A prominent Indian startup founder has been arrested for using the news of her firm’s acquisition to defraud people.
Oindrila Dasgupta, who’d founded Eat.Shop.Love in 2014, was picked up by the Cyber Police in Bangalore on Friday. The police had received 4 complaints against her since March this year. She’s now accused of defrauding as many as seven people of Rs. 64 lakh. “We’re verifying if more people were cheated,” a police officer said.
Dasgupta allegedly used the news of her firm’s acquisition to entrap her unsuspecting victims. Eat.Shop.Love had been a prominent startup, raising $4.5 million (Rs. 30 crore) before being acquired by the Tata Group in 2015. Dasgupta claimed to have earned Rs. 36 crore from the acquisition, and told as much to one Ashok Kinha from Whitefield, who runs a business firm. Dasgupta said she’d invest Rs. 20 crore in his business, and gave him a post-dated cheque for Rs. 4.3 crore.
A little while later, Dasgupta told Kinha she urgently needed Rs. 58 lakh to pay for her husband’s cancer treatment. Kinha paid up, safe in the knowledge that he had a cheque for Rs. 4.3 crore to his name. However, when he tried to encash the cheque, it bounced.
Several other people have also come forward, claiming to have been duped by Dasgupta. A travel agency said she’d bought flight tickets worth Rs. 1.45 lakh but didn’t pay for them — Dasgupta had promised the agency she’d send the amount online, but forged the bank transaction details before leaving for Delhi. Another travel entrepreneur claims Dasgupta didn’t pay them for Rs. 1.63 lakh worth of flight tickets. A film actor’s wife said Dasgupta got her to pay her hotel bills in September, and another individual said that Dasgupta had borrowed Rs. 64,000 from them but hadn’t returned it. She’s also been accused of borrowing Rs. 2.5 lakh, supposedly for her daughter’s treatment, and not returning it.
Among Dasgupta’s accusers is her husband and cofounder at Eat.Shop.Love, Shayak Sen. Sen says he’s now separated from Dasgupta, and accuses her of using his account to transfer money from her victims, and then transferring it to her account without his knowledge. Sen has filed a police case against Dasgupta.
Eat.Shop.Love had been founded by Dasgupta in 2014, and had raised a $1 million seed round of funding. It had gone on to raise another $3.5 million from a UK-based investor in March 2015. Dasgupta had then become a regular on the startup circuit, and had been featured in lists of most inspiring women entrepreneurs by several blogs. Dasgupta’s story was compelling — she said she’s started a company while being pregnant, and had gone on to raise large sums of money. Sengupta had received even more accolades when it had been reported that Tata Trent had acquired her company for an undisclosed sum.