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BharatPe row: Ashneer Grover attacks Rajnish Kumar, Bhavik Koladiya; Kumar rubbishes charges, offers to resign

In a scathing letter written to the board of Resilient Innovations, the parent of BharatPe, on February 22, Ashneer Grover alleged that Bhavik Koladiya called him and asked to meet at a location without sharing an agenda. Grover has alleged that Rajnish Kumar was also with him when the call came.

February 23, 2022 / 06:52 AM IST
Ashneer Grover

Ashneer Grover

The ongoing feud between the board of fintech BharatPe and its embattled founder Ashneer Grover took a dramatic turn, with the latter launching an attack on the chairman of the board, Rajnish Kumar and co-founder Bhavik Koladiya.

While Grover accused Kumar of being biased and prejudiced, he claimed Koladiya was abusive and stated that he reserves the right to take appropriate legal action.

Kumar, a veteran of the banking industry and former chairman of SBI, rubbished the charges in response, stating that he has no intention to continue if the board doubts his impartiality.

In a scathing letter written to the board of Resilient Innovations, the parent of BharatPe, on February 22, Grover alleged that Bhavik Koladiya called him and asked to meet at a location without sharing an agenda. Grover has alleged that Kumar was also with him when the call came.

"The call was made from Rajnish Kumar’s residence in Ambience Island, Gurugram. I was informed on the said call that the two of them wanted to meet me to discuss some issues and that I should travel to Gurugram for the said meeting," he said in the letter.

In his letter, Grover goes on to claim that Koladiya and Kumar wanted him to come to a certain location and time, to discuss issues. When he refused, without knowing the agenda he claimed Koladiya turned abusive and started using foul language.

"Upon such instigation, I told Mr Koladiya that if he wanted to discuss things in such fashion then I was not interested in talking to him," Grover said in the letter.

Interestingly, in the letter, Grover has referred to Koladiya, one of the original co-founders of BharatPe as an 'independent contractor' working with the IT team of the company.

“I would like to inform the Board that we are already in the process of an ongoing Arbitration before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the communication from the Company should be directed to me through the Company, the Board, or through its attorneys. I do not appreciate the tone and tenor of the parallel negotiations being directed to me on behalf of the Company and/or its Board Members through such unrelated third parties”, he wrote.

“I would further like to point that the involvement of Mr Rajnish Kumar in the instant episode has confirmed my apprehensions that the entire façade of the alleged Governance Review is riddled with premeditation, bias and prejudice. Mr Kumar’s involvement also completely erodes any semblance of non-partisan supervision by him as has been envisaged qua his role in the Review Committee”, the mail in which letter was sent read

"The manner in which Mr Koladiya, who is neither a Member of the Board nor an employee of the Company, is being involved by Mr Rajnish Kumar in the communications with me also fortifies my concerns that the Company has been willfully leaking confidential information as regards the present dispute to third parties," the letter read.

"I am writing this letter to bring these facts to the knowledge of the Board and without prejudice to any of my rights under law, equity and otherwise," Grover said.

In response to these grave charges, Rajnish Kumar responded stating that these were completely baseless allegations and that he wasn’t party to the conversation between Ashneer and Bhavik.

“Should the board members have any doubts about my impartiality in the matter, I have no intention to continue and can’t tolerate this type of mudslinging by anyone”, he wrote in response to the letter.

Moneycontrol has seen the letter written by Ashneer Grover to Resilient Innovations, the parent of BharatPe as well as Rajnish Kumar's email reply to the same. We also reached out to the parties involved for their comment on the issue.

BharatPe did not respond to Moneycontrol's queries. However, in a response to the email sent by Grover, it has criticised him for an "attempted portrayal" of his "personal phone conversation" with Koladiya as a communication from the company calling it baseless and misconceived.

"Further, your attempts at casting aspersions on the governance review and/or the chairman of the BoD (board of directors) on the basis of an alleged personal phone conversation that you had with Mr. Bhavik Koladiya are also denied as vexatious and false," says the letter written by BharatPe in response to Grover's email.

"For the sake of clarity, it is reiterated that the purported audio clip shared by you does not relate to any official communication of the company with you, and all allegations to the contrary are denied," it adds.

On January 28 BharatPe disclosed it hired Alwarez and Marsal to conduct a governance review of the company. The next week, it confirmed it had roped in PwC alongside Alwarez.

Moneycontrol also reported on February 7 that the decision to bring PwC after hiring Alwarez was a step towards terminating the services of Jain, controller finance of the company and co-founder and managing director Ashneer Grover, as their ouster can only happen after a report by a Big 4 audit firm indicts them.

Even as the final outcome is likely to come out in the next few days, Alvarez and Marsal’s early reviews pointed towards inconsistencies in dealings with vendors and flagged payments to vendors and consultants that were non-existent.

The report stated that total expenditure of Rs 53.25 crore was made towards vendors that did not exist and the company incurred a loss of Rs 10.97 crore in these dealings.

In an interaction with Moneycontrol last month, Grover had mentioned that the board was arm-twisting him into exiting the company.

While Grover took a leave of absence till March-end amid backlash regarding his abusive language to a Kotak employee, toxic culture at BharatPe, and brash behaviour, his wife Madhuri Jain Grover, who headed Controls was also sent on leave. BharatPe’s board and external consultants are conducting a forensic investigation into the company’s practices, including accounting, approval processes, expenses, and hiring.

Priyanka Sahay
Priyanka Sahay
first published: Feb 22, 2022 10:28 pm