Aircel, once one of the fastest growing telecom firms in India, is shutting down because of its financial issues. The company has already filed a bankruptcy application with the NCLT. The operator had blamed the tight financial situation and disruption in the Indian telecom industry with the entry of Reliance Jio as major factors for this. While closing down of business and maintaining harmony among stakeholders at the same time is always challenging for any firm, at Aircel, this is becoming a bit more messy. More than 80 million customer’s services are at stake. Most of them facing MNP issues, thousands of employees are going to be laid off with chances they may not get their last salaries, and hundreds of vendors and distributors may remain unpaid of their pending dues. This may lead to unlawful situations as the employees of Aircel had approached the PMO to save them from the ire of biligerent distributors.
Customers Unable To Port Out From Aircel
Since the operator hinted it is going to close shop, millions of its customers wanted to switch to another, more importantly, a stable operator. However, for unknown reasons, Aircel customers are facing an uphill task of getting an UPC from the operator. An UPC (unique porting code) is required and is to be submitted by a customer to another operator if he or she wishes to switch to the new network. Sector regulator TRAI, in last week of February, had mandated Aircel to generate enough UPCs and also asked other operators to facilitate MNP for Aircel customers. However, million of customers in all its serviced circles, have complained that porting out has become a difficult task for them, and in most cases they are unable to generate the required UPCs.
Financial Transactions A Hit
This is one area, perhaps, neither Aircel nor TRAI has given a serious consideration. As mobile numbers have become mandatory to be linked to Aadhaar to complete a financial transaction these days, unable to have a working mobile number hampers the banking transaction for customers. Most of the old Aircel customers have linked their numbers with Aadhaar and their respective banks, but because Aircel has stopped its services in many circles, and porting out is not happening, many Aircel customers have complained of not able to do a financial transaction.
“My Aircel number is not working in most areas of my town, and in last 10 days, it has become a huge task to do banking for me,” says Debadas Baliarsingh of Bhubaneswar, an Aircel customer.
“I have to visit the bank everytime I need to send money, despite me being on online banking system,” he adds.
Sivram of Chennai also echoes the same struggle.
“I do not get any SMS of my baking transactions as there is no service in my area,” he says. He adds that he would not be in a position if there is fraud or unauthorised transaction happens with his bank account.
And there are numbers of such cases around the country. All these customers are also facing MNP issue with their operator.
Aircel Distributors Are in a Soup
Distributors and retailers of Aircel who have invested huge amount of money in keeping stocks of its vouchers and SIM cards, are also staring at a huge financial loss. They have already made payments to the Maxis-owned firm to keep their stocks and the operator, all of sudden, filed of bankruptcy, and customers, obviously, are not going to buy the operator’s services.
“We have made payment in this January, and Aircel must be knowing their situation and their future plans, but they keep us in dark,” says a Delhi based distributor who wished not to be named, fearing a backlash from the operator.
At the same time, distributors have taken money from retailers who are now asking them for refund.
Employees Waiting For Pink Slip and a Salary Slip
The situation is even worse for the over-5000 employees at the beleaguered operator. While none of the employees including the senior management, are sure of their future at Aircel, many of them are unpaid for months. It is also believed that the debt-laden firm does not have enough funds to pay salaries for its employees.
The company has over Rs 50,000 crore debt and a majority chunk – Rs 35,000- is from the operational creditor that include tower companies, equipment firms, system integrators and IT firms. It also has another Rs 15,000 crore debt from financial creditors.
The company had hoped its financial issues will be taken care of once its proposed merger with RCom materializes, but unfortunately the deal got scrapped in October last year. In December, Aircel had to stop its services in six circles.