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BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover takes voluntary leave till March-end

Board accepts his decision, agrees it is in the best interests of the company, staff, investors and merchants. Adds BharatPe will continue to be led by CEO Suhail Sameer

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bharatpe

Shivani Shinde & Peerzada Abrar  |  Mumbai/Bengaluru 

Ashneer Grover, co-founder and MD, BharatPe
Ashneer Grover, co-founder and MD, BharatPe

Ashneer Grover, co-founder and MD, is going on a voluntary leave of absence till March-end. The BhartPe board has accepted his decision. The company said CEO Suhail Sameer will continue to lead the management team.

In a statement, the company described the decision as "in the best interests of the company, our employees and investors, and the millions of merchants we support each day". It added that "Ashneer has co-built from scratch and his decision is consistent with his passionate commitment to the future success of the company".

The follows the controversy over Grover and his wife allegedly speaking in abusive language to a Kotak Mahindra bank manager. An audio clip on Twitter showed the couple allegedly insulting the manager for failing to get an allotment and finance for Nykaa's IPO. Grover in a tweet initially said the clip was fake but later withdrew the comment.

Many in the industry say that, quite apart from the Kotak controversy, concern had been growing about the work culture at receiving increasingly bad publicity, along with Grover’s presence on the popular start-up TV show Shark Tank when some of his comments while talking to entrepreneurs pitching for funds sounded rude.

An industry source who has worked with Grover and who did not wish to be named blamed the media for the sudden of his leave. “Lots of media reports have been trying to paint Ashneer Grover and BharatPe's work culture in a bad light and this became one of the reasons for him to take a voluntary leave of absence. He is expected to come back to the organisation in April," the person said.

According to other sources, BharatPe’s board of directors, including top bankers such as former SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar and ex-Union Bank Chairman Kewal Handa and investors from Sequoia India, Ribbit Capital, and Coatue Management, have been emphasising for some time now that Grover needs to leave.

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Grover explained his decision on Twitter. “I’ve been relentlessly at work building up BharatPe for almost four years. After much deliberation and introspection, I plan to take temporary leave of absence from BharatPe till March-end. I will return on or before 1st April 2022. I’ll be utilising this period to rejuvenate and refresh myself for our next sprint of value creation,” he said.

He added that he planned 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. I am a builder and I know my energy is best spent creating value for the millions of Indians we serve each day.”

While some in the industry and in the company say that Grover’s ‘mercurial character and temper’ would have caused problems sooner or later, some believe the issue has been blown up out of proportion.

“Those people who are pointing to Grover and his behaviour are the same people who would want these traits in an entrepreneur - disruptive, aggressive and one who speaks his mind. Especially in the fintech space which has so many players and you need to be on your toes,” said an investor on condition of anonymity.

Referring to BharatPe’s ’40 months of absolute growth’, Grover praised his team in the same statement.

“The team is passionate about solving the financial needs of small merchants and credit-seeking customers and I am excited about what we plan to build at UNITY SFB with our partner Centrum. I am confident that under the leadership of our existing CEO Suhail Sameer, the team will continue to deliver.”

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Disclosure: Entities controlled by the Kotak family have a significant holding in Business Standard Pvt Ltd

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First Published: Wed, January 19 2022. 16:34 IST
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