On 27 September, a group of 20 vendors of Homeshop18, the eponymous 24-hour teleshopping channel and e-commerce portal, held a press conference to accuse the company of fraud. Representatives of the association claimed that over two hundred vendors were owed dues ranging from “Rs 150 crore to Rs 200 crore.” The vendors first began agitating in late June, a few weeks after Homeshop18’s ownership changed hands from Network18 Media & Investments Limited, a firm owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Group, to an entity named Skyblue Buildwell Private Limited. The association said that Homeshop18, which they claimed was valued at Rs 305 crore in the financial year 2018, had been taken over by a “shell” company in a fraudulent move. The Caravan accessed the annual returns that Skyblue Buildwell filed with the ministry of corporate affairs, for the same financial year. In these, the company had listed its net worth as Rs 7.57 lakh. The Caravan had earlier reported that Skyblue Buildwell is connected to Mahendra Nahata, a close business associate of Ambani.
The vendors’ predicament began on 6 June when they were first apprised of the takeover. Rajesh Sachdeva, the chief executive officer of Cosmetics World, a small enterprise manufacturing beauty products, told me 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% 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 brand name.