Ashneer Grover, co-founder and MD of BharatPe, took to social media to say that he will return to his role in April. His move to take a voluntary leave of absence from the company came after a controversy erupted over his abusive rant against a Kotak Mahindra Bank executive.
BharatPe, in a media statement on Wednesday, announced his decision and the board’s acceptance. However, neither Ashneer nor BharatPe have clarified why Grover voluntarily sent himself on leave.
“After much deliberation and introspection, I plan to take a temporary leave of absence from BharatPe till March-end. I will return on or before April 1, 2022,” reads Grover’s statement on LinkedIn. He also added that he will use his hiatus to rejuvenate and refresh himself 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,” he adds.
A lot of theories have since floated on the move. According to one report, Grover had to renounce his day-to-day responsibilities amidst pressure from the company’s investors, in light of his alleged unruly behaviour. However, BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer, in an interview, has said that Grover was the one who suggested to voluntarily take a step back, and not a board member. Grover felt that he was being “attacked” and his presence might affect BharatPe as well. Sameer adds that the board’s immediate response was to reject it with full fervour, but on Grover’s insistence, relented.
Sameer also explains that Grover will retain his seat in the board, but he will not be associated with day-to-day activities, and will not be coming to the office. He has also rebuffed any possibility of this move culminating in an eventual ouster. BharatPe’s management also organised a townhall meeting to tell the employees that this was the management’s call, and they were not compelled into doing it by anyone else.
Grover has lately found himself as an antihero in a controversial altercation with Uday Kotak and the top brass of his eponymous bank—who he squarely blamed for missing the boat during Nykaa’s blockbuster debut on the BSE. The adversarial nature of this dispute was brought to light with a leaked audio clip—in which Grover hurled expletives at a Kotak Mahindra employee for the latter’s inability to secure funds required to buy Nykaa scrips. Grover and his wife have also filed a lawsuit, seeking damages for the gains they would have earned if the funds were secured. The bank retorted that it will take legal action against Grover for his actions.
Grover, the 39-year-old alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, is hitherto known to be an outspoken figure in India’s startup space. He publicly stated that the IPO of Paytm—a fellow fintech unicorn—is overpriced last year. However, his candour has drawn a lot of flak on social media for admonishing entrepreneurs on reality TV show Shark Tank India.