Nikesh Arora, vice chairman of SoftBank Corporation and CEO of SoftBank Internet & Media Inc (SIMI)—the newly created internet investment arm of the Japanese firm—has resigned from the board of all three investee companies in India—Snapdeal, Housing.com and Ola, sources said.
Arora, who quit as Google’s chief business officer and senior vice president last July to join SoftBank, has led a slew of big deals in Indian internet space. The firm put in $627 million in Snapdeal.
Although other existing investors put in more in Snapdeal at the same time, SoftBank’s commitment is believed to be the biggest funding round by a single investor at one go in an Indian tech firm to date.
Flipkart did raise a larger $1 billion round last year but that transaction included several large investors.
SoftBank followed it up by leading a $210 million funding round in cab aggregator Ola and also led a $90 million round in property listing portal Housing.com. It is also learnt to have put in around $90 million more in Ola to maintain its near 26 per cent stake in Ola.
The reason for his resignation from the boards of the three firms could not be immediately ascertained.
Arora has not given any reason in his resignation letters to the three firms.
As first reported by VCCircle, Times Group had sent a legal notice to CEO of one of SoftBank’s portfolio firms Housing.com last month over defamation. The notice also made all directors of the firm including Arora a party to the legal notice.
His resignation also sends mixed signals over SoftBank’s investment outlook for India. SoftBank’s CEO Masayoshi Son had committed as much as $10 billion investment in India over the next decade, much of which was expected to flow in to the booming internet sector. Several investors have questioned the pace of investment activity and the surge in valuations in the sector.
“I don’t think they (SoftBank) will be as aggressive as they were when they started off,” said a senior industry source.
Spokespersons of SoftBank, Housing.com and Ola did not respond to mails.
Snapdeal spokesperson played it down as “just an administrative change”: “Nikesh has been a big supporter of Snapdeal and continues to be deeply engaged with the business as a mentor,” the spokesperson said.
It is not clear when he quit the Snapdeal board and one of the sources cited above said Arora’s departure from Ola board was communicated to the top management of the cabs aggregator just a few days ago.
Arora had apparently sent in his resignation to the Housing.com board 40-45 days ago. However, he is to attend a scheduled board meeting of the Mumbai-based firm next week, it is learnt. It is not clear if he will attend the meeting in person or through a video call. Arora’s resignation would be effective post that meeting, sources said.
According to a report in The Economic Times which first reported about Arora’s resignation, Jonathan Bullock will be SoftBank representative on Housing.com’s board.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)