Ok so this came up during a phone call today. So I am going to do one thread about an old news story I did during Mint days. Everything is anonymised because court case is pain in the back-end. It all starts with an Indian company that was booming until... 1/n
..it stopped booming. But first... in February 2008 it was the darling of the business papers. Founder was giving lectures at conferences and summits. They had opened branches by the hundreds all over India. Things were looking amazing. And then... the tide turned. 2/n
And suppliers, employees and bankers all started pointing out problems with cash flows, debt, delayed salaries and so on. Keep in mind that the founder had quite recently raised a gigaton of cash from two major VCs. It seemed like the company had just grown out of control. 3/n
But the founder insisted everything was ok. We are having some operational issues, he said. And he was going to use the capital he had raised to figure out a plan. And then he announced it: He was going to acquire two companies! Excitement! 4/n
One was a construction company listed on a regional stock exchange and the other was a logistics company. Founder said that this would both help raise capital but also improve operations. Ok. Sensible. I didn't care. Because I didn't do news then... 5/n
But I did manage the profiles and interviews sections. And boss suggested I profile the founder. So I decided to ask around. The usual things. Batchmates. Employees. Other CEOs. And everyone said he is a a genius. But also... something seemed... off? So I decided to dig. 6/n
Especially into the acquisitions. Maybe there was something there? (Also because I love following paper trails.) I immediately noticed that both acquisitions had very similar websites except for colour palette. Weird. So I did the normal thing... I read the source codes. 7/n
And I realized that both sites had been made by the same developer. Who had left almost identical comments in the Wordpress template files for both. And both sites had been made literally just weeks before. So... umm these two companies were related? 8/n
Ok. Curiouser and curiouser. I tried to call up the developer. Dead end. Then I tried to call telephones numbers registered in official documents for both companies. Nothing. Hmmm. What to do? Ok. I checked the domain registry for both sites. Bingo. New phone numbers. 9/n
I called the first one. And an old uncle picked up somewhere in Chennai. He immediately hung up. Ok weird. Called the number for the second company... aaaaand the old uncle picked up again. WTF. Ok both companies were... the same???? WTF 10/n
So then I thought. Ok. Wonder what number is registered for the domain registry of the original media darling company? The one with thousands of branches? Yeah. I found the number. Called it up and... OLD UNCLE PICKED UP AGAIN. 11/n
Everything immediately fell into place. Founder fellow was going to smoothly use last remaining funds, money from his investors and whatever other sources and acquire companies... THAT HE ALREADY SECRETLY OWNED HIMSELF. One final clean up scheme. 12/n
I immediately called someone from the news desk. We made a bunch of phone calls. Splashed the story the next day. Investors lost their minds. The deals collapsed. And in October, the company itself collapsed into pieces. The court cases went on till 2015/2016 or something. 13/n
And the funny thing is anyone could have picked this up. Any of the many reporters who reported the acquisitions. Zero rocket science. But a lot of this kind of news never really gets investigated. But you should. It is so much fun. Read the source code! 14/n
Aftermath: Many employees got in touch to report what really went on BTS. Meanwhile founder briefly tried to launder his reputation. But he is mired in cases. And little has been heard or seen of him since then. But I am sure he is doing ok for himself. Wink. Nudge. End. 15/15

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More from @sidin

9 Jul
Food memories flooding into my mind. Shawarmas on the weekend in Abu Dhabi with family. Going to Milk Bar in Thrissur during college days and eating steaming porotta and beef. Idlis for breakfast at Annapurneswari, Crosscut Road Coimbatore. Tibetan restaurant in Kodai.
Eating that bloody Britannia cake thing on long bus journeys in the middle of the night. Rice and kadala before running to college on wet rainy mornings.
Pritam Hotel in Dadar used to make this garlicky rolls. Dabeli from one hole in the wall guy opposite Wadala station. Pani puri guy in Vastrapur. Swastik sandwiches in Bombay. Random Malayali hotel in gulf chicken sukka and chappati.
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