BharatPe co-founder Ashneer Grover, who resigned as managing director on March 1 ahead of a crucial board meeting, said the investigation against him was a “sham” and launched a fusillade of angry comments against the board, especially chairman Rajnish Kumar, accusing it of failing to keep details of their actions confidential.
"The whole process is a sham. You have decided what you want. There is no consideration for any process. You are just going after me, my wife, my whole family. Have you even called me once? Have the investors even spoken to me even once? What kind of a process is this where the chairman of SBI can't run a confidential process for a month?" Grover told Moneycontrol, in his first comments after his resignation letter to the board was made public.
Grover’s resignation was the consequence of a messy, “dirty linen washed in full public view” kind of battle with the boardroom that played out over the past month. The resignation is hardly the coda one expects to see in corporate battles after resignations because it comes ahead of a board meeting slated to take place either on March 1 or the next day, as the results of an internal investigation against Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain Grover are awaited.
The board of BharatPe, which allows shopkeepers to make digital payments through QR codes, has sought Grover's presence in the meeting.
What will Grover do now?
Grover, who was helming one of India's youngest companies, said he will look at founders who have had the “courage to build businesses with 100 percent ownership”. Grover holds a 9.5 percent stake in BharatPe.
"I am now looking up to people like Turakhia (Bhavin) and Kamath (Nitin of Zerodha) who have the courage to build businesses with 100 percent ownership. It will take a bit longer to build I will be in control of what I build and not build it for these people who are opportunistic," he said.
Grover's resignation also comes close on the heels of the termination of his wife from the post of BharatPe's Head of Controls. In a two-page resignation letter, Grover alleged that he and his family have been embroiled in baseless targeted attacks.
In his letter, he has also pointed fingers at investors blaming them of treating founders as slaves. " You treat us Founders as slaves —pushing us to build multi-billion-dollar businesses and cutting us down at will. Investor-Founder relation in India is one of Master-Slave. I am the rebel slave who must be hung by the tree so none of the other slaves can dare to be like me ever again," the letter read.
This comes after Moneycontrol reported on February 27 that Grover's emergency arbitration plea challenging the firm's decision to conduct a governance review had been rejected by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).
In his resignation letter, Grover wrote, "From being celebrated as the face of Indian entrepreneurship and an inspiration to the Indian youth to build their own businesses, I am now wasting myself fighting a long, lonely battle against my own investors and management. Unfortunately, in this battle, the management has lost of what is actually at stake– BharatPe."
Many twists and turns
On January 28, BharatPe, which is targeting an initial public offering (IPO), disclosed it had hired Alvarez to conduct a governance review of the company. The next week, it confirmed it roping in PwC as well.
Moneycontrol also reported on February 7 that the decision to bring PwC after hiring Alvarez was a step towards terminating the services of Madhuri Jain Grover and Ashneer Grover, as their ouster could only happen after a report by a Big 4 audit firm indicted them.
According to a preliminary report by Alvarez conducted in January, inconsistencies were found in dealings with vendors. The report had flagged payments to vendors and consultants that were non-existent.
Allegations and counter-allegations have become the norm at BharatPe. Soon after an embattled Grover launched an attack against Kumar and co-founder Bhavik Koladiya, alleging that the governance review was riddled with prejudice, the company accused him of spreading false information which it said was not appropriate for a managing director.