Lavasa's Fate Hangs in the Balance with Darwin’s Financial Troubles
The Ram mandir at Ayodhya is expected to secure a massive electoral victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, but things are not going so well for Ajay Harinath Singh, founder of the Darwin Platform group of companies, who claims lineage to the Ikshavaku clan and a single-line blood descendant of Bhagwan Ram's son, Lava. He finds himself embroiled in growing legal and financial troubles.
 
In late-March, the enforcement directorate (ED) descended upon Darwin Platform group, conducting raids across nine locations in Delhi, Mumbai and Goa seizing cash worth around Rs78 lakh, incriminating documents and foreign currency of Rs2 lakh from the residence of Ajay Harinath Singh and his associates. 
 
 
The ED alleges transfer of nearly Rs18 crore through layered transactions involving multiple accounts linked to the Darwin group and personal accounts of the Singh family and associates. The Darwin group also stands accused of being the primary beneficiary of funds routed through Dlehman Rea-IT Trade Pvt Ltd, adding weight to the money laundering charge.
 
Meanwhile, Lavasa, the picturesque hill station city in Maharashtra, stands as a symbol of Darwin group's troubles. In April, Lavasa’s creditors invoked a Rs25-crore performance guarantee provided by Darwin Platform Infrastructure Ltd (DPIL). This move follows Darwin group's headline-grabbing acquisition of Lavasa through the bankruptcy resolution process nine months ago. 
 
DPIL’s bid of Rs1,814 crore is to be paid over eight years to lenders, along with delivery of fully constructed houses to 837 home-buyers at a haircut of over 60% (who are unhappy about being short-changed in the resolution). DPIL was to make a down payment of Rs92.50 crore for working capital to keep Lavasa running. It has not paid up the money. 
 
On 5th January, I wrote that Lavasa is not a closed industrial unit but a living, breathing township that needs functioning utilities, maintenance and infrastructure (Read: Bankruptcy: Lavasa Revival Needs Fresh Thinking and End to Delays Caused by Public Sector Banks). A failed resolution process is bound to hurt its residents and establishments. 
 
Lavasa’s creditors ought to have been far more diligent about examining DPIL’s finances before accepting its bid. Perhaps, they were misled by its audacious bids for giant corporations such as Air India, Shipping Corporation of India and Reliance Capital, in the past. But the late attempt to scrap the resolution plan isn’t easy. Union Bank of India’s petition was dismissed by the national company law appellate tribunal (NCLAT) and State Bank of India’s (SBI’s) application was admitted but is pending. Meanwhile, the Darwin group has contested the forfeiture of its Rs25-crore performance guarantee and the matter was to be heard on 7th May.
 
Can Darwin Hold on to Lavasa?
The answer lies in the true state of Darwin Platform’s finances. Recordings of Ajay Harinath Singh’s calls with creditors admitting to, and promising, payments come up easily in a web-search. I messaged Mr Singh to ask if Darwin’s bid for Lavasa was sustainable, given the financial difficulties, raids, etc. His response was an immediate call and a long explanation. He insists there is no payment issue (‘not even of a rupee!’) and claims that banks are influenced by people ‘in the vicinity’ of Lavasa who think it was sold cheap. He alleges that banks failed to fulfil obligations such as giving him a board seat and transfer the management committee to Darwin; so his refusal to pay was ‘tit for tat’. He adds: “Kuch toh baat rahi hogi. Itne saare raids ke baad bhi, baahar baith ke khana kha rahe hai” (there must be some reason why I am able to go out for dinner, despite all the raids and action against me). 
 
 
Mr Singh contends that the cash-guarantee (against deposits rather than property) provided by Darwin is proof that he has no financial issues and that he had even offered a Rs190-crore payment to be adjusted against the resolution for Lavasa’s running and maintenance expenses; but the banks invoked the guarantee instead. Quoting a decision that was allegedly recorded at committee of creditors’ (CoC’s) meeting, he says, there was a proposal to collect the entire bid amount ‘at one stroke’ without a long resolution period. According to him, this was a sum of Rs600 crore-Rs700 crore (the total resolution plan is just over Rs1,800 crore). 
 
Mr Singh claims that he is working to ensure that the residents of Lavasa are taken care of. For instance, when Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation (MSEDCL) was threatening to cut electricity to the township, a call from the prime minister’s office (PMO) was made, asking them not to precipitate action. “A statue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to be installed at Lavasa,” he claims. None of this has been independently verified, least of all from the PMO. So full marks to Mr Singh for his chutzpah; but it is more important to match his claims with what little is known about the Darwin group’s businesses. 
 
Darwin’s Business Spread
An interview with Ajay Singh, Darwin’s 40+plus founder at a Republic TV conclave, prior to 2021, has him making some truly astonishing claims about its businesses and finances. For starters, he claimed that Darwin Platform was a Rs70,000-crore, debt-free group that has only raised some minor debt to obtain a credit rating. It has no competition, since it has no borrowings, he says. And yet, the group claims a presence in intensely competitive or regulated businesses such as pharmaceuticals, finance, banking, mining, realty, information technology, education and defence. 
 
Ajay Singh mentioned a foray into defence production with molecular nanotechnology with fanciful claims about using lasers to stop missiles and apparently magical bullet-proof vests for soldiers. He spoke of launching an OTT platform (where film-makers would receive 100% upfront) and a foray into retail with 1,000 outlets by March 2021 that would offer a 15% discount on all products – apparently because he would operate at a 1.25% margin! None of this has materialised at any scale, except the launch of e-scooters by boxing legend Mary Kom and a retail store by actress Huma Qureshi in 2021 as the country was still emerging from the COVID pandemic. 
 
The Darwin group comprises over 20-odd entities such as: Darwin Platform Holdings Ltd, Darwin Platform Airlines Ltd, Darwin Platform Infrastructure Ltd, Darwin Platform Shipping Ltd, Darwin Platform Gold & Mining Ltd, Darwin Platform Information Technology Ltd, Darwin Platform Industries Ltd, Darwin Platform Hospitality Ltd, Darwin Platform Distilleries & Breweries Ltd, Darwin Platform Capital Ltd, Darwin Platform Automobiles Ltd, Darwin Platform Logistics Ltd, Darwin Platform Mass Media Ltd, Darwin Platform Pharmaceutical Ltd, Darwin Platform Reality Ltd, Darwin Platform Refineries Ltd, Darwin Platform Power Ltd and Darwin Platform 1 News Ltd, Deus Financial Capital Pvt Ltd Another media report from Pune even talks about its entry into oil exploration. Logically, had it even a foothold in most of these businesses, it would have had significant visibility as one of India’s most successful business groups. 
 
A source, who claims to have downloaded financial information about Darwin group companies from MCA21, the statutory filing platform, alleges overstatement of assets to the tune of a few thousand crore rupees. I have not verified this claim; but I am aware that his findings have been brought to the attention of relevant ministries. 
 
Owning Sarvodaya Bank
In the Republic TV interview, Mr Singh claimed ownership of Sarvodaya Cooperative Bank (Sarvodaya). The only evidence of this is a September 2020 (during the pandemic) news report about how Darwin group ‘had taken over the responsibility to modernise and restructure and revamp the Bank and provide new age banking’. 
 
Sarvodaya Bank’s website has no mention of the Darwin group; more pertinently, on 15 April 2024, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has frozen the Bank’s operations, restricted transactions and limited withdrawal of deposits to Rs15,000 per customer across all accounts. 
 
Claim to Fame
Despite the controversies and absence of visible brands and businesses, Darwin Platform ensures a conspicuous presence at mainstream media events, conclaves and award ceremonies, as a key sponsor/financier of the Times group, Republic TV and others. They, in turn, generously shower awards and accolades on Darwin Platform for business leadership, iconic brands and so on.
 
But awards do not equal investments, turnover and profits and it remains to be seen if the group completes the acquisition or Lavasa’s resolution remains mired in pointless litigation. The real losers will be those who were sold on Ajit Gulabchand’s promise of delivering a picturesque, man-made hill station near Pune!
 
 
Comments
Kamal Garg
1 month ago
Opening remarks in the first para were hilarious.
Jalaj R
1 month ago
"Under the Darwin Platform Group of Companies, Ajay Harinath Singh has also been associated with dealing the Sukhoi 30 and MIG aircraft from Russia to other countries. He also owns an oilrig and refinery in East Europe and is all set to expanding in his oil painting business in Russia. He’s also in the structure and banking business in the Sultanate of Oman. Darwin Platform Group of Companies, a empire dealing in banking, garden, hospitality, mining, medicinals, film product, etc. Singh & Sons is the parent company of Darwin Platform Group of Companies having a presence in 11 countries encyclopedically with a net worth ofRs. 41000 cr. and is fully debt-free.”

https://medium.com/@articler09/the-hidden-mystery-behind-ajay-singh-success-story-31bdc16f743d
Jalaj R
Replied to Jalaj R comment 1 month ago
Only those who own oil rig will make oil paintings ???
Jalaj R
1 month ago
https://www.dailypioneer.com/2022/state-editions/high-profile-harassment-case-against-businesman-surfaces-in-bhopal.html

https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/goregaon-finfluencer-case-ed-enters-fray/ar-BB1knR13

Jalaj R
1 month ago
Darwin platform group of companies has collected money using mlm scheme by promising high returns to investors .
They are not returning the money to us since last 2 years.

Here are some videos you need to see and write an article on the victims.
We have complained to the Mumbai police but not received anything.

1. https://youtu.be/JiH_yjoPvF8?si=Rj9-Ko-qVLIKh5Lq

2. https://youtu.be/iBNGWgCIA1A?si=bkF2exmGzuH0XgBe

3. https://fb.watch/rXhYwlo7B1/

4. https://youtu.be/mPB9fRSB23E?si=oAFSXn9_SMwUlXTp (check comments)

5. https://youtu.be/IOI5uFDSCTQ?si=F81wYTTkE5WTErNh – victims

6. https://youtu.be/blgqKT4eh6U?si=Voe1mjKwnprA_UET

7. https://youtu.be/qJQ9UKErngU?si=-qGIxoBavgvuFPh6

8. https://youtu.be/mvaICDnuUwQ?si=-xy98anpkhCkmY0F

9. https://youtu.be/KQX_Uqvg1Gs?si=euKWrcOGqUVyojQP

10. https://youtu.be/WnWYy5qTeGg?si=iW-uqyTGj9OwYJ2g

11. https://youtu.be/1MGSFrJvxn4?si=YjvZF4ySX5GY_NFJ

12. https://youtu.be/zT4jBpyvswY?si=OGtnWBHhgxRAMr09

13. https://youtu.be/cX0DTfvpNDI?si=UP2pBZ9sp_hRdaRS

14. https://youtu.be/iBNGWgCIA1A?si=Z93xl-Br9hPn8HO4

15. https://youtu.be/nrWmsaRk5lc?si=MkK1fa4IrN2fQMUF

16. https://youtu.be/iBNGWgCIA1A?si=PpX27CBSnk55XPTf

17. https://youtu.be/zQee69g323E?si=KGokUP_kspPpCXDz

18. https://youtu.be/n9Uw_LjEUDE?si=9Ep3AMCdJiCkwbtP

19. https://youtu.be/k8LHIInEdXU?si=K7acEKdjauJJXH8I

20. https://youtu.be/o9fEEUAaIsE?si=GGVKhWg-PhcJ9PI_

21. https://youtu.be/xKyxqcd2JWk?si=pMXYaLGGjeTlb2AW

22. https://youtu.be/c9GF68IosnQ?si=VDWLL3hy18dGcUAe

23. https://youtube.com/shorts/QaEVoTkExTg?si=JbmJcNgkJ5LiPnw-

24. https://youtu.be/OvJeQLlzN6Y?si=SKMSGcMKOtdERhDs

25. https://youtu.be/wK3UvfVOB70?si=ZbYN1KmWuLAaa0kI


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