The BharatPe Saga: How an astutely run business venture came apart
New Delhi : Coming from middle-class families, Ashneer Grover and wife Madhuri Jain Grover together built an astute business profile with a net worth of at least Rs 21,300 crore, before a heated and abusive telephone call with a Kotak Mahindra Bank’s employee, that went viral in early January, triggered their downfall.Delhi-born Ashneer did his B.Tech in civil engineering from IIT-Delhi and later MBA in Finance from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.Ashneer’s father is a chartered accountant and his mother, a teacher. He started his career with Kotak Investment Banking, Mumbai as vice president in 2006.In 2013, he joined as the director in Amex, (American Express), an MNC. After working there for two years, he joined Grofers (now quick-commerce platform Blinkit) as the chief financial officer.Later, he joined PC Jewellers as business head. Working there in the business development and payment options, he got the idea to start a fintech company.
Ashneer, along with Shashvat Nakrani and Bhavik Koladiya, started BharatPe in 2018, which went on to become one of the popular online money transaction platforms in India.Madhuri Jain, on the other hand, did her undergraduation from NIFT Delhi. She worked as an interior designer with people like Satya Paul and Alok Industries. She also had her own furnishing business named Mauve and Brown.Ashneer and Madhuri have two children, son Avy, and a daughter, Mannat.In the initial phases of BharatPe, Madhuri joined and handled the Operations and Functionality department.BharatPe is India’s first UPI interoperable QR code, with the first ZERO MDR payment acceptance service and the first UPI payment backed merchant cash advance service.The fintech startup aims to provide an end-to-end financial services platform for merchants. It is now established in 13 different countries.
In 2022, Ashneer featured on Indian startup reality TV show Shark Tank India. He was reportedly the highest-paid shark, with a fee of Rs 10 lakh per episode.During the show, the couple got embroiled in a thick controversy. While Madhuri was fired from BharatPe on allegations of financial irregularities, Ashneer quit the company following months of controversies.It started with an audio clip where Ashneer allegedly threatened a Kotak bank employee with harm and the clip went viral.What followed was a series of allegations. From a poster boy for entrepreneurship, he ended up being the worst of the startup culture.Kotak Mahindra Group filed a case against Ashneer over the alleged abusive behaviour towards its employee.Soon after, the couple took voluntary leave of absence and BharatPe set up an internal audit.The internal probe found misappropriation of funds during her time at the fintech platform.
Madhuri Jain was head of controls at BharatPe.Madhuri called her termination of services “male chauvinistic” behaviour.A day before a crucial BharatPe board meeting, an independent PwC ‘governance review’ found Ashneer guilty of financial irregularities worth several crores along with wife Madhuri.His resignation came as top investors in the fintech platform declined to buy his 8.5 per cent stake in the company. Ashneer also lost an arbitration in Singapore he had filed against the fintech platform for launching a probe against him.According to investors, Grover’s valuation does not hold ground as the company is not valued at $6 billion as being projected by him.At a $2.85 billion valuation and at the current dollar-rupee exchange rate, his stake would be around Rs 1,824 crore.The Board of the company now appears in a mood not to give a single penny to Ashneer.The Ashneer-BharatPe saga continues.