BHARATPE co-founder Ashneer Grover’s TV persona in the Indian adaptation of Shark Tank may not be far from the off-screen reality. The reality TV show sees entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to investors – to people like Grover, young, successful and rich – offering certain equity in their businesses. What Grover also offers, when not a business partnership, is curt criticism of the venture, and advice to quit. He has called one such budding entrepreneur “a wannabe superstar” adding “you are nothing”.
Grover’s brash comments have seen people calling his behaviour “controlling”, and a personality likened to having the “God syndrome”. The later in a statement by a founder of a leading start-up in this article after an alleged audio clip of Grover becoming wildly angry and abusive with an employee of Kotak Mahindra Bank – after they failed to buy shares for him and his wife Madhuri, during the initial public offering of Nykaa IPO – surfaced.
“Aaj raat ko tera encounter hoga”, is a line that boomed from the over 4-minute long audio clip from the alleged phone call between Grover and the Kotak Mahindra Bank employee. Much of the audio was either intelligible because the man, allegedly Grover, was screaming – a shark in an attack frenzy, ready to bite off the head of the alleged prey – or had cuss words.
Grover, in his Shark Tank persona comes off as someone who decidedly believes in themselves being superior. In the audio the man certainly betrays himself as someone who deems their superiority as unquestionable.
In the earlier article quoted, there’s also a comment by “mid-level executive” who recently left BharatPe. Takling about Grover, the employee is quoted as saying: “Are you really surprised? He’s always been like this. The only difference is, this time, it’s out in public”.
After the audio clip came into public domain, Grover’s alleged toxic work culture was also brought up. But while the audio clip may or may not be true, this is not the first time that allegations about Grover’s not-so-gentlemanly behaviour has been made.
A November 2020 article on a business news portal mentions about the resignations of senior executives from BharatPe in whch one senior executive is quoted as saying that Grover called all the shots at the company. “It is my way or the highway when it comes to him. With senior people, there should be that room to have a discussion and figure it out, but you never feel like he cares for what you say”.
Perhaps, it’s this normalising of toxic culture, like in the show, Shark Tank India, which first released on December 20, 2021. Grover has been called out several times on social media for his behaviour on the TV show, deriding participants.
Tweets such as @DessieAussie “#BharatPe chief #AshneerGrover is repeat offender in insulting young entrepreneurs in #SharkTankIndia. U r there to invest, if not atleast encourage young ones if not interested, leave rather abuse &insult. Kisbaatkaghamandpaalrakhahain, Ambani-Adanibhinahirakhteitnaghamand” (sic) can be found.
But while there are many tweets such as this one, there’s also a market for what people say is Grover’s no holds barred, non-sugar-coated dose of reality to entrepreneurs.
Either way, both sides agree Grover has a certain sharp way about him.