The beginning of the year was not a comfortable one for fintech unicorn BharatPe. The actions of its co-founder and managing director Ashneer Grover have embroiled himself (and in extension, BharatPe) in several controversies. In what may be termed as the sequel to these developments, Grover has decided to take a voluntary leave of absence.
In a media statement, BharatPe said that Grover had informed the board of his decision to take a voluntary leave of absence from BharatPe till the end of March and that his decision was “consistent with his passionate commitment to the future success of the company.”
The board has accepted Grover’s decision and believes it to be in the best interests of the company, its employees and investors, and the millions of merchants it supports each day.
BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer and the management team will continue to be at BharatPe’s helm, and one can hope that they can steer the unicorn away from the hornets’ nest Grover has stirred in recent times.
The first controversy arose in the form of an audio clip, which took social media by storm. In the clip, Grover had allegedly abused and threatened a Kotak Mahindra Bank employee. The reason? Kotak Mahindra Bank had been unable to provide IPO financing during Nykaa’s IPO last year. Grover later claimed on social media that the video was fake and leaked by a scamster (he later deleted the post), but that did not stop Kotak from announcing that they will be pursuing legal action against him.
If that is not all, it has come to light that Grover had a run-in with Harshjit Sethi, the managing director of venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. It seems that Grover had sent Sethi emails and used expletives during the course of the email exchange. The emails were sent last year, and began after BharatPe’s Series B funding was delayed because Sequoia had not committed to the round.
Startup founders, specially unicorn founders, have been a subject of intense scrutiny off late, for public behaviours that many feel, are a direct result of inflated valuations that VCs put these companies on. BharatPe is a prime example, wherein the company is yet to turn in any significant revenue, has been controversially offering luxury bikes to hire talent and is still backed by some of the best names in the VC industry.