back to article Startup founder taken hostage by laid-off workers

An Indian food delivery startup called TinyOwl this week conducted “a mass streamlining to unlock the organization’s operational efficiency by deploying scalable city level frameworks.” And in response, workers took one of the company's founders hostage. TinyOwl struck financial trouble but in late October found new funding, …

  1. frank ly Silver badge

    re. "a mass streamlining ....etc"

    Anybody who says that deserves to be locked up.

    1. abubasim
      Trollface

      Re: re. "a mass streamlining ....etc"

      Maybe the workers got a case of the Mondays?

    2. dan1980

      Re: re. "a mass streamlining ....etc"

      @frank l

      While I do, agree - in jest - with that, I think that, language aside, this mass lay-off was actually warranted. I don't say that lightly but it seems that their only other choice was to close-shop and thereby lose everyone, which would be the worst outcome.

      They were floundering and the hot cash injection seemed to come with the condition that they quickly shed large amounts of overhead. Unfortunately, there is simply no quicker way to do that than to close offices.

      It's regrettable, to be sure, but the fact that this was nearly forced upon them, coupled with the fact that the founders themselves went out to deliver the bad news in person means that I think that this is one of the (few) instances where a mass layoff of staff has not been done in order to increase the value of your stock by half a percent or to reach a target for some performance bonus. (Which amounts to taking all the pay from the fired staff and giving it to the CEO - ;blood money', really.)

      So, since this did not seem to be purely for profit but was instead a last-ditch attempt to keep the company alive, and taking into account the personal responsibility the founders evidently felt (otherwise why go in person?), I think that, while the frustration and upset of the staff is fully understandable, their behaviour is reprehensible.

  2. Danny 2 Silver badge

    My favourite remains when the Bank of Ireland outsourced their IT staff, rehired them via HP for less pay, only for them to find porn on the bosses computer. Must be regular BOFH fans.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/11/22/hp_porn_row/

    http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/porn-finders-in-bank-had-been-outsourced-by-chief-executive-25916663.html

  3. auburnman
    Trollface

    If companies get to spout bollocks like “a mass streamlining to unlock the organization’s operational efficiency by deploying scalable city level frameworks” then taking management hostage should be described as "aggressively securing key assets to better leverage significant concessions in an asymmetric negotiating environment."

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      sounds like an MBA was involved

      MBA ==== Management Bullshite Again

      Or words to that effect

    2. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      @auburnman

      I think you dropped your buzzword dictionary on they way out. Have an upvote.

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      I think "enhance stakeholder value" would be better than "leverage significant concessions".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clearly staff didn't quite understand ..

    .. what "takeaway" means.

    If I read BS like "mass streamlining" I know the company has an infestation of either MBAs or consultants (still undecided what is worse, I think MBAs because they stay around if you stop paying the bills). Ugh. It is exactly having to produce that sort of bullshit I hated about consulting. I like solving problems, but not inflicting such damage on the English language.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      @ AC -- Re: Clearly staff didn't quite understand ..

      I like solving problems, but not inflicting such damage on the English language.

      But this was an Indian company. Imagine how that pile of bullshit comes out when spoken in Hindi...

  5. codejunky Silver badge

    Hmm

    And people wonder why companies have become severely impersonal when firing staff. If the company was in such trouble the result would be all lose their jobs or 100. The selfish demand cannot be sustained and so would result in them losing their jobs anyway. Taking the founders hostage when they have made the effort to at least tell you in person will only result in founders sending an email, text or phone call.

  6. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    FAIL

    Sir

    I agree that these guys used awful terminology, but deciding to face the people themselves took guts and showed some respect at least.

    Although I understand why the workers reacted how they did, they didn't seem to give them much credit for this.

    The only result of this for other companies will be that they will do their firing remotely from a bunker.

    1. Grikath Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sir

      "The only result of this for other companies will be that they will do their firing remotely from a bunker."

      Which would be a nice bonus. Bunkers are very easily turned into inescapable prisons...

    2. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: Sir

      Indeed. The mid 80s, pre intarwebs small busness downsizing model in NY was "workers turn up one Monday to find office space stripped to the walls".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sir

        Or in the early 2000s, when the startup I worked for crashed and burned. Return on Monday morning after Thanksgiving holiday to armed guards at door with clipboards. "You're in." to a few, otherwise "you're not on the list, go home and wait for your severance check" (which was 2 weeks pay and whatever accumulated holiday you might have had).

        Those of us who were let in had the job of dismantling infrastructure and loading into asset-stripper's trucks and boxing up people's possessions from their desks to be shipped to them. Good Times!

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. DropBear Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sir

      "face the people themselves took guts"

      Oh, those poor, poor guilt-ridden executives seeing themselves having to say "Yo' ass is fired!" one by one to all those fearsome, vicious soon-to-be-ex-employees! Personally offering to safeguard the last vestiges of the company's cash in their own personal bank accounts, cleverly camouflaged as bonuses, exit payments and other assorted golden parachutes! Ready to heroically go down with the ship - always last to leave, even if that means they have to fire absolutely everyone doing any actual work first! My heart truly bleeds for them all - I propose a moment of silence to honour the fallen ones...

      1. Fibbles

        Re: Sir

        Oh, those poor, poor guilt-ridden executives seeing themselves having to say "Yo' ass is fired!" one by one to all those fearsome, vicious soon-to-be-ex-employees!

        I realise you're joking but as anyone who's ever been in a managerial role can attest, having to tell somebody they no longer have a job is a very unpleasant experience, especially if its someone you had a good working relationship with.

  7. Chris King Silver badge

    I don't think we got the whole story here...

    Looks like some folks may have been let go without being paid what they were due...

    http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/how-tinyowl-lost-its-nest-and-the-plot-115110500061_1.html

  8. earl grey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I thought this was France from the headline

    DOH!

  9. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Smile for revenge

    The first time I was made redundant I was furious, as we'd just turned our first profit, been reassured by our boss and I'd just cancelled my mortgage insurance the previous day. We were being called in one at a time and I told my fellow sacked workers I'd give the boss hell when it was my turn. An older, wiser colleague told me, "Nah, go in and smile sadly, tell him what a pleasure it was to work for him and how much you wish him well. That way he'll feel far, far worse."

  10. Peter Simpson 1
    Facepalm

    Only in India

    Could a "food ordering app" be considered a "high tech startup".

    // business plans...how do they work?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only in India

      Also in Shoreditch, I think you'll find.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Only in India

        In Shoreditch it would be delivering bowls of cereal via rickshaw.

        1. Fink-Nottle

          Re: Only in India

          In Torquay it would be called Fatty Owls

  11. Gordon Stewart
    WTF?

    Ah, yes, we've also just had what has been referred to as both a 'right-sizing' and 'capacity adjustment'

  12. Woodnag

    I have heard layoffs called "lifestyle adjustments" by a VP.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      There's an App for that.

      At my old company we just said that the workers had been uninstalled.

  13. Bob Dole (tm)
    Holmes

    Oh, India

    The work situation in India is pretty weird. You have to get permission from the company to quit your job (relieving letter). You can't work for another company unless you can present that letter which basically means they have a kind of slavery going on.

    Then you have situations where workers can essentially get away with kidnapping management unless their demands are met. It's all very very strange. One of these days I need to look up the history to see how they came to think all this was a good idea.

    1. Yugguy
      Joke

      Re: Oh, India

      It was Pakistan's fault.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, India

      The work situation in India is pretty weird. You have to get permission from the company to quit your job (relieving letter). You can't work for another company unless you can present that letter which basically means they have a kind of slavery going on.

      I've once looked at jobs in the Middle East and it appears the same situation exists there, even to the point that you apparently cannot even leave the country without permission. Given the choices I decided not to go there, but it would be cool to hear from someone who knows this in more detail because I find that frankly an astonishing idea for the 21st century.

  14. Someone Else Silver badge
    WTF?

    How quickly they learn...

    An Indian food delivery startup called TinyOwl this week conducted “a mass streamlining to unlock the organization’s operational efficiency by deploying scalable city level frameworks.” And in response, workers took one of the company's founder's hostage.

    Shit! I got BINGO on two cards with that quote!

    What I don't understand is that this level of coporo-babble is generally (and thankfully) reserved for Megacorp fat-asses. To find a startup fatass-wannabee talking like this is scary, to say the least. Perhaps this would be a warning to anyone considering working for any startup: If the head weenies start sounding like Carly Fiorina, stay away!!

  15. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Let's assume the other stories from other sources are correct and they weren't getting "final checks" much less severance... taking the founder hostage and negotiating may not have been a bad idea.

    Been there, done that. Came in on a Monday, found the office stripped bare and a note on the door: "We're sending you your checks. But don't cash them for a week.". Yes.. the checks were rubber and never were redeemed. Meantime, the owner took the cash that was left, paid off his mortgage, bought a new car and went on a long (6 month extended vacation). Perhaps if we (the former employees) had went to the main office and took it over, we might have actually been paid... or hauled off to jail for being malcontents.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      " Yes.. the checks were rubber and never were redeemed."

      Did anyone try to see the boss with some lawyer in tow demanding payment for services rendered?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Face to Face

    "Some of the company's five co-founders hit the road to explain the situation to workers' faces"

    At least they had the balls to do it in person, not by text or facebook as is today's norm

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Layoffs

    When being given my severance documents to read I asked the manager to leave the room (his office) to give me an opportunity to read them properly. The look of confusion, he mumbled something about not being able to leave me in there alone, sensitive data etc. So I told him he could leave the door open and wait outside, which he did.

    Turns out they had miscalculated and I then refused to leave until it was confirmed it was sorted out with HR.

    I was polite and respectful so there wasn't much they could do if they didn't want to look bad.

    I then took them to a tribunal for unfair selection procedures and a few other things and had an additional payout.

    On another occasion the company announced layoffs and I was selected, on the day I had gone in planning to hand in my notice, so that was a pleasant experience, I think they were surprised how eager I was to go.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Layoffs

      Been through this twice at least now over decades. PHB class called for voluntary redundancies and had to reject the offers by 80% total staff number who applied. Never occurred to execs that the peasantry might not crave the privilege of working for them. At least the Indian PHBs tried to tell staff in person, but one wonders how much of the losses were born by the hierarchy.

  18. bon_the_one

    Outsourcing

    The irony is they have outsourced all those lost jobs to cheaper workers in the UK...

    1. Arachnoid

      Re: Outsourcing

      You mean all the Eastern Europeans? :D

  19. Washed-up Programmer

    Slightly OT, but I am happy to see that large-ish UK corps can still keep up with the best. See this example from the M & S IT Software Engineering Graduate Programme that I came across today:

    "Having re-platformed off of Amazon and in-sourced our entire digital proposition front–to-backend and across to agile, we are now a cluster of closely aligned product focused teams relentlessly driving to innovate. "

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