The MK Stalin-led DMK government in Tamil Nadu has appointed suspected fraudster Vijay Anand as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the i-Tamil Nadu Technology (iTNT) Hub, a government center promoting the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning wants to coordinate in governing.
Information Technology and Digital Services Minister Mano Thangaraj took to his social media to announce the appointment of Vijay Anand, who has reportedly been accused of being a fraudster with no credentials or credibility.
Who is Vijay Anand?
Vijay Anand, who describes himself as “The Startup Guy”, describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur”, “angel investor” and “visionary software engineer” who has founded and sold several companies since his college days.
His claims were parroted by several media outlets, which portrayed him as a “successful entrepreneur”. Immediately after the announcement of Vijay’s appointment, a journalist from The Hindu described Vijay as someone who “has been quite active in startup circles since the early 2000’s and has held many startups in TN by the hand”.
According to Crunch Base, Vijay Anand is the founder of Proto.in, a startup event platform that connects startups with potential investors, customers and other entrepreneurs.
He has also been credited as a “mentor to various early-stage companies” and appears to run the incubation center at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, which focuses on companies for emerging and rural markets (www.rtbi.in). He is also associated with Ventureast Fund Advisors – an Indian venture capital firm.
However, a report by Inc42, which covers startup-related news, has uncovered Vijay’s self-proclaimed accomplishments.
Established companies in the air?
Vijay Anand claims to have founded and sold three companies – 2 in India (CompuWorld Software Solutions and NullScape Softwares) and 1 in Canada (LeadStep Technologies).
However, there is no trace of the company Nullscape Softwares on the Internet or in the commercial register.
“As far as one can tell, there has never been a company by that name that had any formal activity,” the Inc42 report states.
The other company that Vijay allegedly started in India is CompuWorld Software Solution, which also has no record in the digital world as well as with the Registrar of Companies. However, the Inc42 report mentions that it is a small Coimbatore-based entity that sells computers, but even then, Vijay’s name does not appear on any of the sites associated with that company.
The other company Vijay allegedly founded in Canada is LeadStep Technologies Inc., which he apparently sold to Nokia in 2006 before returning to India.
However, this claim has also been disputed as there is no such company listed by Nokia in its acquisitions.
“This alleged company appears to have never had an Internet presence — no website, no email, no customers, no users, no employees,” the Inc42 report states.
But unlike the previous two companies, this LeadStep Technologies Inc exists in the Canadian Business Directory (the Canadian equivalent of the Registrar of Companies). According to the Canada Company Directory, this company, which mentioned Vijay Anand as a director, was wound up on December 11, 2006 under Section 210 of the Canada Business Corporations Act.
Filing for section 210 dissolution means it was a corporation with no property or liabilities, or even issued stock. So in all likelihood this company was a shell company that appears to have existed only on paper and never had any business as the company never filed any statements.
Angel Investor or Scammer?
Vijay claims to be an “angel investor,” but he’s reportedly just an investor in a company called Eventifier, which is also part of his startup hub, which he currently runs.
According to Zauba Corp, Vijay Anand is the managing director of a “Startup Center and Management Private Limited” established in April 2011. The Starup Center website has only one page which claims to mentor entrepreneurs, offer jobs for a fee and organize events/workshops/webinars for entrepreneurs.
At the bottom of this webpage is a link to an inactive, unbranded Facebook page created on April 23, 2010.
According to the Inc42 report, there were at least three instances where startups approached him for funding, and instead of investing money, Vijay ended up taking money from them, promising investor and customer connections.
“In one instance he also took equity in the form of sweat for promised benefits from the company. As it turned out, the company found him out and gave him no equity. The other companies just wrote off the money Vijay took from them,” the Inc42 report said.
Also, none of the companies that have gone through his The Startup Center have raised Series A funding, with the exception of one company (Eventifier) in which he is the investor himself!
Software developer or another KRS?
Vijay Anand claims to have completed his Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Ottawa. But the truth is, Vijay never graduated from there.
“He flunked college and was basically kicked out,” reads the Inc42 report.
Vijay Anand appears to be basically following the trope of Kannabiran Ravishankar (KRS), who has been accused of forging his PhD from UC Berkeley.
The charges against Vijay Anand
From stealing ideas to money fraud, many in startup circles have accused Vijay Anand of a whole range of charges. He reportedly had a job at IIT Madras, but was summarily shown to the door after management learned of his true colors.
Vijay Anand’s oft-repeated mantra is “You are the product”. The cover photo on his Facebook page says, “You are the product. Every business, space, experience is just about adding a feature and (hopefully) making you better. A better you is the end goal.” He seems to have become just that, positioning himself as a product.
As described by Inc42, Vijay Anand is the “Paris Hilton of Indian startups” – he’s “famous for being famous” who, through a carefully constructed fabric of lies and half-truths, has positioned himself as a masterpiece of the Indian startup ecosystem.
It is this man whom the DMK government appointed a year ago as a “committee member” of the advisory board (technology) and who is now to head one of the important government bodies.
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