Since he is stubborn, Ashneer Grover claims that the board believes he will be their largest problem rather than their strongest strength in the future.
Ashneer Grover maintains a serene demeanour. When was the last time you heard that? As our interview begins, the man whose rage and frank remarks have become a meme and a national talking point are calm and calculated.
Grover is the co-founder and managing director of BharatPe, a company that, until a month ago, was best known for its QR code aggregator app, service, and surprise bank licence, but is now best known for public spats between the founder and its main investor, allegations of fraud, poor work culture, and an audio clip of Grover allegedly abusing a Kotak employee.
Grover, on the other hand, denies everything. Everything, in fact. He denies that the voice in the audio tape is his, that he had a falling out with Uday Kotak, that he used bad language towards anyone, that his company may have engaged in fraudulent practises, that BharatPe had cultural challenges that led to much senior staff leaving…the list goes on. Grover was placed on leave for three months as a result of some of these issues, and BharatPe is now being investigated by Alvarez and Marsal and PwC, who are expected to go through its governance standards with a fine-tooth comb. He, on the other hand, denies everything
Grover is now pursuing his investors, whom he claims “arm-twisted” him into taking a leave of absence and risking public outrage. He has three legal firms working for him to persuade investors to either bring him back to lead BharatPe or offer him a cool Rs 4,000 crore if he wants to walk away. He isn’t going to let things go any other way. He made it obvious that Grover does not support current CEO Suhail Sameer, and that he is the “investors’ puppet.”
The Kotak situation was in no way a problem. You’re having issues with your service provider. You file a complaint, which is either resolved or is not resolved. It’s also a corpse. Then a third party approaches and says, “What was this quarrel between you two?” You now have to explain it to the entire audience. The audio clip is a rip-off.
You claim there is a conspiracy. Why would someone do something like this?
The company BharatPe is responsible for making the MDR (Merchant Discount Rate) zero. MDR was a source of revenue for all payment businesses prior to us. Naturally, no one likes us. Second, we recognized that lending is a big business, so we started honing our lending skills early on. That kind of lending is appealing. There are other businesses that have not been able to make the transition from payments to lending. Then, unlike the other participants, we got into BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) and P2P (Peer-to-Peer) lending and borrowing. Above all, we received the bank license, which has made everyone envious.
We also have a bank licence in the name of BharatPe, which is equally crucial. Not in Ashneer Grover’s name. So I’ve not only accomplished what I’ve accomplished, but I’ve done so in an institutionalised fashion. Unity Small Finance Bank is owned by the corporation, not Ashneer Grover, who owns 49 percent of it. Has anyone asked Vijay Shekhar Sharma if he has a conflict of interest because he owns 51 percent of Paytm’s Payment Bank?
BharatPe was allegedly run with an opaque structure, according to reports and our sources. There are claims that money was syphoned off by your family members, and that money was paid to the family instead of a recruiter for the employment of CXOs.
It’s complete nonsense. This is a 3.5-year-old business. Deloitte, (one of the) Big Four, has audited it. All financials have been audited up till FY21. Four of the ten investors are represented on my board of directors. By structure, there are independent directors. Rajnish Kumar and Kewal Handa are two names that come to mind.
One is ex-SBI chairman and the other one is Union Bank chairman. So, if you’re telling me there’s something wrong, you’re pointing a finger at the entire board, including the independent and investor directors, not at me.