"You treat founders as slaves", Ashneer Grover lashes at BharatPe investors

Ashneer Grover, Co-founder of BharatPe, points to investor overreach in the past few months.
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BharatPe Co-founder Ashneer Grover, who stepped down as Managing Director and board member on Tuesday morning, pointed to investor overreach in a fiery resignation email, marked to all board members.

"Unfortunately, what has happened in the recent past seems to be a battle of egos being played to the gallery of the media under the charade of “good governance”," said Ashneer, in a two-page email.

"The fundamental fact is that all of you, as investors, are so far removed from reality that you’ve forgotten what real businesses look like and have no appreciation for what it took to run this enterprise day in and day out," Ashneer said.

Resilient Innovations, which runs BharatPe, is yet to file its financial results for fiscal year 2021. It has not had a Chief Financial Officer in its four-year history.

Ashneer's wife Madhuri Jain was the Head of controls, in charge of accounts or finance and administration, until the company asked her to leave last week.

"None of you — including the ones based in India — has ever been to our office even once, since the pandemic turned our lives upside down and sought to suffocate the economy," Ashneer said, naming Harshjit Sethi, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital India, Meyer Malka, Managing Partner at Ribbit Capital, Teru Sato of BEENEXT, and Rahul Kishore of Coatue Management, among others.

Ashneer also added that Bharatpe investors' views of businesses and problems on the ground are "so colored by the windows of the Ivory Tower in which they all reside that they have no connect whatsoever with the human element of the business".

"It is sad that you have even lost touch with the Founder. You’ve lost touch with me. For you, the Founder of this company has been reduced to a button to be pressed when needed. I cease to be a human for you," Ashneer wrote.

"Today, you have chosen to believe gossip and rumours about me instead of having a frank conversation. You are so easily spooked because you have no touch with reality," he added.

"The fact of the matter is that today you believe that I have served my utility, and so incrementally I am just becoming a liability," Ashneer said in the email.

"And since the investor template to make an unwanted Founder go away is to make them the villain of the piece, that’s what you have gone ahead and done – “Let’s invoke the SHA (shareholder agreement). Let’s put him on leave under the pretext of a governance review. Let’s terminate his wife’s employment. Let’s vilify his whole clan. We as investors are on top of the food chain – let’s cut him down to size and make an example of him,” Ashneer said.

Ashneer said investors treat founders as "slaves – pushing us to build multi-billion-dollar businesses and cutting us down at will."

The investor-founder equation in India is one of master-slave, Ashneer said. "Unfortunately, I refuse to walk that path, and refuse to tolerate this continuous and shameful vilification of me and my family."

Ashneer said he founded BharatPe and built it up to its enviable position. "No wonder you want to oust me for your vested interests," he added.

"No other startup of similar valuation has been able to achieve what BharatPe has achieved today that too by utilising less than Rs 1,000 crore. Clearly, BharatPe’s success story is for the world to see," Ashneer said.

Ashneer has declined to be a part of the board meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss the findings of a PwC report on his conduct at BharatPe.

Edited by Rajiv Bhuva

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