Moneycontrol
Mar 14, 2017 10:59 AM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Snapdeal founders soothe anxious employees with townhalls

At a long awaited townhall on Wednesday, the remaining Snapdeal employees waited with bated breath on the status of their jobs even as the concluding retrenchment exercise has impacted over 2000 staffers.

Snapdeal founders soothe anxious employees with townhalls

Priyanka Sahay

Moneycontrol News

The time was 3:30 pm. The venue:  Centre B - one of the swanky towers of Snapdeal's corporate office in Gurgaon.

At a long awaited townhall on Wednesday, the remaining Snapdeal employees waited with bated breath on the status of their jobs even as the concluding retrenchment exercise has impacted over 2000 staffers.

About 300-400 employees waited as Snapdeal's co-founders -- Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, entered.

The founders were working remotely for a few days and conducting meetings out of Delhi's hotels to avoid confrontation with staff who were being retrenched.

The duo stood along with multiple business heads - Jayant Sood, chief customer experience officer, Vishal Chaddha, senior vice president, market development and Mayank Jain, head of growth, among others, employees present at the townhall told Moneycontrol.

It was the first townhall after one of the largest retrenchment exercises ever taken in Indian e-commerce concluded.

Bahl took the lead and spoke first. The context of the speech was whether the retrenchment was necessary and the way foreword for Snapdeal -- a plan for the next 24 months.

"The company has decided to focus on a targeted set of customers instead of being a platform for one and all," said an employee who was present at the townhall meeting.

"The categories which were run on less or no margin will be under scanner. Either we will figure out how to make it economical or else won't run it now," the employee added.

Both the founders took around an hour to address the employees.

The rest one hour was spent in responding to the questions of the employees -- some serious, some not so much.

Everyone had a quick laugh and broke ice when an employee quipped that he was concerned about the employers not taking their salaries, and asking by when will they start doing that.

Will there be further lay offs? Asked another concerned employee.

Bahl took up the question and answered - 'No'.

"Most of the questions were directly addressed by Bahl on a macro level and Bansal added his perspective. The team heads picked up questions as they were very specific to the departments," said another employee who was present on the occasion.

Vacating buildings, consolidating offices

The Wednesday town hall was for the business team. Thursday's townhall saw people from the technology department.

The teams have also been asked to shift to Centre A, as the company plans to vacate Centre B, in its efforts to cut costs, especially when the team sizes have shrunk massively, said the employee quoted above.

However he wasn't aware if the company planned to rent the space to someone else.

According him, Bahl told the employees that the company was at its best net margins ever and was "almost" operationally profitable.

The target is to achieve profitability in the next 20-24 months.

While the retrenchment exercise has completed, the same is yet to happen at the payments unit Freecharge.

More exits at top at Snapdeal

Meanwhile senior executives at Snapdeal including vice president of engineering Amitava Ghosh,  head of mergers and acquisitions Abhishek Kumar and head of partnerships and strategic investments Tony Navin, have either exited or put in their papers.

This follows the mass layoffs even as the company has given three months salary to those whose positions have been axed.

Even as the company continues to be in conversation with the existing investor Softbank for a round of funding, there are reports hinting at a possible merger of the company with payments and e-commerce firm Paytm which is now expanding its e-commerce platform.

Alibaba is a common investor on both Snapdeal and Paytm.

Industry experts are calling it a much needed course correction which will change the narrative of the entire e-commerce industry in India, from now on.

"The current situation is a wakeup call for every internet company which was growing primarily by money in the bank from investors..  We will soon see “money in the bank” not being the primary criteria on whether an internet business is stable or doing well," said Sreedhar Prasad, partner, e-commerce, KPMG in India.

priyanka.sahay@nw18.com
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