At 9 am on January 14, 2020, 250 employees of the budget hotel chain OYO moved into a meeting room at company properties in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The meeting downgraded many sections of the company, causing concern to attendees – OYOpreners, as the company calls them -. News of the thousands of evictions at OYO have been circulating thick and fast for more than a month, and those who gathered fear the worst.
“About 10-12 people came from headquarters Gurugram. This has never happened. In my life at OYO, I have never had the first meeting,” an employee told The Ken.
Lucknow Hub Head Amit Prakash held the court. “Good morning, everybody,” he said. Prakash spends the next few minutes explaining how OYO will perform better in 2019 and better in 2020. Rebuilding is necessary, except for better work.
The room fell silent. “We thought the winds were changing direction,” the employee said.
Prakash never mentioned job cuts. Not once. After he did, he offered the employees some tea and snacks. The appetite for anyone is just for emails. If they get an email after the meeting, they still have a job.
Others were asked to leave their phones and file individually in a room, handing over their resignation letters and signing. Many signed up and walked out in 5-7 minutes, asking questions but protesting. The answers they got left little room for reasonable argument. An OYO HR person told the above employee that the company used a filter on an Excel sheet containing all the names of the Lucknow employees. He notes that this is essentially a random process. A total of 160 people were fired that day.
The same pattern — the resignation letter via email, resignation letter — has played out nationwide. According to 20 current and former employees in Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad, hundreds of OYO employees have been fired across departments, geographies, age groups and experience levels. Ken spoke up. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the company and their final settlements were discontinued. In Kolkata, the OYO also banned bouncers and police officers at the meeting, an executive said.
“The numbers and data collected are inconsistent and cannot be recalled,” an OYO spokesperson said in an email to The Can, adding, “OYO Hotels & Homes are looking at all the dimensions of the business”. However, the OYO spokeswoman did not disclose any specifics, opting not to respond to a detailed set of email queries sent by The Ken.
Last Monday, after a month of silence on the matter, company founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal finally emailed the company. It talked about re-organizing teams; The result is repetitions. Most importantly, Agarwal also outlines new strategic objectives – sustainable growth, profitability, operational and customer excellence, and training and governance.
The essence is simple – OYO is optimistic, but must radically change. After years of dissatisfaction with the expansion, OYO is losing the all-too-blind OYO slump. To be the OYO of the future, it must undo its past mistakes. That change has already begun.
It has already tried small interventions. Stopping mineral water at OYO townhouses; Removal of security guards from hotels; Finishing free meals for OYO staff at hotels. All the dots in the ocean.
Multiple employees told The Ken that OYO Total Holidays, which sells holiday packages, closed last year. Others said that OYO Weddingz, which hosts weddings at various venues, will soon be closed, and its paid guest (PG) unit, OYO Life, will be integrated into OYO Homes business.