I did what is right for company: BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer on Ashneer Grover exit

PTI, Apr 6, 2022, 8:06 AM IST

Breaking his silence over allegations of pushing out embattled co-founder Ashneer Grover, BharatPe CEO Suhail Sameer said he did what was right for the company and investors, and to protect his reputation.

BharatPe, which allows shop owners to make digital payments through QR codes, last month, stripped Grover of all titles and positions after a third-party audit alleged grave governance lapses under him.

Grover, who had to go on leave in January following allegations of using abusive language against Kotak Mahindra Bank staff and of fraudulent practices, had accused Sameer of siding with the investors to remove him from office.

“Most of them (allegations) I buy,” Sameer told PTI in an interview. “I did what is right for the investors. I did what is right for the company, isn’t that why I am here.”

Ashneer, he said, was “a deep personal friend”.

“We were like very very close,” he said. “But my job here is not to be a great friend. My job is to do what is right.”

Following the allegations of financial irregularities under Grover, BharatPe engaged a law firm and risk advisory consultants to conduct a more detailed investigation.

BharatPe first sacked Madhuri Jain which was followed by Grover resigning and the company stripping him of the co-founder and other titles over alleged “extensive misappropriation of company funds” by “creating fake vendors” to siphon money and using “company expense accounts” to “enrich themselves and fund their lavish lifestyles.”

“I sort of have an incredible reputation to live. This is my last job in life (and) I will not let anything come on my reputation. So I would do what is right for the company, I would do what is right for our shareholders even if it means something which is against one of us,” Sameer said.

He said he could have stepped away if his conduct was faulted.

“So I did what you would expect a CEO to do,” he said. “So, there is no question of allegations or siding with someone.”

Grover had reportedly stated he was manipulated by Sameer and the company’s general counsel Sumeet Singh to go on leave.

Sameer said happenings were “turbulent”.

They were “even more turbulent for my general counsel (Singh). He (Singh) was Ashneer’s childhood friend,” he said. “We are two people on whom all the allegations were made. But we were just two place holders. Anyone who was in the governance council would have got the same allegations. We are not taking it to heart. Hopefully, a few years later, Ashneer and I will again be friends.”

The board of BharatPe has received the final reports of the governance review but is yet to deliberate on it.

The board may meet later this month to discuss it but there is also a view that since Ashneer has put in his papers, there is no need for further action, he said.

“It is the board’s call. It is premature for me to say it on behalf of the board (what it will do on the report). Right now, focus is to get the business to growth (and make) employees comfortable,” he said.

He said all the board members have got the reports and they have sort of gone through them. “At some appropriate time frame, we will sort of come together and say, therefore what do we do with it.”

Grover currently owns a 9.5 per cent stake in BharatPe while Shashvat Nakrani — the other co-founder — owns 7.8 per cent. Investor Sequoia Capital India is the largest shareholder in BharatPe with a 19.6 per cent stake followed by Coatue at 12.4 per cent and Ribbit Capital at 11 per cent.

Reacting to BharatPe’s decision, Grover, last month, stated he was appalled at the personal nature of the company’s statement but not surprised.

“It comes from a position of personal hatred and low thinking,” he had said. “I would want to learn who among Amarchand, PwC and A&M has started doing an audit on ‘lavishness’ of one’s lifestyle?”

Grover had also questioned the role of former SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar, an independent director on BharatPe board.

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