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The AOL India story: 90% staff fired!

Last updated on: March 16, 2011 14:59 IST

The AOL India story: 90% staff fired!

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru


From 1,000 employees a year ago to barely a 100 now: that is the gut-wrenching story of the Indian operations of online media major AOL.

A pall of gloom has descended upon the AOL office in Bengaluru as the almost 90 per cent of the employees have laid off in one fell swoop.

Mass lay-offs, economic recession, lack of newer jobs to accommodate fired personnel and the resultant pain and trauma have been commonplace in the United States and Europe in the last couple of years. But India, which has to some extent been insulated from such shocks, too suddenly seems to witnessing the horrors of a capitalist system gone wrong.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Or at least the AOL employees in India have been exposed to these harsh realities.

At a recent town hall meeting, AOL India head Kumar Talluri and some officials from the company's United States offices, informed the Bengaluru staff that around 500 employees would be laid off, including the entire management team.

Rediff.com spoke to a few of the laid-off and former employees to get a sense of what is happening.

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Photographs: Reuters
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These employees, who did not want to be named, said that this has come as a major setback to them despite the fact that they did 'see this coming'.

A former employee said that he had foreseen that such a nightmare would visit the AOL India operations and had fortuitously changed his job almost a year ago.

Of the lot that was fired, the first to bear the brunt of the axe were those who had been appointed on a contract.

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Photographs: Reuters
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"Last year itself we were being told that our contracts might not be renewed. That is when we realised that there was something wrong. On many occasions we asked our bosses about what the real situation was but they themselves did not know exactly as to what was happening. Our discussions always revolved around this and we realised that we needed to be prepared for the worst as AOL does have a history of laying off its staff," said one of the employees.

The news regarding the lay-offs at AOL India have been doing the rounds for quite a while, but it was only this week that it was made official with most of the fired employees getting their pink slips.

Another employee said: "I got my letter two days back. I am yet to look out for another job. Our higher ups were not being very clear about anything since the last four months. There was a buzz in the office regarding this and we just hoped that it was a bad phase and it would pass. This is quite shocking, but I am not alone. There are a hundred others who are in a similar situation."

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"There have been some reports that companies such as HP and MindTree might absorb some of the laid off AOL employees. But that is true only for those working on the technical side," said an employee.

"The editorial employees do not have any such assurance. We have to start looking out now and hope that we are able to find something. Most of my friends had already started looking out. Some have been lucky enough to land themselves a job, but many of us are still struggling," he said.

"However our company has been kind enough to offer us a good severance package. Regular employees have been given salaries for four months and we have been told to leave by April," he added.

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Said Jatin (name changed): "We have been finding it hard to get jobs. The market knows the situation and in many cases prospective employers have tried to run us down in terms of salaries as they know we are desperate. Fortunately, the silver lining is that we have four months of salary as per our severance package and we do have some time on hand to look out for a better opportunity."

"The letter which was sent to us was quite vague. I wish they had been more honest. It just says that there has been a strategy change and we do not fit into their new plans. This is in the case of the regular employees. The ones who were on contract were told almost a year back that their contracts would not be renewed. We should have sensed what was going on at that time and started to look out," added Jatin.

Another employee, Amar (name changed), said: "I was quite lucky. The moment I realised that there was something wrong in here, I put out my resume and looked out. My job offer has just come and I should thank God for this. I was to get married next month and there was no way I could have gone about it if I did not have a job. You know the commitments involved when gets married. I had taken a couple of loans and the pressure on me was very high. I only hope all my friends in AOL are as lucky as me."


Photographs: Reuters
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