Jason Kothari picked up to put the buzz back on Freecharge

Jason Kothari, the chief strategy and investment officer of Snapdeal, has taken over as the chief executive of FreeCharge, the digital payments platform owned by the online marketplace. He succeeds Govind Rajan, who had stepped down last month.

Kothari, who joined Snapdeal in January from online real estate portal Housing.com, will, however, continue as Snapdeal's chief strategy and investment officer, even as he takes up the reins at FreeCharge, which was acquired by Jasper Infotech in a cash-and-stock deal estimated at $400-450 million in 2015.

While Kothari's appointment as CEO of FreeCharge was widely anticipated, it is yet unclear how he will juggle both the key roles. Snapdeal did not separately address specific questions sent by ET, but said Kothari is expected to “make pivotal contributions to both his leadership roles“.

“Jason will make pivotal contributions to both his leadership roles, and there are also strategic overlaps in his responsibilities at Snapdeal and FreeCharge,“ the company spokesperson said.

Separately , it was also reported that SoftBank has named Kabir Misra, a managing partner at SoftBank Capital, as its representative on the Snap deal board.

Misra replaces Jonathan Bullock, who had resigned from the boards of the Japanese investor's two most prominent portfolio companies in India -Snapdeal and Ola -last month.

Hit by a combination of slowing growth, mounting losses and an inability to close the gap between it and market leaders, Flipkart and Amazon, the company has resorted to large-scale layoffs across its three major business units -Snapdeal, FreeCharge and logistics arm Vulcan Express. FreeCharge has seen layoffs of about 100 employees across the board. It has an employee strength of 350-400 across its two main offices in Bengaluru and Gurgaon.

Kothari, a Wharton School alum, will be the third CEO of the company , following Rajan and company founder Kunal Shah, who stepped down as chief executive, and assumed a non-operational role as chairman and chief mentor of FreeCharge in May last year.

His elevation comes at a time when FreeCharge's parent company , Jasper Infotech, has been on the road for almost 18 months to raise external money for its payments platform, but has found it difficult to rope in investors-strategic or financial. A combination of valuation mismatches, reluctance of the Snapdeal founders to cede control and the ongoing wariness of global investors to pump in further capital in the country's consumer-facing startups have been cited as the primary hurdles for a successful closure of any potential deal.

Snapdeal, which is backed by SoftBank, Foxconn and Alibaba Group, has also committed to invest, in phases, an additional $20 million (about Rs 133 crore) in FreeCharge, which will, according to the company statement, be used to “accelerate innovation and growth“.

The capital commitment comes on the back of a Rs 30crore fund infusion by Jasper Infotech in FreeCharge earlier this month.Prior to that, Jasper had pumped in Rs 390 crore in its digital payments unit in January.

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