Exclusive: Emails accessed, employees bear brunt of AskeMe problems with investor Astro, MD Sanjiv Gupta resigns from board

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New Delhi | Updated: Aug 21, 2016 12:48 PM

AskMe Group, which has shut shop temporarily, squarely blamed its major investor Astro for its precarious financial situation.

askmebazaar, askmebazaar closed, askmebazaar shuts down, askmebazaar newsSeparately, sources told FE Online that AskMe’s employees have circulated a message among themselves for a candlelight session at Sanjiv Gupta’s residence to demand their salaries.

In yet another instance of employees getting the short shrift at the first hint of trouble, AskMe Group, which has shut shop temporarily, squarely blamed its major investor Astro for its precarious financial situation & cited that as the prime reason for non-payment of salaries to staff. This is not the first time that the group is in the news for non-payment of dues to both its staff and suppliers.

Financial Express online has exclusively accessed internal emails of AskMe, in which the company has slammed Astro Overseas Limited (AOL), the principal shareholder of Getit Infoservices for breaching “its written promise & commitment of funding the company of its latest tranche by July 31st 2016.” A WhatsApp message circulated in the organisation also has Managing Director Sanjiv Gupta, AskMe group, telling employees that he has quit the board to take his fight ahead as a shareholder. FE Online, however, could not verify this WhatsApp message.

The internal email sent from what seems to be the official salary account ID, mentions that AOL “breached its promise of sending USD 5 million by 5th August 2016.” The email further adds that “due to this shocking, unethical & unprofessional behaviour from AOL, we are unable to immediately pay your salaries.” It says that all efforts are being made to push AOL to clear dues and honour its commitment. Askme Group runs an online commerce business, the most famous of which is Askmebazaar.com. In addition to Askmebazaar, the Askme Group also runs businesses in verticals such as payments (AskmePay), furniture (Mebelkart) and grocery (Askme Grocery).

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Meanwhile, in an email by Anand Sonbhadra, sent to select few people, the Group CFO of Getit Infoservices urges them to “ensure prevention of any further liabilities”, given the financial situation. In the email, an exclusive image of which is given below, the CFO asks for all transaction and payment options to be disabled on the company’s websites. He also asks all offices and hubs to be shut temporarily. “…non-payment of salaries to delivery boys and lower staff may cause them to take inappropriate actions…we need to prevent any untoward incident…,” he adds.

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Separately, sources told FE Online that AskMe’s employees have circulated a message among themselves for a candlelight session at Sanjiv Gupta’s residence to demand their salaries. The session will be held on August 28 at 11:00 AM. “We worked for Sanjiv not Astro” is the message that is doing the rounds.

Reports suggest that a deal with new investors is likely sometime next week, after which operations are expected to resume. A statement by the Askme Group said, “Astro which owns 99% of Askme through various shell companies is trying to flee the country without paying employees and vendors and statutory authorities in Askme and other companies. They are already charge sheeted for fraud and arm twisting by CBI and ED in the 2G case.” It goes on to allege, “They have been harassing and intimidating and threatening top employees to aid in their illegal acts which they have resisted and resigned.” According to AskMe group, its employees have already given an MBO (Management buyout) offer to save the company and other options. However, Astro is trying to block and place totally unreasonable demands from the management and their new backers, claims AskMe. It has urged Indian authorities to ask Astro to pay dues as per written commitments and let the MBO happen for the future of the company.

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