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AskMe suspends operations

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AskMe has temporarily suspended its operations, in the light of not being able to pay its employees and manage other costs running the business. MediaNama sources confirmed that AskMe management has indeed initiated a shutdown. We’ve written to AskMe for an official statement. MediaNama had also contacted Astro last week and checked for an update yesterday but we still haven’t heard back from the company.

The shut down follows a limbo that the AskMe and Astro+ management got into after AskMe proposed to buyout its stake from Astro for a supposed $5 million. Despite the shutdown, AskMe’s ecommerce website is still live at the time of writing. It’s possible that the service might not deliver, although one can still order something.

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+AskeMe is owned by Getit Infomedia. Astro acquired a 50% stake in Getit Infomedia for around $20 million in 2010.

A timeline of what has happened to date:

– At the start of this month, unnamed employees at the AskMe Group wrote an open letter to Astro asking it to pay all outstanding dues till July 2016. The open letter came 2 months after there were between 300 to 650 employees reportedly laid off at the company.

– About 10 days ago, Manav Sethi, Group CMO & head of digital strategy at AskMe Group told MediaNama that the company did not have enough money to sustain its operations and support its 2,500 strong workforce because Astro was supposed to pay it by 31 July, which did not happen.

– Following this, on 9 August, the ‘Salary’ department at AskMe sent an email (of which MediaNama has a copy) to all its employees asking them to get in touch with Astro to get their salaries, because Astro was supposed to pay AskMe $5 million by 5 August. The email listed the names, phone numbers and email IDs of the Astro management for the employees to contact. At the time, MediaNama’s attempts to contact Astro’s Ashok Rajgopal were not met with any responses.

– Earlier yesterday, AskMe wrote a letter to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and the Registrar of Companies (RoC) seeking help in ensuring that Astro did not exit the business without paying its liabilities.

Astro’s India issues are piling: To The New Digital (TTND), a digital services company, is looking to buyout Astro’s 85% stake in the company, given that Astro had not paid it for the services offered by TTND. Astro All Asia Networks Ltd had been charge sheeted by India’s top investigating agency CBI in the Aircel Maxis case, where money laundering has been alleged. More on that here. In June, VCCircle reported that Astro was looking to exit Getit.

Image credit: lbertojuanse under CC BY SA 2.0

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