A look back at controversial CEOs of the Indian Startup Ecosystem

India has come a long way as far as startups are concerned, it is only behind the US and China. It is the 3rd largest startup ecosystem in the world with 60,000+ startups and close to 100 unicorns have been created since InMobi in 2011 became the first unicorn of India.

Indian startups today value over $300 billion which was zero almost a decade ago. Over the years, young CEOs and high level executives with the best mind have lead these startups to become what they are; but there have been others that were controversial and couldn’t handle their reputation in the long run. Here are some of them –

1. Rahul Yadav – Founder and (Ex) CEO of Housing.com

Rahul Yadav planned to dropout of IIT-B in his last year, the most prestigious engineering and technology college of India. He started out the very famous Housing.com. He was called as the ‘Bad Boy of the Indian Startup Ecosystem’ due to his clashes and disagreements with the investors of the company, Sequoia Capital.

Not only that, Rahul Yadav also had planned to give away all his private shares of Housing.com to the employees, which were considered to the around 150-200 crores. He had shared this news with all the employees through an e-mail, only to not give them anything in the end.

He was later mocked by the founders of Ola Cabs and Zomato; Bhavish Agarwal and Deepinder Goyal respectively after Rahul Yadav asked them to give up their private equities too. Frustrated with Rahul’s actions, he was asked to step down as the CEO of Housing.com by the investors.

2. Binny Bansal – Founder and (Ex) CEO of Flipkart.com

Flipkart was the first rising startup in India, it is an e-commerce platform founded by former employees of Amazon, Sachin and Binny Bansal. Binny Bansal was the CEO of Flipkart and later moved to the rank of Group CEO till 2018 November when he resigned from his post on the grounds of ‘serious personal misconduct’.

He was also named in the #MeTooMovement in 2018 and controversies surrounded him from that. By that time, Walmart became the parent company of Flipkart and under its investigation, they are unable to find anything concrete but still Binny chose to remove himself from the company and position.

3. Sandeep Aggarwal and Radhika Aggarwal – Executives of Shopclues.com

Shopclues.com is another e-commerce startup whose founders, Sandeep Aggarwal and Radhika Ghai Aggarwal were married but Sandeep in a series of posts on Facebook had alleged his ex-wife (now divorced) Radhika and CEO Sanjay Sethi for reducing his voting rights after the Series C funding, her having affair, trying to erase his legacy and contribution in Shopclues.com.

He was also arrested in the US for insider trading and since then his place at Shopclues remained skeptical. After his removal from Shopclues, he however was able to found another startup called Droom and since then had a successful ride.

4. Ashneer Grover – Founder and Director of BharatPe

After the success of Shark Tank India, Ashneer Grover became a household name in India. Being famous for his harsh and true comments on businesses in Shark Tank India, he is also known for scaling businesses whether it was BharatPe or Grofers. Ashneer Grover announced that he has resigned from BharatPe’s company & board. The dispute which was being on for the past 2 months, finally saw a conclusion which nobody ever wanted.

In early January, an audio clip surfaced of Grover allegedly using expletives against a Kotak Bank staff. While he claimed the clip was fake, the bank said it would take legal action over it. The whole incident was trending for several days and also affected Grover’s reputation significantly.

Problematic relation with stakeholders: In an interview with Money control earlier in January, Grover has clearly expressed his aversion towards Bharatpe’s CEO Suhail Sammer. Besides, Grover & his wife was repeatedly accusing BharatPe’s board over various things. Even in his leaving letter, Grover has clearly mentioned how his bitter relationship with the board members, is one of the key reasons for his resignation.

Grover’s Wife sacked: Later in January, BharatPe appointed auditors to look into the company’s practices under Grover. A preliminary report by firm Alvarez & Marsal accused Madhuri Grover of financial fraud. On February 23, BharatPe sacked Madhuri on the charges of fund misappropriation. This was the last nail in the coffin which shaped up the entire course of the event.

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