Reference: Sequoia Capital Good Governance Post]
  • I understand that you have covered SPACs and VC remote deal making in Southeast Asia previously. What are your thoughts on the recent economic downturn from inflation, Ukraine war and supply chain issues?
  • Will we see a lot of startups starting going under water in the next few months?

Closing

  • Any recommendations that have inspired you recently?
  • Ka Kay's recommendations: The Hungry and The Hairy, Korean Netflix Documentary
  • How can my audience find you?

Podcast Information:The show is hosted and produced by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong, Linkedin) and Carol Yin (@CarolYujiaYin, LinkedIn). Sound credits for the intro and end music: "Run it" by DJ Snake, Rick Ross and Rich Brian and the episode is mixed & edited by Geoffrey Thomas Craig (LinkedIn).