Helpchat, which pivoted from Akosha to the new personal assistant model has fired 150 employees.
Some of the commentaries from Akosha team members include:
“When we are being sacked I believe, we should at least know the reason. They promise a month’s salary as compensation. However, there is no written confirmation of the same.”
“The company has retracted on every promise of theirs in the last two months. When I joined four months back, I was told I had a work-from-home option. Two months ago they said that option has been stopped. Earlier, we were forced to work in shifts. Now, they have directly sacked us.”
“I was promised if I meet the required rating I would be confirmed. I was sent a written confirmation on the same as well. My feedback clearly shows I have achieved the rating. However, two days before I was supposed to be officially confirmed, I was informed that I am sacked.”
“I was called and asked to give three names of non-performing members from my team. My team was doing well and getting good feedback from users as well. I asked them on what basis I should name three, but they said just name three. A week later, I too was asked to leave office. My team members were just two months old in the company.” [source]
Founder Ankur Singla mentions that majority of layoff was done primarily because of the shift in the model (from Akosha to Helpchat); and also changes in the policy.
We recently evolved from our earlier business model of helping consumers in getting their complaints resolved (called Akosha) and focussed on building a personal assistant for millions of Indians (called Helpchat). As we evolved, there were 2-3 teams from the earlier model (call center, quality etc.) who we tried hard to scale up and help become relevant within the new reality of the company. We were able to do that for almost half of the people, but that still left some others who couldn’t make the cut.
Asking them to leave was a tough decision but the right one. They wouldn’t have had much work and yet the right way ahead for the company was to stop taking complaints and focus on building the personal assistant.
We decided to do the right thing – communicate clearly with the employees, figure out outplacement by talking to other companies/startups and give proper notice and an additional month’s pay. In addition, we extended all help in terms of introductions / recommendations etc.
In addition to those let go because of evolving our earlier business, we also downsized our innovative work-from-home program for chat experts. Despite several attempts at bringing accountability among WFH experts, we saw that it was extremely difficult to control their behaviour (attendance, training, response times etc.) and therefore control the experience they give to our customers.
If it had scaled further, it would have led to a really great model for bringing work to WFH women, but despite a lot of perseverance, the time came to close that experiment. Everyone says that failure teaches you more than success but it’s never pleasant while you are in the middle of it. -[Ankur Singla]
Helpchat recently raised $16mn from Sequoia.
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