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Former BharatPe chief executive and co-founder Ashneer Grover is in talks with US-based family offices and offshore private equity players to raise $200-300 million for starting a new business, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said on the condition of anonymity.

“He may use some of his personal wealth to start with. Eventually, he may either sell a part of his stake in BharatPe or raise fresh capital by issuing a stake in the new company. He has met at least six investors regarding his new venture. Discussions are preliminary right now," said one of the people cited above.

Grover owns 8.5% of BharatPe, which is valued at around $3 billion. “There are buyers for his BharatPe stake. The transaction price is something one has to negotiate," said this person.

Grover is in the US right now. While it is not known in which sector Grover will test his entrepreneurial skills next, on Tuesday, while celebrating his 40th birthday, Grover announced on Twitter that he is ready to re-enter the world of business with plans to build another “unicorn".

Grover hinted the new startup would “disrupt another sector". Following his controversial exit from BharatPe over allegations of financial irregularities, Grover has mostly been out of India and keeping a low profile. “Today, I turn 40. Some will say I’ve lived a full life and experienced more things than most. Created value for generations. For me, it’s still unfinished business,“ said Grover’s tweet.

Grover joined BharatPe, a merchant payments startup, in 2018 as the third co-founder. He was sent on a leave of absence in January this year after an audio clip surfaced online where he was heard being aggressive with a Kotak Mahindra Bank employee. Later, Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain were accused of financial irregularities, which eventually led to their removal from the company in March. As the face of BharatPe, Grover helped turn the fintech into a unicorn in August last year. A startup is termed a unicorn when its valuation crosses $1 billion. The buzz on his fundraising plans is in contrast to one of his statements at an event last month, where he said he won’t go to investors for a planned startup and “will (still) make the new venture profitable."

Mint had previously reported that out of the 8.5% owned by Grover, 3.5-4% of the company is on account of the stake held on behalf of Bhavik Koladiya. If this is added to the 1.4% set to be clawed back by BharatPe, Grover might be left owning 3.5-4% of the company ultimately.

At TiECon-2022, The Tribune newspaper cited Grover as saying, “I don’t want to go to the investors again," adding that his tussle with BharatPe is a “badly fought corporate battle".

Grover came with a pedigree and has been closely connected with the investment world right after his post-graduation. An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, he worked at Kotak Mahindra’s investment banking division for seven years before moving to American Express in 2013, where he led startup investments for the card network in India. He led Series B investment in MobiKwik on behalf of American Express.

He then joined Grofers, an online grocery startup founded by his IIT-Delhi classmate Albinder Dhindsa as CFO. However, he left the startup in 2017 as he was disappointed over not getting the ESOPs that were promised to him. Post that, Grover joined PC Jeweller Ltd and worked there for almost a year before finally embarking on his entrepreneurial journey.

In June 2018, he joined BharatPe – a merchant payments startup founded by Bhavik Koladiya and Shashvat Nakrani – as the third co-founder.

Last week, Grover lauded the Reserve Bank of India for allowing online payment platform providers to enable customers to link their credit cards with their UPI IDs. But while doing so, Grover mentioned, “Unfortunately, it’ll be a non-starter unless issuers, especially banks, understand that merchants will not pay MDR (merchant discount rate, which is a charge paid by merchants to banks, card networks, point-of-sale providers for offline transactions, and payment gateways for online purchase. On credit cards, MDR ranges from 2-3% of the transaction value ). So there is no interchange to be made on UPI."

 

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