The #MeToo movement has been able to expose some of the darkest sides of the Indian startup ecosystem. While the harassment allegation on Flipkart founder Binny Bansal is still in our mind, another such appalling story was going on in the background during the same period.
We are talking about the fresh allegation made by a former female employee at WebEnage – a marketing automation platform. The person in question is none other than the company’s founder and CEO Avlesh Singh. According to the female employee, Singh is a habitual offender and was involved in several sexual harassment incidents including her own.
Calling him a sexual predator, the female employee has made some serious allegation on Singh that happened during her tenure at WebEngage. The matter started way back to late 2016 when she joined the company and came in contact with Singh.
During their consensual relationship, she found that Singh has been telling lies regarding his past relationship and estranged wife. It was also revealed that Singh was involved in multiple affairs with ex-employees dating back to 2013.
According to her, she was under immense pressure and threats by Singh to either leave the company or end the relationship like the past employees.
But in November 2017, she decided to send an email to the Board of Directors and his co-founder. In her email, it was explained how she became the victim of Singh’s manipulated mind. The board decided to further probe the matter with immediate effect.
The story took a new turn when Singh started calling her incessantly and asked her to take the complaint back. It happened accordingly as the employee took her complaint back and wrote another email to the board of directors saying that the matter was personal.
However, she blamed that the letter was written under pressure and it was a result of multiple apologies made by Singh.
“Succumbing to extreme emotional pressure, this email was forcefully typed by Avlesh Singh on my phone and sent to the Board and Investors of Web-Engage,” read the Medium post by the female employee.
She was also promised that Singh would be living with her and will judicially separate with his wife. But some time later, he made her feel that he would be back to his wife citing love for his 7-year-old child. The matter again got twisted when the female employee got to know the details about his divorce papers.
“There was no ‘getting back to the family’. It was all a ploy to save the company. Some might say it was street smart. To me it was cold-blooded murder,” added the employee in her microblogging post.
During the period, Singh also tried to make sure if she was raising any complaint against him. His torturous behavior and multiple messages could not stop the employee from calling this matter out.
Some interesting facts in her blog mentioned that Singh would proof-read employee reviews before they would be posted on Glassdoor. It was only to get positive reviews except some that mentioned how past employees were leaving the company one by one.
One review on Glassdoor highlighted that there are very few female employees in the company.
The female employee also raised some serious question on past employees and Singh’s wife who owns a stake in WebEngage – why did no one complaint against him or stayed silent on the matter even after his multiple affairs?
Singh, on the other hand, has defended himself and calling the blog a text full of blatant lies.
Responding on Twitter, Singh said that the board did two enquiries on me before clearing me. This was done despite the person taking back her complaint.
Singh also said that he will come with the other side of the story, which, however, is yet to be written.
The investigation by WebEngage explained that the relationship between Singh and the woman was “largely consensual”, but added that the matter was examined again after the former employee raised the allegation afresh.
The matter sparked uproar in the startup space where people are targeting investors and the board members to come up with a better solution to deal with the matter. Will WebEngage take a cue from the past examples of Flipkart, AIB and the likes of Mahesh Murthy? or the matter go up in smoke?
Update: In an official statement WebEngage said that the board has taken cognizance of further allegations made in the web post and is committed to examining all issues raised by a competent, independent and empowered group.
The full statement can be read here.