Home / Companies / Start-ups /  BharatPe’s MD Ashneer Grover goes on voluntary leave till Mar end after  phone  spat

BharatPe’s MD Ashneer Grover goes on voluntary leave till Mar end after  phone  spat

Grover, a former investment banker with Kotak Mahindra Bank, had denied the allegations earlier and dismissed the audio clip as ‘fake’ through a tweet. However, Grover deleted the tweet a couple of days later (Photo: Mint)Premium
Grover, a former investment banker with Kotak Mahindra Bank, had denied the allegations earlier and dismissed the audio clip as ‘fake’ through a tweet. However, Grover deleted the tweet a couple of days later (Photo: Mint)

  • Move comes after he was heard threatening a banker in an audio clip
  • Grover’s voluntary leave also follows recent media reports alleging that he had clashed with some no investors

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI : BharatPe’s managing director Ashneer Grover took leave till the end of March from the payments company he co-founded and built into one of India’s biggest fintech unicorns, amid concern about his behaviour after he was heard threatening a private banker in a leaked audio clip that surfaced on social media.

“For now, the board has accepted Ashneer’s decision, which we agree is in the best interests of the company, our employees and investors, and the millions of merchants we support each day. BharatPe will continue to be ably led by our chief executive officer Suhail Sameer and our strong management team," BharatPe said in a statement on Wednesday.

According to a senior BharatPe official, this was not an easy decision, and there was an urgency from the board comprising executives from Sequoia India, Ribbit Capital, Coatue Management, and former State Bank of India chairman Rajnish Kumar to decide on the matter.

Grover’s descent from a celebrated founder of a red-hot startup and a TV personality to corporate liability happened over a matter of weeks, highlighting the sometimes egregious behaviour that gets swept under the carpet as startups pursue growth at all costs.

The four-year-old BharatPe is seeking a valuation of as much as $4 billion in its latest fundraising round, Mint reported on 7 January. In August, the company became a unicorn—a startup valued at more than a billion dollars.

The leaked audio clip, which went viral on Twitter on 5 January, was allegedly a phone call recording between Grover and a banker at Kotak Wealth Management, an arm of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd.

In the conversation, Grover was heard berating the private banker for failing to secure a loan for him to buy shares in Nykaa’s initial public offering. In a 9 January statement, Kotak Mahindra Bank said it is considering taking legal action against Grover.

Grover was on leave ever since the tussle between him and Kotak Mahindra Bank became public, the official cited above said, adding that he only came to office on Tuesday.

In a post on Twitter, Grover said he would be back on or before 1 April. “I’ll be utilizing this period to rejuvenate and refresh myself for our next sprint of value creation. I expect to spend the time thinking more deeply about our next phase of product development and BharatPe’s path to profitability and IPO. I will also double down on investing in myself personally," he said in the statement.

Grover, a former investment banker with Kotak Mahindra Bank, had denied the allegations earlier and dismissed the audio clip as “fake" through a tweet. However, Grover deleted the tweet a couple of days later.

The board’s decision was based on ensuring that this doesn’t happen again because although one can argue this is Grover’s personal matter, it does have implications on the brand, and as BharatPe goes towards a banking licence, it will become a regulated entity, the official said.

“Now, whether Kotak was right or Ashneer was right is anyone’s guess. Obviously, I think Kotak was right because no one has the right to a loan. Ashneer also understands that, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, you do stupid things. So, at best, I can classify this as a personal lack of judgement," the official said.

“The board is looking for options with the spirit of solving for what is right for the company, what is right for Ashneer, what is right from corporate governance, and what’s right to make the relationship good with Kotak. You don’t want to fight Kotak, especially when you are getting into banking," the person said.

Grover’s voluntary leave also follows recent media reports alleging that he had clashed with some investors. He is also one of the sharks on the Indian franchisee reality show of the eponymous American series Shark Tank, where many investors questioned his abrasive behaviour.

Bhavik Koladiya, along with Shashvat Nakrani, founded BharatPe in 2018. Grover, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi and the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, later joined as co-founder of the company. The fintech firm operates UPI QR code-based payments app for small and medium businesses

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