Months after e-commerce and teleshopping company HomeShop18 was sold to SkyBlue Buildwell, there is no respite in sight for vendors of the online portal who are owed nearly Rs 200 crore in dues. Not receiving any response from SkyBlue over their dues, the vendors have been sitting in front of Network18’s Noida office for the past eight days in protest.
On September 27, a group of 20 vendors held a press conference where they claimed that the company owed over 200 vendors dues amounting up to around Rs 200 crore.
Vendors have been protesting over pending dues since June, but in vain. They say that while the current CEO of SkyBlue, Hardik Shah, has not been adhering to his promises of paying back their dues, Network18 claims no responsibility for their dues since it has now sold the company.
“After we held the press conference, Hardik Shah emailed me saying he is in the process of arranging funds as they are looking for an investor. When they had money to buy the company, how do they not have any money to pay investors? From what we have heard, they have already sold all assets of HomeShop18 and have no plans to revive it. Then why did they even buy it,” asks Himanshu Khattar, a vendor who used to manufacture and supply cosmetics to HomeShop18.
In an email exchange between Hardik and Himanshu dated October 10, viewed by TNM, Hardik claims that the company is facing a financial crunch and is hence finding it difficult to manage operations, while assuring that pending dues will be cleared.
Himanshu is the owner of a cosmetics company called S.S. Cosmetics and claims that he is owed Rs 2 crore in dues. This amount, he owes to his suppliers, who have now stopped delivering raw materials to him because he hasn’t been able to pay them.
Rajesh Rastogi is another vendor based out of Surat, who used to supply sarees to HomeShop18. He claims that he is owed Rs 34 lakh, and has not received any response from the company despite trying to contact Hardik several times.
“They assured us that we were doing business with a Reliance group company but faltered within six months. Not only have they not paid me my dues worth Rs 34 lakh, they placed an order for stock worth a few crores of rupees that was never collected. It is now lying with me and I’m unable to sell it,” he adds. TNM has seen copies of mails sent from executives of Reliance Industries discussing nature of business, products to be supplied, pricing and margins, among others.
“My suppliers have been threatening me since I couldn’t clear their dues. I have had to resort to selling my house to pay back their dues, but haven’t been able to find buyers for that either. Forget the unsold inventory, at least pay me my dues so I don’t go bankrupt,” Rajesh adds.
Rajesh also claims that there are several other such vendors from Surat who are owed dues worth crores.
And it’s not just them, Himanshu claims that several vendors have had to shut down their factories and lay off employees due to a severe fund crunch.
Vendors have filed various complaints against the company and claim that no action has been taken. According to copies of complaints viewed by TNM, vendors filed a complaint with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) in Delhi, with the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Surajpur in Noida, and have also sent letters to the offices of the Prime Minister, President, Finance Minister and to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
Despite their recent protests, vendors claim that no FIR has been filed on their complaints.
On June 6, 2019, Network18 Media & Investments informed the stock exchanges that real estate firm Skyblue Buildwell acquired 82.64% stake in HomeShop18, making it the holding company. It also said in the filing that the company is in the process of changing its corporate as well as brand name. At the time of the acquisition, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs had listed Surendra Lunia and Sunil Batra as directors of Skyblue Buildwell. However, the current directors of the company are Suchita Harenbhai Vaidya and Ripal Paragbhai Patel and as per MCA data, both were appointed on July 18, 2019.
TNM has reached out to the current SkyBlue CEO Hardik Shah and the copy will be updated as and when he responds.