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UrbanClap Co-Founder Abhiraj Bhal Gets Into Hot Water over a Broken AC

Reddit users had all the burns.

The Delhi-based startup UrbanClap—one of the many mobile marketplaces for local services like plumbers, carpenters and beauticians—ran afoul of Reddit yesterday after pissing off a customer.

In an email thread responding to customer Rakesh Verma’s complaint, UrbanClap co-founder Abhiraj Bhal—an IIT Kharagpur and IIM-Ahmedabad graduate—forgot to mark his reply to staff as a private note. “Please ignore him completely,” Bhal wrote. “No one should answer his queries.”


Screenshot of Abhiraj Bhal's response. Image: Reddit

Verma (who works for Pharmeasy, another startup) posted a screenshot of the mail to Twitter, while his friend posted it to Reddit. The complaint, dating back to early March, centred around an inadequately repaired AC. The Reddit thread racked up over 2,000 upvotes, with comments including detailed bashing of UrbanClap’s office culture. Users claiming to be former employees complained about Bhal’s boss behaviour, while others chimed in about experiences at similar startups like Paytm.

Part of a the fast-growing cohort of service-based Indian tech start-ups, UrbanClap incorporated in 2014, and has garnered investments of over $60 million. Hand-in-hand with with the healthy ambition of these companies, however, often comes great potential for public relations or human resource fails, contributing to what some believe is a ubiquitous toxic work culture.

One user claimed, “The CEO (Abhiraj Bhal) indeed shouts like a bitch at employees. I was a marketing intern there last year and witnessed him doing that quite a few times.”

A former UrbanClap employee told VICE that employees were told to ignore aggrieved customers several times. They added that Bhal can get angry—he allegedly once held a laptop above his head, threatening to throw it at a staffer who had made a mistake.

VICE called Suhail Vadgaonkar, vice president of Customer Experience, Brand and PR at UrbanClap. “We are sorting out the matter with the customer,” Vadgaonkar said. “He will come out with his statement soon.”


Verma told VICE that until the story caught social media attention, UrbanClap refused to address his complaint. He posted on Reddit last night, claiming that Bhal threatened to sue him over the phone, while also threatening to speak to his employer.

Eventually, Bhal joined the fray, posting on Reddit himself with an apology. “Was this the best UrbanClap stands for - certainly not. But I can tell you - we care for our customer deeply, and many of them will tell you that we are more than just a tech-enabled service play.”

Verma replied, saying, among other things, “Did you reply to any of my mails? NO. In fact, you threatened to sue me if I go on social media and do anything to harm your organization's reputation. You called MY CEO right after our call telling him you would sue me if I don't keep calm. Was it a right thing to do as a CEO just because i was consistently asking for help?”

Bhal refused to comment on the story, but eventually "spoke to the customer,” Vadgaonkar said. Verma confirmed the apology, and said that his AC problem was taken care of today, after 65 days.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mentioned that Verma worked at OYO Rooms, his previous employer, as per his un-updated Twitter bio. Follow Parthshri Arora on