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Investors have been concerned about Housing.com’s high cash burn and the controversies it has become embroiled in. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Investors have been concerned about Housing.com’s high cash burn and the controversies it has become embroiled in. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

Housing.com’s Rahul Yadav resigns, returns in a blink

Housing.com board meets in Mumbai to discuss the company's future and reporting structure

Mumbai/New Delhi: Rahul Yadav is back in Housing.com. In just a day. And he never really left.

Tuesday began with massive social media buzz over a resignation letter that Yadav, 26, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of the property listing website, sent out to investors in the firm. Dated 30 April, this is how that letter began: “I don’t think you guys are intellectually capable enough to have any sensible discussion anymore. This is something which I not just believe but can prove on your faces also!"

By the end of the day, that message had changed.

“After some frank and healthy discussions with the Board I have agreed to withdraw my resignation and I apologize for my unacceptable comments about the board members. I look forward to staying on at Housing as CEO and building an even greater company, while working in full harmony with the board," Yadav said in a statement.

Questions remain.

Have Yadav and the investors resolved their differences over cash-burn and controversies?

Has a CEO search, which has been going on for over a month according to a person familiar with the matter, been called off?

The only answer available was an e-mailed statement from the company: “In the relatively short period of its existence, Housing has revolutionized the real estate market in India and it continues to lead and disrupt with world class product innovations. Today the Housing board met, and has been reconstituted to include all main shareholder representatives. After some good conversations the board has reaffirmed its faith in Rahul Yadav’s vision at Housing."

“Rahul’s resignation was out of self-conscious emotions and nothing else... at the end, better sense prevailed," according to a person with direct knowledge of the proceedings at the board meeting.

It would be fair to say that it was a long, tentative board meeting. One that lasted about 7 hours at AZB and Partners’ office in Nariman Point in Mumbai.

In attendance was Jonathan Bullock, a representative of SoftBank Group who is replacing Nikesh Arora on the board; Suvir Sujan, co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners; Advitiya Sharma, co-founder at Housing; representatives from Helion Venture Partners and of course, Yadav himself. Over the course of seven hours, the people in attendance shuttled between tension, deep afterthought and a sense of calm.

It was also a board meeting, which took place in three separate conference rooms at AZB. A board meeting where there was pizza for lunch for everyone from Sassy Spoon and cold coffee from Starbucks.

But by about 2 ‘o clock, peace had been brokered and a senior executive from Housing said: “Don’t worry man, all good news. We will be talking to you shortly."

While Yadav gets to stay back at Housing, the board will see representation from all its stakeholders, SoftBank, which has a 38 % stake in Housing, Nexus and Helion. SoftBank Group, the largest shareholder in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, invested at least $90 million in Housing in November.

The most high-profile of the start-ups to have germinated at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, Housing is an iconic name at the premier technology school. As is Yadav, who has been as acclaimed for his technology vision and engineering leadership as he is criticized for his cockiness and abrasiveness.

In recent months, Housing has become a public name, largely due to a high-intensity print and outdoor campaign.

Housing is estimated to have spent close to 50-80 crore during the first leg of its introductory brand campaign that went live in March, dominating newspaper jacket ads and a surfeit of billboards across metros and large cities.

The board is believed to have approved lesser marketing budgets for the next quarter and will closely watch the company’s performance and return on investments, said the second person mentioned earlier.

Investors also had objections to Yadav’s attitude and the controversy he got himself involved in.

In March, Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd served a defamation notice to Yadav and the firm’s board. Yadav also had a war of words with Shailendra Singh, the managing director of venture capital firm Sequoia India.

As things stand today, Yadav remains unfazed. After everything that transpired, in an email to Housing employees, Yadav said: “Was just a usual day at Housing, I am still your CEO. Have fun:)"

Ashna Ambre in Mumbai contributed to this story.

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