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Snapdeal strategy head Jason Kothari formally takes over at FreeCharge

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Jason Kothari, CEO, FreeCharge

E-commerce firm Snapdeal, operated by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd, has appointed Jason Kothari as chief executive officer of its mobile recharge platform FreeCharge. Kothari will also continue his key leadership role as chief strategy and investment officer at Snapdeal, the company said in a statement.

He replaces Govind Rajan, who quit the digital wallet company a month ago for reasons unknown.

“Jason is a strong, strategic and versatile business leader and entrepreneur who has already been the CEO of two successful companies,” said Snapdeal chief executive Kunal Bahl.

Snapdeal also announced it was committing an additional investment of $20 million (Rs 131 crore) in FreeCharge.

Kothari’s appointment as FreeCharge’s CEO was not entirely unexpected. When Rajan resigned from his post last month, Snapdeal had said that Kotahri would be overseeing operations at the payments unit.

Prior to joining Snapdeal in January this year, Kothari led the turnaround of Softbank-backed online real estate company Housing. He was appointed to lead the firm in 2015, after the ouster of then CEO Rahul Yadav. After his appointment, he scaled back businesses, pruned the workforce and shut operations in many cities to keep the company afloat. Housing investors also explored its merger with a number of players, including Softbank-backed Snapdeal, before sealing the deal with PropTiger. The merged entity also raised $55 million in fresh funding from Real Estate Australia (REA) Group and SoftBank. Before that, he was CEO and vice chairman of character-based entertainment company Valiant Entertainment, where he led the successful acquisition out of bankruptcy and turnaround of the company.

The development comes at a time when Snapdeal, including FreeCharge, is struggling on many fronts. Over the past several months, FreeCharge has been in the news for its fundraising efforts. Snapdeal has been struggling to raise anywhere between $150 million and $200 million for the digital payments unit. The e-commerce firm acquired the mobile recharge platform in a $400-million stock-and-cash deal in 2015. Since the acquisition, Snapdeal has been looking to monetise its investment in FreeCharge to build a larger play in mobile commerce.

But Kothari’s past stints indicate that more than raising fresh funds for FreeCharge, the company might be looking to sell off the digital payments entity. In fact, VCCircle recently reported that Snapdeal has been working with several investment banks to sell FreeCharge at a valuation of $400-500 million.

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