A group of 20 representatives from the HomeShop 18 Vendors’ Association held a press conference on Friday, September 27, accusing the 24-hour teleshopping channel of fraud and deceit.
Over two hundred vendors have claimed that around Rs 150 crore to Rs 200 crore of their payments were not paid.
HomeShop18, a company worth Rs 305 crore, was recently acquired by Skyblue Buildwell Limited (SBL), a company whose net worth stands at 7.57 lakh as per returns filed by SBL with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. The vendors also raised the question as to how can a company with such small capital can acquire a company 40 times bigger?
The first protest happened a few days after the ownership of the firm got transferred from Network18 Media and Investment Limited, a firm owned by Mukesh Ambani, to an entity named Skyblue Buildwell Private Limited.
The vendors claimed that the fraudulent move was carried out to secure accounts in a shell company. Claims were made that the shell company is connected to Mahendra Nahata, a close business aid of Ambani.
Rajesh Sachdeva, the chief executive officer of Cosmetics World, a small enterprise manufacturing beauty products, told The Caravan that he received a press release on WhatsApp from his liaison at HomeShop18. It was a copy of an exchange filing that TV18 Home Shopping Network Limited—a subsidiary of Network18 and the company that owns the brand name HomeShop18—sent to the National Stock Exchange and the Bombay Stock Exchange, after market hours.
It read: “TV18 Home Shopping Network Ltd (‘HomeShop18’) has raised a fresh round of funding from ‘Skyblue Buildwell Private Limited’ (‘Skyblue’), a new investor. The existing shareholders (namely: Network18 Media & Investments, SAIF Partners, GS Home Shopping South Korea, OCP Asia, CJO Shopping Co. Ltd and Providence Equity Partners) have not participated in this round. After the investment, Skyblue holds 82.64 per cent of HomeShop18, becoming the holding company and promoter of HomeShop18. With this investment, HomeShop18 has ceased to be a subsidiary of NW18 HSN Holdings Plc and an associate of Network18 Media & Investments Limited. Accordingly, the Company is in the process of changing its corporate as well as the brand name.”
However, after the press release, the vendors assumed that their due payments collected for February and March would be released. Hence, the vendors approached the company for the due payments only to return distressed and empty-handed.
The new management gave contradictory statements about their dues. According to Khattar, Sunil Batra, who was a director of Skyblue Buildwell till 27 May, told the vendors that “it’s too early to comment about the payments because government approvals have to be procured, whereas Manish Kalra, the then CEO of Homeshop18 said he was travelling to Mumbai to get funds.” Kalra resigned soon after that.
Homeshop18 is a teleshopping venture by TV18 Home Shopping Network Limited, which was established in the year 2008. In 2011, it grew into an e-commerce website, and its portal became the fifth most-popular in India within two years. HomeShop18 provides the vendors with an integrated technology platform that enables sellers to showcase, demonstrate and market their products to customers across India.