How an abusive phone call sparked the downfall of BharatPe founder Ashneer Grover and his wife Madhuri
New Delhi: Hailing from middle-class families, Ashneer Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain Grover have built a shrewd business profile together with a net worth of at least Rs 21,300 crore, before a heated and abusive phone call with a Kotak Mahindra Bank employee, who went viral in early January, sparked their downfall.
Delhi-born Ashneer earned his B.Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT-Delhi and then an 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 at Kotak Investment Banking, Mumbai as Vice Chairman in 2006.
In 2013 he joined as director of Amex (American Express), a multinational. After working there for two years, he joined Grofers (now fast trading platform Blinkit) as CFO.
Later, he joined PC Jewelers as a business manager. Working there in business development and payment options, he had the idea of starting a fintech company.
Ashneer, along with Shashvat Nakrani and Bhavik Koladiya, launched BharatPe in 2018, which has become one of the most popular online money transaction platforms in India.
Madhuri Jain, on the other hand, did her undergraduate studies at NIFT Delhi. She has worked as an interior designer with people like Satya Paul and Alok Industries. She also had her own furniture business named Mauve and Brown.
Ashneer and Madhuri have two children, a son Avy and a daughter, Mannat.
In the initial phases of BharatPe, Madhuri joined and managed the operations and features department.
BharatPe is India’s first UPI interoperable QR code, with the first ZERO MDR payment acceptance service and the first merchant cash advance service backed by a UPI payment.
The fintech startup aims to provide an end-to-end financial services platform for traders. It is now established in 13 different countries.
In 2022, Ashneer participated in the Indian reality 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 found themselves embroiled in a lively controversy. While Madhuri was fired from BharatPe over allegations of financial irregularities, Ashneer left the company after months of controversy.
It all started with an audio clip where Ashneer allegedly threatened to harm a Kotak bank employee and the clip went viral.
What followed was a series of allegations. From poster boy for entrepreneurship, he ended up being the worst in startup culture.
The Kotak Mahindra Group has filed a complaint against Ashneer for the alleged abusive behavior towards its employee.
Shortly after, the couple went on voluntary leave and BharatPe set up an internal audit.
The internal investigation revealed embezzlement during his time on the fintech platform. Madhuri Jain was responsible for controls at BharatPe.
Madhuri called his termination of behavior “chauvinistic masculine”.
A day before a crucial BharatPe board meeting, an independent PwC ‘governance review’ found Ashneer guilty of financial irregularities worth several crores with his wife Madhuri.
His resignation came as top investors in the fintech platform refused to buy his 8.5% stake in the company. Ashneer also lost a Singapore arbitration he filed against the fintech platform for launching an investigation against him.
Investors say Grover’s valuation doesn’t hold up because the company isn’t valued at $6 billion as predicted by him.
At a valuation of $2.85 billion and at the current dollar to rupee exchange rate, its stake would be around Rs 1,824 crore.
The company’s board now seems in the mood not to give Ashneer a single penny.