Abusive audio call featuring BharatPe founder raises questions


The leaked audio clip, which first appeared online on Wednesday via anonymous social media, features a conversation in which Grover repeatedly abuses and threatens to kill the Kotak employee during an alleged encounter with the police, or extrajudicial murder, for its failure. to obtain the allocation of funds for the initial public offering of Nykaa.

Grover, who initially said via his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts that the clip was fake, later suppressed the claim. BharatPe did not deny that the audio is genuine, choosing instead to say that he would not comment on the matter and would not want to respond to “baseless social media allegations”. Kotak has not commented on the incident. Grover and the Kotak employees mentioned in the clip did not respond to requests for comment.

Mint is unable to independently verify the authenticity of the clip. But two people familiar with the developments and in a position to know, said the conversation featured in the circulating clip took place. They asked not to be named for fear that commercial ties would be hampered. Our reporting also helped connect the chain of events and past relationships that led to the Flashpoint.

A joint venture between BharatPe and Centrum Financial Services has been licensed for a small finance bank by the Reserve Bank of India and operates Unity Small Finance Bank. It is expected to take over the ailing Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank.

Grover is also currently featured on Shark Tank India, a TV show where startups pitch investments to a panel of investors, called sharks.

Bharat Pe is one of the largest digital payments companies in India and counts among its investors Sequoia Capital, Ribbit Capital, Beenext, Coatue, Steadview, Tiger Global and others. In October last year, the company appointed former SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar as chairman of its board.

“Chill, this is FALSE audio”

On January 5, an anonymous Twitter user named “bongo babu” posted an audio clip in which Grover appears to abuse and threaten to kill a Kotak bank employee for failing to secure an award in the initial public offering. (IPO) of Nykaa.

The audio clip, titled “How Wealthy Founders Treat Poor Bank Workers”, was reportedly a conversation involving Grover, his wife Madhuri Jain and an employee of Kotak Wealth Management.

The leaked clip prompted a backlash from social media and questions about the dominant work culture at BharatPe. Responding to the backlash on Thursday morning, Grover posted a statement on Twitter, claiming the audio clip circulating on social media is fake.

“Folks. Coldness! This is FALSE audio of a crook trying to extort money (US $ 240,000 in bitcoin). I refused to buckle up. I have more character. And the internet has enough money. crooks, ”Grover said on Twitter.

Along with the statement, he posted screenshots of an email exchange with an anonymous account named Unicon Baba, which offers marketing services for a fee. But on Friday, Grover deleted the post from his social media accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn, without an explanation.

Centrum to Kotak

The Kotak employee who faces threats and abuse from Grover, and can be heard by Grover and his wife’s name Sushruta in the clip, is Sushruta Arora, associate vice president of Kotak Wealth Management, according to the two people. Cited above. The Kotak employee named Rohit in the clip is Rohit Mohan, senior director of Ultra High Networth Individuals practice at Kotak Mahindra Bank, the people said.

Both are former employees of Centrum India, with whom BharatPe is in a joint venture for Unity Small Finance Bank. According to their LinkedIn profiles, Mohan joined Kotak in April 2021, while Arora joined in June 2021.

Arora and Mohan did not respond to messages via SMS and LinkedIn. The chief executive of Kotak Weath Management did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Besides JV bank, BharatPe and Centrum Group have a long relationship. BharatPe’s investment portfolio is managed by Centrum Wealth Management.

“Mohan is the one who originally introduced Grover to Centrum. So when he left Centrum to join Kotak last year, Grover gave Kotak the mandate to manage his personal wealth. BharatPe’s money is still managed by Centrum, but Ashneer’s personal wealth is now managed by Kotak, “said the first of the two people named above.

Funding for the IPO

The dispute that is the subject of the controversial audio clip is a flourishing credit facility called IPO Finance, in which banks provide loans that can be used to buy shares in an initial public offering. With a hyperactive IPO market and investors looking for payoffs when listing, also known as pops, it has become one of the most popular offerings from wealth management companies.

In an interview with CNBC TV18 in July of last year, Grover said he made a personal request for Rs 150 crore during Zomato’s IPO through the NII (non-institutional investor) segment through Kotak Wealth Management. He was building a $ 100 million IPO pool for Delhivery, Nykaa and Policybazaar, he said, adding that he is allocating his personal savings to leverage IPO funding. and seeks to ask for over $ 15 million for every IPO that comes up. in the technological space.

“There is an ongoing dispute between Kotak and Grover over funding for the IPO (initial public offering),” said the second of the two people named above. He added that it was not the stock award that Grover talks about in the audio clip but the allocation of the IPO funding money.

A senior industry official, who works closely with Kotak Investment Advisors, explained how IPO funding works.

“Let’s say the IPO is worth Rs1,000 crore, but due to the increased interest there is likely to be an offer of Rs5,000 crore. So, each investor (small investor) who wants to get their maximum of 2 lakhs (individual retail investors are allowed to apply for an allocation not worth more than Rs2 lakh) must submit five such bids. So even if they get 20% attribution, it will be 2 lakhs. Bankers know this and know the money will come back. Therefore, they go ahead and fund the 9 lakhs on the 10 lakhs offer because it is totally safe … therefore, the investor does not have to put money in and pay the interest for it. these 10 days or so. And, the investor is hoping to catch up when the stock opens at a premium. “

Although the Rs2 lakh cap does not apply to HNIs applying in the NII segment of IPOs, the principle of bidding for more lots to maximize your chances remains the same.

“The more you bid, the higher the chances of an IPO award. In this case, a large loan was granted which could then be used to bid on Nykaa shares. However, the money was ultimately not given at the last moment. Grover is upset that Kotak promised him the allowance and therefore didn’t check with anyone else… “he explained.

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