The Indian startup ecosystem is normally a friendly place. People offer each other tips, share insights and generally have each other’s backs. But when there’s intense competition and big money at stake, the niceness is sometimes cast aside and bitter rivalries surface.
Here are the top 11 times when the things got a bit heated in the Indian startup ecosystem.
1. When Rahul Yadav had a tussle with the Housing investors
The most (in)famous battle in the startups world began when Housing.com cofounder and CEO Rahul exchanged a war of words with one of his own investors, Shailendra Singh of Sequioa capital. This was followed up a reposte from Singh and another barb by Yadav including some colourful language. Rahul’s temper ultimately ended up costing him his job, as after falling out of favour with the board, Rahul was fired from the company he cofounded.
2. When Rahul yadav called Deepinder Goyal a restaurant menu scanner
During his whole Housing saga, Rahul Yadav challenged other startup founders to follow in his footsteps and distribute a part of their equity amongst their employees. While Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal decided to not dignify Yadav’s cheek with a response, Deepinder Goyal replied to Rahul Yadav’s Facebook post with a “cute”. Rahul Yadav followed the snark with some photoshop work where he called Goyal a “restaurant scanner.”
3. When Haptik accused Helpchat of copying its business model and app design
Before the personal assistant chat app Helpchat came into its current form, it was a consumer complaint redressal forum called Akosha. However, Haptik, accused the then-Akosha of copying their entire app, despite Haptik being part of a judging panel of a hackathon organised by Akosha. “Imitation is the best form of flattery. And to everyone at Akosha, we at Haptik are truly humbled that you decided to build a clone to our app, not missing out on a single feature.”, the Haptik blog said. Not taking the barbs without a fight, Ankush Singla, founder of Akosha denied all such accusations and in a detailed blogpost explained how his startup came to make the app which for it was a natural progressions and a product of its 300+ engineers. Akosha is the personal assistant app Helpchat now, and competes more closely with Haptik than ever before. But looks like even after more than a year since the incident, the bad blood between the two startups is far from over as a current message on Haptik clearly seems to take a dig at Helpchat.
4. When TVF founders were embroiled in a legal battle over ownership
After its hugely popular take on India’s startup scene captured all the drama associated with entrepreneurship, TVF had a new resource to draw inspiration from – its own internal feud. TVF Founder Arunabh Kumar was dragged to court by former colleague Prashant Raj. Raj, who quit the company in 2014, demanded a 4% share in the company as well as cash compensation for his work with TVF.
5. When Zomato offended Dineout with its “first” claim
When last year Zomato launched its restaurant booking service and announced that it wanted “to ensure that we are the first in the market”, Dineout wasn’t pleased. Dineout had been taking restaurant booking since 2012, and sensing that Zomato was stepping on its toes, and not missing the marketing opportunity this would bring, Dineout wrote a scathing open letter to Zomato, pointing out how Dineout, not Zomato were the first restaurant booking service in India. Carrying on with the “cute” comeback, Zomato came up with this.
6. When Vijay Shekhar Sharma admitted to not respecting Snapdeal or Flipkart
Vijay Shekhar Sharma is known to mince no words when talking about Paytm. At a company party, VSS – as he’s popularly known – gave a rousing speech to his employees, proclaiming how “no fucking brand was better than us”. A few months later, in an interview with Dainik Bhaskar, VSS also mentioned how comparing Paytm with Flipkart and Snapdeal is unfair as those were mere “retailers”, and he didn’t enjoy comparisons with startups he didn’t even respect.
7. When Sachin Bansal wanted to have a go at competition, but himself was slayed
The otherwise soft spoken and reticent Flipkart co-founder and ex-CEO Sachin Bansal has had his share of controversy. Amidst talks of Chinese etailer giant Alibaba looking to set up shop in India, Bansal tweeted how Alibaba coming to India is a sign its investments (Snapdeal and Paytm) not doing so well. While VSS let this one pass without a comment, Snapdeal co-founder Kunal Bahl wasn’t one to take Bansal’s slight lying down. He came up with this, to which Bansal had no response but a tame “:P”
Didn't Morgan Stanley just flush 5bn worth market cap in Flipkart down the ?? Focus on ur business not commentary https://t.co/8NpkhWWo2j
— Kunal Bahl (@1kunalbahl) March 25, 2016
8. When Rapido Bangalore blamed Uber of unfair competition
Uber launched its bike taxi service, UberMoto in Feb this year, and the response was grand. However, the bike taxi startup Rapido, that claims to be the first of its kind in India wasn’t happy. Not only had Uber poached many of its drivers for UberMoto, but had also compromised on training standards that rapido had provided, causing Rapido to respond to OfficeChai’s UberMoto tweet with a heartfelt message that read “No training, and poaching Rapido’s drivers. A fair playing field is all we ask for, @Uber”. Rapido’s tweet to OfficeChai has since been deleted.
9. When Uber took Ola to court over foul play
Ola and Uber are locked in a several battle for street dominance in India, but the two have sparred off the streets as well. Uber accused Ola of trying to sabotage its business by creating fake accounts to make and immediately cancel fake bookings, causing loss of revenue and customer dissatisfaction for Uber. While Ola has denied involvement, the court hearings are scheduled for later this year.
10. When Jugnoo followed suit and accused Ola of the same
Following in Uber’s heels, auto-rickshaw aggregator Jugnoo accused Ola of foul play just like Uber had. It claimed that Ola employees created multiple fake accounts to make and cancel bookings, trying to sabotage Jugnoo’s business. Jugnoo even published a proof of their claim through screenshots showing a pattern in the cancellations.
11. When Kishore Biyani dismissed the whole ecommerce industry
Retail oldie Kishore Biyani has never been a fan of e-commerce. As Chairman of the Future Group, India’s largest retail chain, he had predicted last year that “none of the grocery delivery companies will survive”, and he has been consistently disdainful of India’s e-commerce boom. He then decided to take on the entire ecommerce industry in a provocative campaign wherein Brand Factory, Future Group’s value retail chain poked fun at three main ecommerce players, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. With a straightforward theme of “Stop looking online”, the campaign was trying to wean users away from the e-commerce companies who’ve been luring them with discounts.