Ashneer Grover, co-founder and managing director (MD) of BharatPe, has decided to go on leave till March-end. Mr Grover's decision to take voluntary leave came after he allegedly used inappropriate language against an employee of Kotak group and his ongoing tussle with Kotak Mahindra Bank.
In a statement, BharatPe says, “Ashneer Grover, our co-founder and MD, has today informed the board of his decision to take a voluntary leave of absence from BharatPe till March-end. 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.”
“Ashneer has co-built BharatPe from scratch and his decision is consistent with his passionate commitment to the future success of the company. BharatPe will continue to be ably led by our chief executive officer (CEO) Suhail Sameer and our strong management team,” the payment services-provider says.
Neither the company nor Mr Grover has given any reason for the extended leave.
Earlier this month, Mr Grover got involved in a tussle with Kotak Mahindra Bank over the alleged failure of the lender to secure financing and allocation of shares in the initial public offering (IPO) of FSN E-Commerce Ventures Ltd (Nykaa), for the BharatPe co-founder and his wife.
It turned out that the ugly spat on social media, including an audio recording that has been making news in the past weeks, goes back to at least 31 October 2021, the date of Mr Grover’s legal notice to Kotak Bank. The notice sent to Kotak Mahindra Bank's MD and chief executive officer (CEO) Uday Kotak and to some of his senior management sought damages for the gains Mr Grover and his wife Madhuri would have made after subscribing to shares worth Rs500 crore in the company, besides Rs1 lakh towards the cost of the legal notice.
On 9 January 2022, the Bank put out a brief statement that said: “This notice was received by us and was replied to appropriately at the time, including placing on record our objections to inappropriate language used by Mr Grover.” It further says, “Appropriate legal action is being pursued. We would like to confirm that there is no breach or violation by the Kotak Group in any manner whatsoever.”
A report from Economic Times (ET)
talks about further intensifying the scrutiny on Mr Grover, following the leaked audio clip of his purported conversation with an employee of the Bank. Quoting the email exchange, the newspaper claims there was a spat between Mr Grover and Harshjit Sethi of Sequoia India.
“As per a communication ET has reviewed, (Mr) Grover had an altercation with Sequoia India’s Harshjit Sethi in August 2020 wherein the BharatPe founder allegedly used expletives over the course of the conversation. While internally the relations between the two were turning sour, (Mr) Sethi in a tweet in August last year congratulated (Mr) Grover on turning unicorn following a $370 million fundraise. Sequoia’s 19.6% stake in BharatPe is now worth around $560 million,” the report says.
Quoting a former executive of BharatPe, the newspaper says, “Since the constant arguments, Sequoia has kept some distance from BharatPe’s day-to-day matters. While it continues to back BharatPe in terms of investments due to the focus on returns, it has kept (Mr) Grover at an arm’s length. Therefore, their public silence now is not shocking.”