After ‘Audiogate’, BharatPe co-founder goes on voluntary leave: All you need to know about scandal surrounding Ashneer Grover

BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover issued a statement that he will be taking a leave of absence till March-end, just two weeks after an abusive audio clip of his with a Kotak Mahindra Bank was leaked online

FP Staff January 20, 2022 10:48:15 IST
After ‘Audiogate’, BharatPe co-founder goes on voluntary leave: All you need to know about scandal surrounding Ashneer Grover

BharatePe Founder and MD Ashneer Grover. Image Courtesy: Ashneer Grover/Instagram

Days after an abusive audio clip of him emerged, BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover has decided to go on a ‘voluntary leave of absence’ till the end of March.

Here’s what happened and all you need to know about Ashneer Grover.

The incident

It’s not often that a high-profile founder steps aside amid a debate around toxic work culture.

So, what is this abusive call about? And why did it take place?

It all started on 5 January after an audio clip was leaked that had Grover allegedly abusing and threatening a Kotak Group employee for missing out on share allotment during the initial public offering (IPO) of FSN E-Commerce Ventures ( operates online fashion and wellness company Nykaa).

In the audio clip, Grover appears to hurl at a relationship manager from a bank while his wife is heard pacifying him.

A day later, Grover tweeted that it was fake audio by scamsters.

“Folks. Chill. It is a fake audio by some scamster trying to extort funds (US$ 240K in bitcoins). I refused to buckle. I’ve got more character. And Internet has got enough scamsters,” he had posted.

On 9 January, however, Kotak Mahindra Bank said it was pursuing legal action against the husband-wife duo over the 'inappropriate language' used by them against its employee.

By then, Grover had deleted the tweet in which he alleged that the sound clip was fake.

Grover’s long leave

On Wednesday, BharatPe co-founder and managing director Ashneer Grover in a statement said that he was taking voluntary leave till March-end.

He said he will return on or before 1 April 2022, and expects to spend the time in between "thinking more deeply about our next phase of product development, and BharatPe's path to profitability and IPO".

In his statement, Grover said he planned to take a temporary leave of absence from BharatPe till March-end "after much deliberation and introspection".

"I'll be utilising 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 myself personally...I am excited about what we plan to build at UNITY SFB with our partner Centrum," he said.

The BharatPe Board has accepted his decision and announced that the company will continue to be led by its CEO Suhail Sameer and its management team.

"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," it said.

Grover’s aggression

An Economic Times report states that Ashneer Grover is said to be aggressive and abrasive with employees and other stakeholders. In the 16 January report, a mid-level executive, who recently left BharatPe, is quoted as saying, “Are you really surprised? He’s always been like this. The only difference is, this time, it’s out in public.”

Another mid-level employee told ET in the same report, “Many times we felt forced into doing things even when we knew it was not the best possible solution. I guess everyone who has worked here is aware of his (Grover’s) temperament and many senior managers do not want to step out of line with him.”

Another Economic Times report states that his brash behaviour with the Kotak Mahindra employee wasn’t his first. According to the report, an email exchange between him and Sequoia India’s Harshjit Sethi in August 2020 shows that Grover used expletives over the course of the conversation.

“Messages and threats from you (Grover) over the last few days and months have been hurtful and disappointing… Specifically, we have heard your message of not wanting us on the cap table {...} We need to have a decisive conversation about how the relationship between Sequoia and BharatPe changes going forward,” Sethi wrote in a mail to Grover in August 2020, as per the ET report.

Uncertain future?

So far, Ashneer Grover has not been fired from the Board of BharatPe for his audio gate scandal.

And reports suggest he may not be fired in the future either for various reasons.

Netizens were fired up on social media on Wednesday asking about his appearance on Shark Tank India. On the start-up investment reality show as well Grover is known for his rude comments.

A PTI report states that BharatPe serves over 75 lakh merchants across 150 cities. The company has already facilitated the disbursement of loans totalling over Rs 3,000 crore to its merchants since its launch. BharatPe has raised over $650 million in equity and debt to date.

Its investors include Tiger Global, Dragoneer Investment Group, Steadfast Capital, Coatue Management, Ribbit Capital and others.

With inputs from agencies

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