‘Your name is on a list’: Times Internet lays off 120 employees in 3 days

Employees allege even vertical heads weren’t consulted before the layoffs took place from Wednesday.

WrittenBy:Sumedha Mittal
Date:
A hand holds a pink slip with the Times Internet logo in the background.
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Times Internet Limited laid off over 120 employees in the past three days, at least five senior executives confirmed to Newslaundry. TIL is the digital division of the Times Group, housing verticals like iDiva, MensXP and Cricbuzz.

All the employees were given three-month severance packages starting from the date they were laid off. Their email addresses were immediately terminated.

This is the second round of layoffs at TIL after 100 employees lost their jobs in August. At the time, TIL issued a statement promising it was a “one-time exercise”. Four senior executives and an employee at TIL confirmed to Newslaundry that’s what they had been told too.

Which is why employees did not see this round coming.

“No one was aware and everyone was taken by deep surprise,” a senior executive said. Another said, “They did not even inform the vertical heads. The layoffs have been done in a secret and discreet manner by calling people one by one over the phone.”

It started on Wednesday, December 13, with the firing of five employees from the ET Spotlight team – an arm of the Economic Times website that creates customised content for brands. They were told their unit is “unprofitable”.

An ET Spotlight employee said it was “shocking” because “nobody was taken into consideration”. 

They said: “In the morning, the employees had just walked into the office and they were told, ‘Your unit has performed badly and is not profitable. Therefore, we have to rationalise the numbers and unfortunately your name is on the list.’” 

Two other employees on the team confirmed this is what happened. One of them added, “How is it possible that even the vertical heads were not taken into consideration?” A senior executive on the team said, “It’s going to be such a mess. Because so many projects are pending, we don’t know how they will be executed.”

The other cuts at TIL took place across segments and verticals, including editorial, product, design and sales. Newslaundry could not clarify how many employees were laid off from each.

Triggered by a ‘split’

A TIL spokesperson told Newslaundry the restructuring and layoffs “are to remove internal duplications”.

“It is a part of the division process. Because on the record the division has taken place, now it is being divided on the ground,” they said.

This “division” lies at the heart of the current conflict at the Times Group. Six months ago, brothers Vineet and Samir Jain reached an agreement to divide the company’s assets. Samir got the group’s print business (which generates major revenue) and its online titles. Vineet, the younger brother, took over broadcast and radio with a cash payout of Rs 3,000 crore.

The Times Group has never commented on the split. Senior executives now theorise the layoffs are a result of the division of assets, heading towards an “integration” of products that will play out in the next “three months”. 

Two of them suggested that verticals like ET Prime and TOI Plus – which currently operate under TIL – will be integrated with BCCL. “All such products where senior journalists produce original content will be with BCCL,” an executive said.

As per another executive, “Integration of two products might shield some of the employees for the time being. But after a point, there will be reporters who will be covering similar beats so they will rationalise later.”

While the layoffs were a “shock”, not everyone was caught off guard.

In October, TIL conducted a mid-term review of employees, followed by a town hall with Satyan Gajwani, vice-chairman of TIL. He’s also Samir Jain’s son-in-law. According to two senior executives who attended the town hall: “Mr Gajwani said that TIL was dependent on the main parent company for revenues. But now it is time for it to stand on its feet.”

An employee in attendance said Gajwani described TIL as being in an “existential crisis”. 

Now, with 120 of them gone, TIL employees are “operating in deep fear and deep uncertainty”, according to a staffer. “Most people are looking for opportunities outside,” they said.

All the employees that Newslaundry spoke to said they expect “multiple” rounds of layoffs to follow until the staff size is “reduced to half”. “Management has not clearly told anyone if it will stop,” said one of them. “But they told me everyone needs to ‘decipher and decide’ for themselves if this is the place they want to be.”

However, as in August, a TIL spokesperson told Newslaundry this is the “final round” and no further layoffs will take place.

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