While the doom and gloom of the funding winter left many employees jobless, top leadership at these startups, too, couldn’t escape its dread
As a result, over 30 Indian startup founders and CEOs took the golden parachute, transitioned to other companies and started new ventures during the year
As 2023 is about to conclude soon, let’s take you through key leadership changes that made headlines during the year
After a frantic 2022, the year so far has been no consolation. The extended funding winter, macroeconomic pressures, tightening business margins, and absurd unit economics posed several challenges for Indian startups during the year, triggering all-scale business restructuring and retrenchment, and even shutdowns.
Further, while the doom and gloom of the funding winter left many employees jobless, top leadership at these startups, too, couldn’t escape its dread.
As a result, the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem saw over 30 cofounders and chief executive officers taking the golden parachute, transitioning to other companies, starting new ventures and even assuming new roles within their existing ventures.
Pertinent to mention that this trend started in 2021 when entrepreneurs such as Abhinay Choudhari and Anant Goel left BigBasket and Milkbasket, respectively, after the companies underwent a significant shift.
In a similar vein, Ola cofounder Ankit Bhati also left the ride-hailing startup to pursue his own SaaS venture Amnic in 2021. This trend continued well into 2022, plaguing many such as BharatPe and Zilingo.
Some notable exits include those at ShareChat, ZestMoney, Teachmint, DealShare and Chingari, among others. While some were asked to leave amid governance issues at their respective startups, others stepped down to start afresh.
Meanwhile, many second-time founders were also seen embarking on yet another adventure, a trend that fuelled the creation of new startups this year.
As 2023 is about to conclude soon, let’s take you through key leadership changes that made headlines during the year. With that said, here are the Indian startup founders and CEOs who stepped down this year.
Note: We have segregated founders and CEOs under different heads. The list has been compiled alphabetically.
Founders Who Left Their Ventures
B2B Fintech Startup CARD91 Cofounder Quit
Kush Srivastava bid adieu to Bengaluru-based B2B fintech startup CARD91 in March this year. Srivastava, who oversaw payments infrastructure, left for personal reasons.
As of March 31, 2022, Srivastava held a 31.58% stake in CARD91, with fellow cofounders Ajay Pandey and Vineet Saxena owning 31.58% each. As of now, the company continues to grow under the leadership of Pandey and Saxena.
Founded in 2020, CARD91 offers a plug-and-play payment issuance infrastructure that helps businesses and banks launch co-branded cards. The startup counts Infinity Ventures, Point72 Ventures, Sabre Partners, Blume Founders Fund, and Inflection Point Ventures among its investors.
Short Video Startup Chingari’s Kothari Showed Himself Out
Without disclosing his plans, Kothari had said he was open to meeting startup founders in the capacity of an investor or an advisor to discuss ideas and possible tie-ups.
“Life update: Chingari is about to become my old flame… The tiny sparks that flew a few years ago have now turned into a formidable blaze of 170 Mn+ users, and the time has come for me to hand over my torch,” Kothari said in an X thread.
Kothari, a serial entrepreneur and former business lead at Bounce, cofounded Chingari in 2018, amid the rise of short-video platforms, following the TikTok ban.
Chingari is an on-chain social app that allows users to post, browse and share video content. Earlier this year, Chingari raised an undisclosed amount of equity funding from Aptos Labs.
DailyRounds, Marrow Cofounder Quits After 8 Years
In March, Deepu Sebin, cofounder of the healthcare-focussed edtech platform DailyRounds, resigned from the company and its NEET PG test preparation vertical, Marrow.
Sebin, who dedicated eight years to the company, served as the CEO since its inception until April 2022.
Upon Sebin’s departure, Vineet Bagri, who had been collaborating closely with him for over three years, was appointed as the new CEO of the edtech platform.
DealShare Cofounders Stepped Down Amid Restructuring Efforts
The cofounders of DealShare, Vineet Rao and Sankar Bora, stepped down following multiple rounds of layoffs and business restructuring.
In July, Rao stepped down from his role as the chief executive and was initially anticipated to work with the board to fetch a new CEO. However, he left the company abruptly. Bora, the chief operating officer, also left the company.
Despite the departure of its cofounder, DealShare has been actively making key appointments in recent months. Meanwhile, the startup slashed approximately 6% of its workforce (around 100 individuals) to attain profitability.
Established in September 2018 by Sourjyendu Medda, Vineet Rao, Sankar Bora and Rajat Shikhar, DealShare operates as a social ecommerce marketplace, catering to first-time internet users.
Dineout Cofounder Vivek Kapoor Quits Dineout
Dineout cofounder Vivek Kapoor left Swiggy to join Delhi-based healthcare financing startup AyushPay as its cofounder and chief business officer. Kapoor became part of Swiggy’s leadership team after Dineout’s acquisition by Times Internet last year at a valuation of $150 Mn-$200 Mn.
Announcing his exit in a LinkedIn post, Kapoor said, “While bidding farewell to Dineout on paper, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has been a part of this incredible journey. We achieved great things at Dineout and it would be pretty naive of me to try and hog the credit for Dineout’s achievements.”
Kappor also expressed his desire to make a meaningful contribution to the Indian healthtech sector. He shared that he was AyushPay’s angel investor for a considerable period and had actively mentored the AyushPay team.
Besides Kapoor, Dineout’s other cofounders – Ankit Mehrotra, Nikhil Bakshi, and Sahil Jain – also joined Swiggy’s leadership team after the foodtech giant acquired the dining and online restaurant booking platform to take on Zomato.
Dunzo Cofounders Leave Amid Business Rejig
Suri, who served as a cofounder for six years, played a pivotal role in Dunzo’s B2B delivery arm, Dunzo Merchant Services (DMS). His departure coincides with challenges such as delayed salaries and fundraising issues.
Established in 2014 in Bengaluru by Kabeer Biswas, Ankur Agarwal, Dalvir Suri, and Mukund Jha, Dunzo experienced a significant change on October 2, 2023, with Suri’s departure. Later, Jha, too, revealed his decision to leave the company.
Freshworks CTO Shanmugam Krishnasamy Bid Farewell
After dedicating more than 11 years towards building Freshworks’ products and technology, the SaaS giant witnessed the departure of cofounder and chief technology officer (CTO) Shanmugam Krishnasamy in March.
The reports of Krishnasamy’s exit came when the SaaS unicorn was bogged down in multiple challenges, ranging from mounting losses to legal troubles.
The company’s CY22 annual loss stood at $232.13 Mn, up from $204.8 Mn in CY21. Despite nearing the $500 Mn revenue mark, Freshworks laid off approximately 90 employees in December last year.
GoMechanic Cofounders Took An Exit After Allegations Of Fraud
GoMechanic cofounders Rishabh Karwa, Kushal Karwa, and Nitin Rana stepped down from their roles at the automotive service platform after admitting to financial misreporting.
In January this year, GoMechanic cofounder Amit Bhasin, who continues to be associated with the startup as per his LinkedIn profile, admitted to committing “errors in judgement” in regard to financial reporting while trying to pursue growth.
The admission triggered a forensic audit and business restructuring, which resulted in a consortium led by Lifelong Group acquiring GoMechanic in a fire sale.
While GoMechanic went on to raise $6 Mn in a strategic funding round earlier this month, the startup’s cofounders are the subject of a probe by the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing due to a complaint of alleged fraud and cheating filed by its investors Orios Venture Partners, Peak XV Partners (Sequoia Capital), and Chiratae Ventures.
Amid all this, Rishabh Karwa and Rana are working on two separate and unnamed startups. Rana’s new startup is focused on “Building Travel & Hospitality Product for Indian Subcontinent and World”, according to his LinkedIn profile, while details about Rishabh’s latest venture remain undisclosed.
Polygon’s Cofounder Resigned To Pursue New Opportunities
Polygon cofounder Jaynti Kanani resigned from his position at the blockchain scaling platform in October this year.
“After kickstarting Polygon in 2017, around six months back, I decided to step back from the day-to-day grind,” Kanani posted on X (formerly Twitter).
As per his LinkedIn profile, he served as the cofounder of Polygon until March 2023. His LinkedIn now lists him as the CEO of two new startups — Morphic, a generative AI-based venture, and Mozak, a web3 platform.
Kanani, along with Sandeep Nailwal and Anurag Arjun, founded Matic Network in 2017, which later evolved into Polygon.
After Polygon’s $450 Mn funding round, Kanani became one of the country’s first crypto billionaires. His departure coincided with Polygon laying off 20% of its workforce in February, as the crypto winter wreaked havoc.
Bidding farewell to the company, Kanani mentioned his intention to focus on new adventures while continuing to support the blockchain startup from the sidelines.
Google-Backed ShareChat Cofounders Called It Quits
The founders of Google and Twitter-backed ShareChat, Bhanu Pratap Singh and Farid Ahsan, stepped down in January. However, both continued to remain on the company’s board.
“After nearly eight years of building ShareChat to unicorn status, Bhanu and Farid have chosen to step down from their active roles in the company. ShareChat would not be the company it is, without their contributions,” a ShareChat spokesperson had stated in an internal email at the time.
The cofounders’ exit coincided with ShareChat’s parent firm, Mohalla Tech, laying off 20% of its workforce or 500 individuals earlier in the year.
Founded in 2015 by three IIT Kanpur alumni – Sachdeva, Singh, and Ahsan – ShareChat emerged as an early player in regional language content.
Post the TikTok ban, the platform introduced Moj in June 2020, achieving significant growth alongside DailyHunt’s Josh.
Slash Founder Laman Ansari Moved On
Slash founder Laman Ansari left the fintech startup in April. He is currently working at UK-based Anthropic.
Former BharatPe cofounder Bhavik Koladiya’s venture capital firm, Finix Partners, subsequently acquired Slash. All stakeholders, including founders and investors, exited the startup, while Finix Partners retained key assets, including IP and trademark. The entire workforce of Slash either left or was let go.
The Slash App is undergoing a revamp and is set to be relaunched soon for new users. Originally owned by Greenbacks Technologies and founded by Ansari and Rahul Mahajan, Slash received backing from Elevation Capital, Tanmay Bhat, and others. The startup offers payment solutions to social ecommerce merchants, facilitating a platform-agnostic and integrated approach for small brands and online creators to monetise their products, skills and services.
Teachmint’s Anshuman Kumar Steps Down To Start Up Again
The edtech’s cofounder and CTO Anshuman Kumar announced his departure in April to focus on his new venture, Duolop, a relationship management app for couples.
In a LinkedIn post on April 7, Kumar shared, “I am stepping into a new role as the founder of Duolop, a dynamic and innovative Indian app revolutionising how couples connect and grow together.”
At the time, Kumar told Inc42 that he left Teachmint because he was looking to build a platform, which was more technically aligned with my vision.
Founded in 2020 by Kumar, along with Mihir Gupta, Payoj Jain and Divyansh Bordia, Teachmint helps teachers and schools digitise their classrooms. The startup is backed by marquee investors such as Lightspeed India, Rocketship.vc and Better Capital.
Kumar exited Teachmint when the edtech startup was grappling with significant losses. The startup also discontinued its course-selling platform, Teachmore, which it acquired in 2021.
Teachmint was initially an app that helped tutors digitise classrooms, however, later the startup transitioned to digitalising schools with its software.
In November 2022, Teachmint laid off 45 employees or around 5% of its workforce. The startup’s FY22 net loss stood at INR 131.70 Cr, up from INR 5.52 Cr in FY21, against operating revenues of just INR 77.45 Lakh.
Founder Of Drone Maker TAS Resigned
Nagendran Kandasamy, the founder of Bengaluru-based drone maker Throttle Aerospace Systems (TAS), stepped down as the CEO, along with the entire leadership team, including COO Nischitha, CFO Girish Reddy and CTO Shashi Kumar R in July, citing financial struggles and interference in decision-making.
They continued to be the shareholders, collectively holding a 40% equity stake in the company. The first DGCA-approved Indian drone maker, TAS, encountered challenges after RattanIndia Enterprises acquired a 60% stake in May 2022.
Management’s decision to terminate CFO Girish Reddy triggered the leadership team to resign. Sharath Chandra Gudlavalleti, the head of NeoSky, was anticipated to assume a leadership role at TAS.
ZestMoney Cofounders Bid Adieu After Startup Acquisition Bid Falters
The fintech startup faced significant changes after its cofounders, Lizzie Chapman, Priya Sharma and Ashish Anantharaman, resigned in May this year.
“Over the last few weeks, we have done a lot of thinking and it has been hard for us to arrive at this conclusion. We have decided to step down from our roles as CEO (Chapman), CFO and COO (Sharma), and CTO (Anantharaman) at ZestMoney,” Chapman had stated in an internal mail to employees.
A day after all cofounders of ZestMoney stepped down, a new leadership took over the reins of the Bengaluru-based digital lending startup.
This was followed by the failure of an acquisition bid by PhonePe a couple of months prior. Notably, PhonePe was planning to acquire ZestMoney for $200 Mn to $300 Mn but abandoned the plans due to concerns about the quality of ZestMoney’s loan book.
Founded in 2015, ZestMoney offers buy now, pay later (BNPL) services, enabling users to settle shopping bills in three interest-free instalments. Following the unsuccessful acquisition attempt by PhonePe, reports suggested that ZestMoney would shift its focus to lending.
Zomato’s Cofounder & CTO Stepped Down
In January, the foodtech giant announced that its cofounder and chief technology officer (CTO), Gunjan Patidar, resigned from the company. The unicorn added that Patidar was no longer a key managerial personnel.
As one of Zomato’s initial employees, Patidar played a pivotal role in crafting the company’s fundamental tech systems during his decade-plus tenure.
Originally from Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone, Patidar graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. After interning with Zomato during college, he joined the US-based event management company Cvent. Later, he joined Zomato in a full-time role, progressing to become the CTO. His association with Zomato began in December 2008.
Following his resignation from Zomato, Patidar joined the advisory board of PubLive, a platform dedicated to empowering publishers in the digital landscape.
Zomato experienced four top-level exits between November 7, 2022 and January 2, 2023. In response, CEO Deepinder Goyal said that several senior leaders have had multiple stints at the company, often aligning with shifts in the company’s context or changes in their roles.
CEOs Who Left The Ventures They Led
Mrinal Mohit Jumped Off BYJU’S Ship
BYJU’S India CEO Mrinal Mohit, who was associated with the edtech giant since 2015, exited the company in September.
The development came at a time when BYJU’S was in the news for all the wrong reasons, ranging from delay in filing financial statements and resignations of auditor and board members to a potential debt crisis.
In a statement, BYJU’S said Mohit quit to pursue his personal aspirations. “Mrinal’s contributions have left an indelible mark on our organisation, and we bid him a bittersweet farewell. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together,” BYJU’S founder and CEO Byju Raveendran said.
Meanwhile, the edtech company appointed former upGrad India CEO Arjun Mohan, who is in his second stint with BYJU’s, as the successor to Mohit.
CEO Of Flipkart Health+ Tendered Resignation
Having dedicated a little over a year to Flipkart Health+, Prashant Jhaveri tendered his resignation as the CEO. Kanchan Mishra, an internal candidate at Flipkart, replaced Jhaveri and assumed the role of CBO of Flipkart Health+.
Jhaveri was appointed as the CEO of Flipkart Health+ in March 2022. Before this, he was the CEO of Apollo Health and Lifestyle Limited and MediBuddy.
Flipkart entered the e-pharmacy segment through an acquisition in November 2021, securing a 75.1% stake in Kolkata-based healthtech startup SastaSundar. Following the acquisition, SastaSundar was rebranded as Flipkart Health+.
Axis Bank-Owned Payments Startup Freecharge’s MD & CEO Bid Adieu
Siddharth Mehta, the former MD and CEO of Axis Bank-owned payments startup Freecharge, departed from the company to embark on his entrepreneurial venture.
Mehta served as the MD of the payments wallet startup from August 20, 2019, to August 19, 2023. His tenure at Freecharge began in July 2018 when he joined as chief business officer after almost three years with Axis Bank. Mehta left Freecharge in February 2023 after nearly four years with the company.
Mehta is currently the cofounder of fintech startup Kiwi, which provides credit offerings on UPI. Last month, the startup raised $13 Mn in a Series A funding round led by Omidyar Network India.
Meanwhile, Freecharge, founded in 2010, offers mobile recharge, bill payments, investment, and lending services. It was acquired by Snapdeal in 2015 for around $400-$500 Mn. In 2021, Axis Bank acquired Freecharge for just $60 Mn in an all-cash deal.
CEO Of MobiKwik’s Zaakpay Moved On For Greener Pastures
Mukul Saxena resigned as the CEO of MobiKwik’s financial services and Zaakpay units this year after joining the company in May 2022 to take on the role of Chief Business Officer (CBO) at Tata Digital.
As per Saxena’s LinkedIn profile, he is responsible for overseeing product development, profit and loss management, and new initiatives in the fintech sector at Tata Digital.
His appointment came after Tata Digital conducted a large-scale reshuffle of its leadership team earlier this year to compete with Reliance Retail on all fronts.
Saxena has held key positions at IndusInd Bank and HSBC Saudi Arabia.
Nodwin Gaming CEO Stepped Down After 4 Years
To pursue new challenges aligned with his career goals, Siddharth Kedia quit as the CEO of the gaming and esports arm of Nazara Technologies, Nodwin Gaming, after a four-year stint. Nodwin’s co-CEO, Gautam Singh Virk, assumed the operational role left by Kedia.
Chirag Shah, who had been the head of the telecom business at Nazara Technologies for over 16 years, also left to explore new opportunities.
Kedia took over as the CEO of NODWIN Gaming in November 2019. Before joining the gaming giant, he was the chief strategy officer at Viacom18.
Before that, he cofounded the private equity (PE) firm, Ambit Pragma Ventures, in 2007.
Founded in 2014 by Akshat Rathee and Gautam Virk, Nodwin Gaming is an esports company that owns a slew of gaming and sports entertainment intellectual properties (IPs) and offers sports-related products and services to customers. Nazara acquired a majority stake in the esports company in 2018.
The CEO of Amazon-Owned One Medical Resigned
Amir Dan Rubin, the CEO of primary care provider One Medical, which Amazon acquired in July 2022, is all set to leave the company after serving as its CEO for more than six years.
“I want to share with you all that after six-plus years as CEO of One Medical, helping guide the organisation to new levels of impact, Amir Dan Rubin has decided to leave One Medical later this year,” Neil Lindsay, who leads Amazon Health Services, wrote in an internal memo.
One Medical is a membership-based primary care practice aiming to make quality healthcare more affordable and accessible.
upGrad CEO Arjun Mohan Resigns
Arjun Mohan, the former CEO of Ronnie Screwvala-led edtech major upGrad, announced his exit in January in a LinkedIn post.
The departure came when edtech startups in the country were laying off heavily amid a funding crunch and widening losses.
“I started my journey in the education sector in the year 2008 and believe there is a lot to be done to solve the persistent problems of access, affordability and quality. So, I am in the exploration phase of what I can do in education next,” Mohan announced on social media at the time.
Before joining upGrad, Mohan served BYJU’S for over 11 years until 2020.
Founded in 2015 by Screwvala, Mayank Kumar, Phalgun Kompalli and Ravijot Chugh, upGrad is backed by the likes of Temasek, Murdoch’s Lupa Systems, International Finance Corporation, IIFL, among other major names.
BYJU’S-Owned WhiteHat Jr CEO Put Down Papers
Ananya Tripathi, the CEO of WhiteHat Jr owned by BYJU’S, submitted her resignation in August, marking another senior-level exit at the edtech giant.
Tripathi was on maternity leave and decided to resign, as per media reports. The edtech has not officially acknowledged her resignation.
Tripathi took on the role at WhiteHat Jr in April 2022. Before joining WhiteHat Jr, she was the managing director at KKR Capstone. Tripathi also held the position of chief strategy officer at Myntra for almost four years.
WhiteHat Jr was acquired by BYJU’S, which is currently fighting on multiple fronts, in 2020 for $300 Mn. Founder Karan Bajaj departed from WhiteHat Jr in August 2021.
Note: We have segregated founders and CEOs under different heads. The list has been compiled alphabetically.