Indian IT giant rejected Pinstorm in 2006 over Mahesh Murthy’s sexually loaded text exchange with woman executive

Pankaj Mishra May 16, 2017 5 min

 

“Are you a virgin?”

“It doesn’t look like you have a boyfriend or a lover, so why don’t you come with me?”

The woman executive, in her twenties, and working at one of the top three Indian IT services companies back in 2006, was shocked at the messages and couldn’t believe her eyes.

The messages were from Mahesh Murthy, who was pitching the services of Pinstorm, his digital media startup, to the software services giant where the woman worked as part of the marketing team evaluating the transaction.

The woman, who now works with an IT multinational in Bengaluru, had reported the incident to her manager back then, after which the company scrapped the ongoing pitch from Pinstorm.

The woman, who now works with an IT multinational Bengaluru, had reported the incident to her manager back then, after which the company scrapped the ongoing pitch from Pinstorm  

A top executive at the company confirmed the incident to FactorDaily and requested that the company’s identity be kept anonymous.

“I can confirm this happened, and I can also confirm that we chose not to do business with him for the reason and the incident you mention,” the executive said.

The woman also wants to stay anonymous.

“I can confirm this happened, and I can also confirm that we chose not to do business with him for the reason and the incident you mention” top executive of concerned IT company  

Murthy has not responded to questions emailed to him by FactorDaily on Sunday for comment. When and if he does respond, we will update this report.

Murthy had responded to questions sent for the FactorDaily report that ran on April 21 and had denied any misconduct. He had said that he has filed a case of defamation in the Delhi High Court against “specific defendants” related to other allegations made in February this year.

The latest instance we are reporting shows how Murthy’s transgressions had come on the radar of large Indian companies and he had been blacklisted for his actions more than a decade ago. Image: Twitter (@maheshmurthy)

Read: Why don’t our CEOs stand up against our ‘bro culture’?

Since FactorDaily’s stories chronicling sexual harassment complaints by women, including author Rashmi Bansal and Reuters journalist Swati Pandey, nearly two dozen women have come forward and shared their experiences with Bansal and FactorDaily. These accounts range from improper messages and propositioning to molestation and physical harassment. Most of them so far have remained anonymous, citing challenges in dealing with social perception, and having to explain why they were quiet all these years and didn’t tell even their families and near ones. Some of them have been sketchy with details, too.

The latest instance we are reporting shows how Murthy’s transgressions had come on the radar of large Indian companies and he had been blacklisted for his actions more than a decade ago.

This is how Murthy lost potential business from the IT services major:

It was late 2006 and the woman executive had just joined the company.

Since FactorDaily’s stories chronicling sexual harassment complaints by women, including author Rashmi Bansal and Reuters journalist Swati Pandey, nearly two dozen women have come forward and shared their experiences with Bansal and FactorDaily  

“He was pitching to get an account opened in (name of company being withheld). Then we had a chat; someone from his company first came and met, post which I connected with him,” she recalls.

“I am going to Goa, why don’t you come along?” Murthy asked her.

“Sure. Let me check with my friends too.”

“So you’re going to bring your whole team with you?” Murthy asked. “Why don’t you come alone?”

“I have an open marriage and I am going alone,” she remembers Murthy saying. (Author Bansal, too, mentions how Murthy talked about his “open marriage” when he met her in early 2004.)

Shocked and perplexed at the mention of the “open marriage”, the lady executive at the IT company decided to wait for Murthy to elaborate.

“From the conversation, it doesn’t look like you have a boyfriend or a lover, so why don’t you come with me?” he asked. “Are you a virgin?”

When FactorDaily reached out to the company, a top executive took a few days to revisit the manager involved in the incident, and reconfirmed the episode. The company, however, wanted its name not be used in this report  

“And I was like, ‘OK, that’s it. This is going on the record.’ I showed the chat with my senior, and he (Murthy) was blacklisted by the company,” she says.

When FactorDaily reached out to the company, a top executive took a few days to revisit the manager involved in the incident, and reconfirmed the episode. The company, however, wanted its name not be used in this report.

For the woman executive, a “near justice” was done after Murthy lost the business based on her complaint.

When she read FactorDaily’s recent stories on the topic, she said she decided to come forward.

“Thankfully, I didn’t really meet him, it was just a text chat. To be very honest, it just satisfied me that after saying all those things, he lost the business. And even my friends told me they will never invite him for events.”

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Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.