Tablet maker Datawind cuts production by 50 pct; workers lose jobs

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Several workers have alleged they have lost jobs in the tablet manufacturer Datawind’s Hyderabad unit. According to a report in PTI, low cost tablet manufacturer Datawind has halved its production in its Hyderabad facility, where workers alleged that dozens of them have lost jobs. Also, Telangana Joint Commissioner (Labour) R Chandra Sekharam told PTI that he has received a petition from these workers seeking justice. “We received a petition from the employees. They say the company announced layoffs. I am yet to hear the company’s version. We will shortly call them for a hearing,” the official said as per a report in news agency PTI.

“Percentage of slow down (in terms of production) is 50 per cent…that’s why Hyderabad is waiting next shipment of parts, while Amritsar continues to produce,” the company said. The company is in the process of moving out of the current location and some of the employees who are not willing to shift to the new place, have filed the complaint against the company, it added. The tablet maker has two assembly units – Amritsar and Hyderabad.

The company also alleged that the some of the workers vandalised the facility located at Hyderabad International Airport, according to a PTI report.

“We advised the employees that we are planning to open a new facility in Secunderabad and will need to move since GMR (promoters of the airport) wants this space as they want to expand the airport. But most of these people are from around Shamshabad and they got panicked,” Datawind said. “The people, who filed the complaint, were unwilling to move to the new proposed facility, and caused vandalism at the facility, resulting in their termination. Now they’re asking for unjust enrichment, while nothing is due to them,” the spokesperson claimed.
The exact number of people, who lost their jobs is not immediately known.

The company said the Hyderabad facility had 500 people at one time, but now there is only a dozen in the GMR facility, while about 150 are working in a call centre in Begumpet area in the city. Chandra Sekharam said he could not recall as to how many workers signed the petition, but added that it might be more than 200.

Datawind further said it has not closed the assembly unit in Hyderabad, but are “re-tooling” the assembly line and waiting for the next batch of parts to come in from suppliers. “Currently, we are waiting for updates from the Telangana government on their industrial policy after the implementation of GST, since sales tax waiver was a key incentive offered by the government,” the company said in an e-mail reply.

Datawind made the world’s cheapest tablet Aakash for the Indian government after winning the contract to supply one lakh units priced at USD 49.98 apiece (Rs 2,276 at that time) in 2011. The project was then handled by IIT Jodhpur, which provided the specifications for the product. After questions were raised in some quarters on the product’s quality, the project was shifted under IIT Bombay and Datawind was asked to supply better version of it.
Datawind, in a regulatory filing recently, said demonetisation has placed a significant stress on the company’s working capital cycle.

“As a result, we saw a significant decrease in sales in the last two quarters of the fiscal year (2017), as Indian people spent what little physical cash they have on necessities,” Suneet Singh Tuli, president and CEO of DataWind had said in the filing.

The Hyderabad facility witnessed a phased investment of Rs 100 crore and the facility will manufacture two million units (tablets and smart phones) in the first year, whereas at full capacity it can reach up to five million units, Datawind had said in November 2016.

Meanwhile, the company said that it is in the process of launching its low-cost data plans and are preparing to launch mobile browser for feature phones over the next month, which will allow even Java based feature phone users to get a smartphone-like web experience on any device at a faster.

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