Vendors accuse Home Shop 18 of massive fraud with customers

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Home Shop 18
Home Shop 18

New Delhi : Home Shop 18 Vendors Association held a Press Conference on September 27 at the Press Club of India in New Delhi and accused the TV shopping marketplace of committing a fraud of Rs 150-200 Crore. 

The association claimed that Home Shop 18 has fraudulently usurped Rs 150-200 Crore which is collected from consumers on behalf of the sellers acting as an intermediary. Dues have accrued since the time the company was a part of the Network18 group. 

Addressing the media, the Home Shop 18 Vendors Association lamented that due to the fear of powerful people behind it, there is inaction by the police, administration, ministries and other government agencies. In spite of several attempts to lodge FIR against FRAUD, Police Station at Noida has bluntly refused to lodge an FIR and investigate the matter.

Vendor Association also presented a reply by Reserve Bank of India under whom this offence is a punishable offence and shared their plight along with documentary evidence against Home Shop 18.

Home Shop 18 Vendor Association represents more than 1500 families who have been cheated of their hard-earned money and left with financial bankruptcy.

On 7th June, hundreds of vendors of HomeShop18 - the biggest teleshopping company - suffered from a shock when they came to know that the company has been taken over by a very small real estate company namely Skyblue Buildwell, which acquired an 82.64% stake in TV18 Home Shopping Network. 

Homeshop18 or popularly known as HS18 was launched in 2008. In 2014, Reliance Industries took over Network18 and HS18. In 2018, it merged with Shop CJ Network Pvt. Ltd and became the largest teleshopping network in India. Manish Kalra was appointed as the new CEO.

"Till the beginning of this year, the company was running smoothly and the company was on the verge of break even. But in March the vendors were not paid on time and the senior management (CFO Gurvinder Singh and other Finance people) kept on saying that the CEO Manish Kalra is in Mumbai and discussing with Reliance for funds and they will release the funds soon. In April, Manish Kalra and Gurvinder Singh started saying that as the General Elections are going on and FDI is involved, the payments would be made after 12th May 2019 after the elections get over. But no payment was made to vendors," said Himanshu Khatter, President, Home Shop 18 Vendors Association. 

"As per our agreement, we were supposed to get our money in 45 days, but that never happened," said Himanshu, who is also vendor from Delhi and used to sell beauty products through the channel. 

Himanshu, who owes nearly Rs 1.5 Crore dues, says that the situation has worsened in the past three months. He said that he has even sold his wife’s jewellery to pay the interest on the amount borrowed from private money lenders. 

“We have protested outside Network 18 Office in Film City and also at Jantar Mantar, but no one is paying heed," he claims further. 

"At the time of the acquisition, Surendra Lunia and Sunil Batra were the directors at Skyblue Buildwell. However, the current directors are Suchita Harenbhai Vaidya and Ripal Paragbhai Patel as per MCA data. The company has been exchanging hands frequently in the last 4 months, which indicates a Fraud being done by the directors to usurp the money of the vendors. Surendra Lunia is a former director of Reliance Jio Infocomm and former CEO of HFCL (Himachal Futuristic Communications Limited), a company promoted by Mahendra Nahata, an industrialist who is also on the JIO board. This clearly shows the association between Skyblue and Reliance," claims Girish Gupta, Secretary, Home Shop 18 Vendors Association.

Girish owes a whopping Rs 3 Crore from the company and informed that most of the vendors are on the verge of Bankruptcy/Insolvency as they are unable to repay their creditors and money lenders. 

According to its latest financial records (FY18), Skyblue had a total net worth of Rs 7.57 Lacs, with no employees expenses, which shows that it is a shell company, where the net worth of HS18 in March 2018 was Rs 305 Crores, as per the audited balance sheet submitted at the site of MCA. 

Vendors have filed various complaints against the company with various Government bodies such as Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Delhi; Senior Superintendent of Police, (SSP), Surajpur, Noida; Ministry of Corporate Affairs, (MCA), Delhi. 

"We have also sent letters to the Honourable President of India, Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Reserve Bank of India. Due to fear of powerful people and corporates behind the fraud, no action has been taken by police, administration, ministries and other government agencies. In spite of several attempts to get our complaints registered, we have not been able to get our FIR registered at Noida or Delhi," Himanshu added further.

The Association further added that one of the vendors, namely Rajesh Sachdeva, suffered a massive cardiac arrest on 2nd August 2019, as his creditors were pressurising him for payments, and he had no money to repay as he has invested everything in Homeshop18.