Fraud Alert: Is Darwin Platform Group of Companies an MLM or Ponzi Operator?
Last year, the Darwin Platform group of companies, owned by 'Prince of Sultanpur' Ajay Harinath Singh, bought Lavasa, the picturesque hill station city in Maharashtra, through the bankruptcy resolution process for just Rs1,814 crore to be paid over eight years. Mr Singh claims that the Darwin Platform group of companies is in the business of refineries, infrastructure, automobiles, defence, pharmaceuticals, airlines, electric vehicles, banking, finance and media – but has seldom mentioned that the group's main source of income is multi-level marketing (MLM) or collective investment schemes (CIS). 
 
In fact, Darwin Platform Refineries, which is ostensibly its 'refinery business', is also into direct sales that resemble MLM or Ponzi business modules.
 
Only this week, Sucheta Dalal, managing editor of Moneylife wrote about how Darwin Group's financial difficulties had put a question mark on Lavasa's revival since the group wasn't paying up the money it had committed and public sector banks (PSBs), who form the committee of creditors (CoC), wanted the deal scrapped (Read: Lavasa's Fate Hangs in the Balance with Darwin's Financial Troubles ). The article unleashed a flood of comments, links from unpaid creditors and feedback from others who have tracked MLM and pyramid schemes. 
 
The fact that Darwin Platform is primarily an MLM raises serious questions about the quality of due diligence by Indian public sector banks (PSBs), even when they are attempting to salvage some value from their lending through the insolvency and bankruptcy process. 
 
Responding to Ms Dalal's column, Pranjal R Daniel, who runs a website called Strategy India, which offers consultancy on direct selling, shared some startling information about the Darwin Platform group of companies. It turns out that although the enforcement directorate (ED) had raided various premises of Mr Singh in March 2024 and posted its actions on 'X', the social media platform, the same ED had given the group a written clean chit in 2020, saying it has not been running any Ponzi scheme. This reveals that complaints about its MLM and Ponzi operations go back over four years.
 
Mr Daniel of Strategy India has shared copies of his emails to the Mumbai police about an elaborate plan by the Darwin Platform group of companies to collect money from the public, promising high returns on investments in June 2021. He also attached links to Darwin's attempt to enter the insurance business with a link to a public notice issued by the insurance regulator in 2011 .
 
Among other things, he wrote: "The group operated by Ajay Harinath Singh is or has been engaged in the collection of investments from the public using the MLM compensation plans through two of its companies, Darwin Platform Refineries Ltd and Darwin Platform Car Cab Trade Ltd...The MLM compensation plans for showcasing the commitments of pay-outs to the investors and the incentives to the participants on getting new investors are on the online vault." 
 
However, there is no progress in this matter. 
 
 
Let us see the business module of Darwin Platform Refineries as listed by the company on its website and presentation . It offers a 'distributor package', where one unit of 4-stroke premium engine oil is listed at 11800, most probably in Indian rupees. It also offers level annexure product sales (LAPS) based on the distributor level and provides rewards and recognition based on the volume of sales. For example, for selling 50 units, it offers a one-time bonus of up to Rs15,000. It goes till a volume sales of 250,000 units, where the distributor can get a one-time bonus of up to Rs1 crore. 
 
  
 
Interestingly, Darwin Platform Refineries appears to be the only company worldwide selling its only product directly to distributors and giving rewards for achieving target sales. All other refineries use their own network of distributors and retailers to sell their many products to end users. 
 
 
Mr Singh also has a company called Darwin Platform Car Cab Trade Ltd which uses a business module similar to MLMs. However, today, this company is not listed or shown as part of the Darwin Platform group of companies. 
 
Darwin Platform Car Cab Trade's business was straight-way CIS. After paying Rs10,000 to buy a corporate ID, it promised 'salary income' (according to the 'investment plan'!) of Rs27 per day 'profit sharing' for up to 750 days. The highest package was buying a corporate ID for Rs5 lakh and receiving Rs2,000 daily as profit sharing for up to 500 days. In short, it promised double income for the 'investment plan'. 
 
You may be wondering what is salary income, investment plan and profit sharing used by Darwin Platform Car Cab Trade. The answer is simple; it's just a gimmick used to denote 'bumper returns'. 
 
Several videos about Mr Singh and his Darwin Platform group of companies are available on YouTube. Many of these videos have one thing in common: investor posting messages for a refund of their money. Do check viewer comments on videos shared by one of Moneylife’s readers. Here are the links https://youtu.be/mPB9fRSB23E?si=UD_RlXEc5Hn0W1R_ / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOI5uFDSCTQ / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnWYy5qTeGg   
 
We sent a message to Mr Singh seeking information about these business plans and funds he or the Darwin Platform group of companies have raised from investors. Till writing this story, we have not received any reply from him. We will update this article as and when we receive a reply from Mr Singh.  
 
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Comments
nirmalpal1111
1 month ago
Is there any update about this article?
Many people from all over India are still waiting for their hard earn money which invested in Darwin platform refineries limited and Darwin platform industries limited, and shares. Already 25 months time period passed but still now Darwin company not returning both principal and profit.
sharmaorajesh
2 months ago
Well said, the quality of due diligence by PSU banks even while attempting to salvage value from the hard assets charged to them is severely lacking.
While they have now started acquiring legal expertise they are falling short in the selection of promoters offering restructuring packages.
Jalaj R
2 months ago
the clean chit from enforcement directorate is visible on this webpage https://www.growideindia.com/2020/10/what-is-darwin-taxi-business-English.html
Jalaj R
2 months ago
https://indiankanoon.org/doc/10400176/

https://www.casemine.com/judgement/in/64b1bf2d5da68006f1751f08
Jalaj R
2 months ago
Bank accounts seen in the videos
NAME OF THE BENEFICIARY - DARWIN PLATFORM CAR CAB TRADE LIMITED
ACCOUNT NUMBER AND BANK
1. ICICI BANK - 015805010356 (MALAD WEST MUMBAI)
2. KOTAK MAHINDRA BANK - 3645355252 (ANDHERI EAST)
3.STATE BANK OF INDIA - 39554008885 (ANDHERI EAST)

Jalaj R
2 months ago
Jalaj R
2 months ago
Jalaj R
2 months ago
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