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Abusive call row: BharatPe founder Ashneer Grover goes on leave

While BharatPe did not specify a reason for Grover's decision, it said the co-founder had on Wednesday informed the Board of his decision to take a voluntary leave of absence from BharatPe till March-end.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
Updated: January 20, 2022 10:02:51 am
Bharat Pe MD Ashneer Grover. (Twitter Photo/@Ashneer_Grover)

Nearly a fortnight after an audio clip of him abusing a Kotak Mahindra Bank employee surfaced, BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover has “informed” the company’s board of his decision to go on a “voluntary leave of absence” till the end of March, the company said in a statement.

“Ashneer Grover, our co-founder and MD (managing director), has today informed the Board of his decision to take voluntary of absence from BharatPe till March end. Ashneer has co-built BharatPe from scratch and his decision is consistent with his passionate commitment to the future success of the company,” the statement read.

Grover’s decision had been accepted by the BharatPe board of directors “for now” and both parties agreed that it would be “in the best interests of the company”, employees and investors.

On January 5, an anonymous person tweeted a link to a file on audio hosting platform Soundcloud. In the clip, a bank employee was heard trying to placate two customers who were angry that the bank had failed to finance their application and buy shares on their behalf during the initial public offering of FSN E-commerce Ventures, which runs cosmetics platform Nykaa.

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It was alleged that the customers were Grover and his wife Madhuri, and that the bank employee was from Kotak Mahindra Bank. In the call, Grover and his wife had allegedly used inappropriate language and threatened the employee.

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

“Folks. Chill. It’s 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 January 9, 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.

An email sent to BharatPe seeking details of why Grover took leave, and whether the company had responded to Kotak Mahindra Bank’s legal notice, did not elicit any response.

In his statement released later in the evening, Grover said he would be back at the company “on or before April 1, 2022” and that he was taking that leave to “rejuvenate and refresh” himself for the “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. I am a builder and I know my energy is best spent creating value for the millions of Indians we serve each day,” Grover said in his statement shared on Twitter.

On October 30 last year, Grover had sent a legal notice to the Kotak group over the alleged failure of Kotak Wealth Management to finance the application of Ashneer Grover and Madhuri Grover for the Nykaa IPO.

The notice, sent by his law firm Regstreet, had said that Kotak’s refusal to comply with its assurances was on the pretext that it had decided not to finance the IPO due to ‘erratic FII movements’ and ‘very high lending rates’. The legal notice also sought compensation for the banking group’s failure to provide IPO financing and allocate shares worth Rs 500 crore before the closing of the offer on November 1, 2021.

In its January 9 statement, Kotak Mahindra Bank had denied any breach in “any manner whatsoever”.

“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 Grover. Appropriate legal action is being pursued,” the bank’s statement had said.

Grover had worked as vice president in Kotak Investment Banking for seven years. He left the group in 2013.

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