afaqs!

Lots happening on the Jasubhai front

By , agencyfaqs! | In | September 11, 2001
The $50-million Jasubhai Group has been in the throes of controversy in recent times - and the issues relate to employee lay offs, scrapping of titles and non-payment of dues



agencyfaqs!
MUMBAI

A passel of magazine titles have put up "for sale" signs in recent weeks, leading industry observers to predict the start of a trend that will leave newsstands less cluttered. One publishing group that has been in throes of controversy lately is the $50-million Jasubhai Group.

agencyfaqs! has learnt that the days are numbered for Jasubhai Interactive and ZDNET India. The group sacked 54 people on Thursday, September 6, 2001. More layoffs are in the offing, and over 104 people in total are expected to be shown the door by December 2001. Some executives who have observed recent developments closely reveal that the Jasubhai management called its employees on the morning of the September 6, and asked them not to report for work the next day. It also warned that they were to return anything - books, CDs, loans - they borrowed from the company, or else their salaries would be held up.

When contacted, Maulik Jasubhai, chief executive officer, Jasubhai Digital Media, told agencyfaqs!, "No, we are not 'shutting down'. We are realigning our cost structure to reflect the softness in the online ad market in India at present. As part of the realignment exercise, we have had to let go of some of our people. We are further strengthening our core teams in editorial, sales, marketing and our international operations. "

Despite Maulik's assurances, its suppliers had a different story to tell. It seems the company has not paid its suppliers for over eight months. These include printers, CD duplicators, hotels, entertainment agencies and consultants. Even Tata Press, it seems, has not had its dues settled since May 2001. Where there were some confirmations on these allegations, Maulik was emphatic in his denial. He said, "This is absolutely untrue. We have a strong working relationship with all our suppliers."

What is certain, however, is that the Jasubhai management is relooking its publication business. Under the scanner are Smart Computing, the much-touted Hindi computing magazine, computer games magazine Computer Gaming World, a magazine for Internet surfers called Net Compass and Tele.com, the magazine for the telecom industry.

Maulik agrees some changes are in the pipeline. He elaborates, "In keeping with the softness in the ad market in the Hindi/vernacular publications, Smart Computing will now be published with a revised frequency of a quarterly. We have suspended the publication of Computer Gaming World. We will bring it back when the gaming market improves in India. We will continue to publish Net Compass. The frequency of this title was and is a quarterly. Tele.com will now be published as a quarterly supplement with our monthly magazine Net Computing."

While the market is abuzz with talk of a cash crunch within the group, Maulik reiterated, "There is no issue of financial problems." He added, "While we continue to invest in our strategic growth areas it is important for an organisation to realign some of its resources in keeping with the changes in the market and external circumstances. These steps are in tune with the changing market realities. We are committed to our growth and we continue to invest in brands that are market leaders: DIGIT, Network Computing, Computer Reseller News."

Simultaneously, the group is getting ready to launch the world's No. 1 technology media brand InformationWeek on October 1. "We are investing heavily in building our International Content Services business and have opened our first international marketing office in Singapore," Maulik pointed out.

© 2001 agencyfaqs!