In his resignation letter, to all the board of directors of Resilient Innovations — which runs fintech unicorn BharatPe — Ashneer Grover whined about BharatPe’s investors on the one hand.
On the other, he used a substantial portion of his near 1,400-words resignation letter to enumerate the achievements of BharatPe, and his contribution towards achieving the feats.
“From being celebrated as the face of Indian entrepreneurship and an inspiration to the Indian youth to build businesses, I am now fighting a long, lonely battle against my own investors and management,” Ashneer wrote in his resignation letter.
“Unfortunately, in this battle, the management has lost of what is actually at stake – BharatPe,” Ashneer noted.
Touching upon his middle-class background, and crediting IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad with the best of what Indian education system has to offer, Ashneer claimed to be a professional with an impeccable track record who has been instrumental in building two unicorn businesses — Grofers and BharatPe — from scratch.
“I have not only encouraged the youth of this country to follow their dreams but have also created an arena of job opportunities for tens of thousands of India’s gig-economy workers,” Ashneer said.
On BharatPe, Ashneer claimed to have nurtured the four-year old fintech unicorn as his baby. “I’ve built it along with my co-founder and an amazing team of individuals,” Ashneer said. “Most times, the circumstances were hostile (to say the least) but it did not stop me.”
Ashneer pointed thatwas the last entrant in the unified payment interface (UPI) space and competed with larger companies like , , and GooglePay, but still emerged as an industry leader.
“I had the vision to disrupt payments with ‘0 percent MDR (merchant discount rate)’, lending with shopkeeper ‘loans against payments’, P2P with ’12 percent Club’ and BNPL with ‘postpe’,” Ashneer wrote.
Ashneer also claimed that with his efforts and hard work, BharatPe has created a network of more than 1 crore (10 million) shopkeepers who transact more than Rs 1 lakh-crore ($16 billion) annually and lent out more than Rs 4,000 crore ($500 million) as loans. “It is indisputable that BharatPe loans have helped lakhs of small businesses fight organised e-commerce and COVID-19,” Ashneer added.
“Am I perfect?”, Asheer asked in the letter. Like every other human being, he is sure he has his follies.
“I have been told that I am too straightforward, headstrong, and have very demanding standards when it comes work. But it is these qualities that have resulted in BharatPe’s exponential growth in becoming an industry behemoth,” Ashneer noted.
Furthermore, Ashneer claimed that the height at which BharatPe stands today is the result of the hard work of the last four years. He singled out the case of Unity Small Finance Bank — set up as a joint venture with Mumbai-based Centrum Group where the later holds 51 percent stake.
“Most importantly and the only time for any fintech in India – with my constant efforts the company has acquired a small finance bank (SFB) licence to create ‘Unity Small Finance Bank’. I’ve shown the gumption and intent to find a solution for Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank and ten lakh of its depositors to give them back their hard-earned funds,” Ashneer wrote.
On BharatPe, in general, Ashneer claimed that with a team of less than 500 on-roll employees, an aggregate spending of less than $150 million, and by raising $615 million from ten of the marquee investors without using a single banker, “the success story of BharatPe is for everyone to see.”
“While scripting the commercial success of BharatPe, the company was also affording liquidity to our employees of more than Rs 100 crore against their employee stock option plans (ESOPs) and giving at least 80 times returns to each of its 28 angel investors,” Ashneer added.
He also touched upon the valuation of the unicorns, citing that it was valued at Rs 20,000 crore ($3 billion), as per the Series E funding round. In early August last year, when BharatPe had raised $370 million in the Series E round led by Tiger Global, BharatPe became a unicorn as its valuation tripled from $900 million to $2.85 billion.
Earlier this month, Ashneer had said that the BharatPe board must let him run the fintech company, or buy out his stake for Rs 4,000 crore.
“Today it would be valued at Rs 40,000 crore ($6 billion), within a span of less than a year,” Ashneer said. “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 added. However, the two-month long boardroom saga has left the fintech unicorn in a tailspin, and BharatPe’s version of events are yet to unfold.