Startups That Made High-Profile Exits, Top Founder and CEO Departures in 2022
- Several firms made high-profile exits this year, including Zomato and BharatPe.
- Following disputes, many founders, including Ashneer Grover of BharatPe and Ankiti Bose of Zilingo, departed.
- Some of the startup founders and CEOs who said farewell to their companies have already started working on new projects.
2022 proved to be a challenging year for the Indian startup environment after a dream 2021. Startups profited from 2021’s boom, but they also had to deal with a funding crisis and a slowing global economy.
Many startups chose to start over in response to the shifting commercial landscape, while others decided to restructure their organizations. Layoffs became commonplace throughout the year as a result of the financial shortage and the increased focus on profitability.
The Indian startup ecosystem has experienced a lot of controversies last year, with the founders of companies like BharatPe and Zilingo coming under fire for their corporate governance policies and other matters.
All of these led to changes in numerous firms’ top-level leadership, with many of them seeing the departure of their founders. Along with founders, a lot of CEOs left the startups and tech companies they were in charge of in 2018.
Let’s look at the top exits from the Indian startup ecosystem in 2022 as it draws to a close.
Founders Who Quit the Companies They Founded
- Mohit Gupta from Zomato
The co-founder of the massive food tech company Zomato, Mohit Gupta, was one of several who shut down their firms this year. The listed unicorn saw a number of high-profile exits during a challenging year for stock market performance. In November 2022, Gupta submitted his resignation letter.
“I’ve decided to leave Zomato in order to pursue the other uncharted adventures that life has in store for me. I am incredibly excited about the future that Zomato, Blinkit, Hyperpure, and Feeding India are creating and I look forward to it. In a letter of goodbye to the staff, Gupta stated, “I continue to be a long-only investment in Zomato.
Alumni of IIM-Calcutta Gupta was the COO at the online travel agency MakeMyTrip before he joined Zomato in 2018. Later, in 2020, he was promoted to a cofounder of Zomato. Gupta was instrumental in creating Zomato’s food delivery services from scratch. Before being promoted to cofounder, he served as the segment’s top executive. Gupta has not yet shared his plans for the future.
- Ashneer Grover of BharatPe
Ashneer Grover, the former BharatPe MD, and founder left the fintech unicorn earlier this year as a result of a protracted public argument with the startup’s board, in one of the most spectacular founder exits in recent memory.
After an audio clip of Grover purportedly cursing at a Kotak Mahindra employee leaked on Twitter at the beginning of the year, the scandal broke out. Grover insisted that the audio clip was a hoax, but BharatPe launched an inquiry into his behavior and the startup’s internal governance.
BharatPe also charged Grover and his wife, Madhuri Jain Grover, with embezzling business funds throughout the issue. Finally, Grover submitted his resignation on March 1st, 2022 following a heated argument in the boardroom.
Grover, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, led BharatPe toward remarkable success by seizing the merchants’ payments industry in India with Shashvat Nakrani.
After leaving Shark Tank, the former panelist started a company called Third Unicorn Private Limited in June. He hasn’t provided any data on the sector that the new business would work in, though. It’s interesting to note that he just published his memoir on his time as an entrepreneur, titled “Doglapan.”
- Bhavik Koladiya of BharatPe
At the fintech unicorn, the year began with a contentious boardroom conflict that resulted in the departure of several top executives, including the founder Bhavik Koladiya. He allegedly left because of “disagreements” with CEO Suhail Sameer.
Koladiya declared that he would continue to own the shares even after the company’s IPO and that he would continue to be the largest individual stakeholder in BharatPe at the time of his exit.
The financial unicorn’s early face, Koladiya, who co-founded BharatPe with Shashvat Nakrani, was in charge of its engineering and product team. Koladiya oversaw the company’s product and technology operations and is frequently referred to as the “tech backbone” of BharatPe.
Koladiya’s positions and title changed over his five-year term, despite the fact that he was initiated as a founder in 2017. In 2018, he initially changed his title to co-founder and CEO. Nevertheless, he was demoted from cofounder after Sequoia invested in the business as a result of his 2015 conviction in the US for alleged credit card fraud. In 2018, he was appointed CTO and CPO of the business.
Koladiya was chosen to lead the group in 2020. In July 2022, he received his most recent role modification when he was chosen to operate as the founder’s advisor. Koladiya is listed as the managing partner at the consulting business Finix Partners and a board member of the software company OTPLess on his LinkedIn page.
- Porush Jain of Sportskeeda
Porush Jain, the sports portal’s founder, stepped down from his positions as director and CEO at Nazara Technologies-owned Sportskeeda on November 16, 2022. Jain would, though, continue to be a stakeholder, lead the group, and coach the incoming CEO Ajay Pratap Singh during the adjustment period.
In 2009, Jain and co-founder Srinivas Rowjee Cuddapah launched the website, which provides news and opinions on sports like cricket, football, basketball, and pro wrestling. When the gaming unicorn purchased a 67% share in the firm, it was placed under the Nazara umbrella. According to the platform, there are more than 70 million active users per month.
Jain stated that after leaving his position, he may start a new business, or an NGO, work as an angel investor and mentor, travel, or even become a gardener. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is currently taking a “professional hiatus.”
- Ankiti Bose‘s Zilingo.
Ankiti Bose, the co-founder and previous CEO of Zilingo, left the Singapore-based fashion firm in June of this year in another contentious move. She lost her job as CEO earlier in May as the result of an independent forensic examination into major financial irregularities.
Bose and Dhruv Kapoor created the online fashion firm in 2015, which offers technology to retailers and manufacturing facilities for clothing. Bose oversaw the business operations, including sales, marketing, and administration; Kapoor handled technology and product development. It eventually devolved into a contentious conflict of vision amongst the founders.
Investors began to complain about financial issues at the business during the upheaval, and the board ultimately opted to fire her following a two-month investigation. Bose referred to the approach used to fire her as an “unfair witch hunt.”
Manish Maheshwari is with Metaversity.
Manish Maheshwari, a cofounder of Invact Metaversity and the previous CEO of Twitter India, left the company in May as a result of a disagreement with investors. Also publicly criticizing the founders’ lack of alignment where the company’s investors.
Maheshwari planned to manage the company the same way CEOs manage established businesses, according to Inc42. Tanay Pratap, a cofounder, and Maheshwari had different ideas on whether the business should be an edtech startup or a Metaverse company.
After leaving Twitter, Maheshwari declared his intention to start the Web 3.0 edtech company in December 2021. He asserted that Invact would concentrate on providing employability training using the Metaversity virtual reality platform. Prior to the fall launch of the much-hyped Metaverse edtech firm, Maheshwari and Pratap’s company also obtained money from more than 70 national and international investors.
CEOs Of The Companies They Led Who Left
- Mr. Avinash Shekhar of ZebPay
Avinash Shekhar resigned in September from his job as CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange ZebPay during a challenging year for the market. Shekhar became a CFO for ZebPay in 2017. In 2020, he received a promotion to COO; to co-CEO in April 2021; and to CEO in December 2021. His first company in the Web3 sector and the startup ecosystem was ZebPay.
Shekhar started working with ZebPay at a time when both the cryptocurrency exchange and the industry were just getting started. He contributed significantly to ZebPay’s relaunch in 2020 and to the development of the Indian team and company. According to reports, ZebPay would also hold a small equity position in Shekhar’s firm.
- Mr. Arun Sirdeshmukh of Ola Cars
In May 2022, less than a year after being hired, Ola Cars CEO Arun Sirdeshmukh left the organization. Sirdeshmukh oversaw both the company’s used automobile division and its go-to-market (GTM) strategy.
In order to allow users of the Ola app to purchase both new and used vehicles, Ola Cars were introduced in October 2021. Sirdeshmukh’s responsibilities included managing the company’s whole sales and distribution, service, marketing, customer support, and go-to-market strategy. He has more than 30 years of expertise in the consumer internet, FMCG, retail, and fashion industries.
Ola shut down Ola Cars shortly after Sirdeshmukh left in order to focus on its mobility and electric car businesses.
- Vikas Purohit of Tata CLiQ
Vikas Purohit, the CEO of the old Tata CLiQ e-commerce company, left the organization in October 2022 before it merged with Tata Neu. He left Tata CLiQ after six years of service as a CXO-level executive. In July 2018, he was promoted to the position of CEO, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Purohit assisted in creating Tata CLiQ’s company from the ground up at a time when India’s e-commerce market was already seeing rapid expansion. According to reports, Purohit has accepted an offer to lead the India operations of an MNC operating in a non-competitive industry.
- Gautam Sinha of Times Internet
Times Internet CEO Gautam Sinha resigned from his role as the company’s leader after spending 15 years working for the Times Group in one of the most well-known CEO departures this year. Several well-known business endeavors of the organization, including Gaana.com, Cricbuzz, Dineout, ETMONEY, MagicBricks, MensXP, and CouponDunia, were run and managed by Sinha.
- Manish Agarwal of Nazara Technologies
Manish Agarwal opted to leave the gaming business Nazara Technologies earlier this year after seven years as its CEO. On December 1, he resigned from his post as CEO.
In an official statement announcing Agarwal’s intention to step down, Nazara’s founder and joint managing director Nitish Mittersain said, “Manish & I have worked closely together over the last 7 years to construct a strong basis on which Nazara will continue to grow fast in the years to come.”
Agarwal will continue to be connected to the business by serving as a nominee on the boards of significant Nazara subsidiaries. According to the statement, Agarwal plans to continue his entrepreneurial endeavors after his employment with Nazara.
- Parag Agrawal of Twitter
While organizational restructuring following a merger or purchase is customary, Elon Musk’s leadership of the microblogging site Twitter resulted in significant changes. One of Elon Musk’s first moves after closing the $44 billion transaction was to fire top executives, including the company’s CEO Parag Agrawal and other CXOs.
In November 2021, Agrawal, who had worked with the business for more than ten years, was named CEO. Before switching to working with AI for Twitter timelines, Agarwal first worked on technologies linked to advertising at Twitter. According to reports, Agrawal received $42 million in remuneration, which included his annual basic salary and the expedited vesting of all equity awards.
The upcoming year of 2023 won’t likely have a significant impact on the success of the Indian startup ecosystem. Due to the difficult global financial backdrop, the startup ecosystem in India is also set to face challenges in the future year. More restructuring and attrition at the executive level in Indian startups are probably to follow from this. Additionally, mergers and acquisitions cannot be completely ruled out and may result in additional CEO and founder exits.
The journey is anticipated to be challenging for at least some founders and CEOs in the future year, while it is too early to predict whether there will be any significant exits in 2023.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma