Rama Krishna Sangem
Ashneer Grover, poster boy of fintech start-up culture in India is now in the news for all wrong reasons. He and his wife Madhuri Jain are struggling to rescue their image as the founders of Bharat Pe, an e-commerce wallet since 2018. And also are trying to realise their share in the company worth of Rs 4,000 crore by totally exiting as early as possible.
Grover, 39 years old, has a bright CV, as he studied at IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad and worked in bright firms like Kotak Bank and founded Bharat Pe, a UPI based payments wallet. Currently, he is heading Bharat Pe as MD and his wife too is in the top management. But, he had lost all the goodwill just by one single phone call or audio tape of 4.6 minutes. What a piety!
Last month, he had allegedly called up an employee of Kotak Mahindra Bank and abused him for not processing his application for allotment of shares (wroth Rs 500 crore) in the IPO of Nykaa, an online fashion company. Grover’s wife Madhuri too was allegedly on the call. This audio clip of 4.6 minutes with full of abusive language in Hindi and English was put on social media by some people.
However, Grover immediately denied the allegations and claimed that was a fake audio, someone mimicking his voice. Grover said someone demanded a ransom in crypto currency for deleting the audio. Ironically, Grover himself removed his post without further explanation. Of course, Kotak Bank has launched a probe into the audio clip.
Bigger problem awaited Grover and his wife in the form of another professional probe by Kotak into corporate governance irregularities by them. Kotak hired an auditing firm, A&M (Alvarez and Marsal) to very payments to some fictitious vendors through wrong invoices etc. Grover will land in a mess if this probe finds him guilty.
Swirl in Shark Tank
From his side, Grover, who is a co-host of Shark Tank India, entrepreneurial show on Sony TV, launched counter-attack on Bharat Pe investors and its CEO Suhail Sameer. Grover demanded that Sameer, who was made CEO in August 2021. Simultaneously, Grover also suspected a conspiracy to remove him from his own company and demanded Rs 4,000 crore on the table, to exit.
Grover episode tells us a few lessons: In today’s social media age, a small phone call can ruin a business tycoon’s reputation as well as position in their own company. Secondly, many start-ups which emerged as unicorns (one billion US dollars worth) overnight are not fair and transparent in their corporate governance issues. Probes are possible whenever something goes wrong.