At 9 AM on the morning of 14 January, 2020, about 250 employees of budget hotel chain OYO shuffled into a meeting room in one of the company’s properties in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. The gathering cut across the company’s many divisions, leaving those in attendance—OYOpreneurs, as the company calls them—anxious. News had been swirling thick and fast for over a month about thousands of layoffs at OYO, and those gathered feared the worst.  

“About 10-12 people came from Gurugram—the head office. This has never happened. In all my life at OYO, I’ve never had such an early meeting,” one employee told The Ken

Amit Prakash, the hub head of Lucknow, held court. “Good morning, everyone,” he said. Prakash spent the next few minutes explaining how OYO did well in 2019 and would do better in 2020. Except to do better, it needed to restructure. 

The room fell silent. “We felt the winds were changing direction,” the employee said. 

Prakash never mentioned job cuts. Not once. After he was done, the employees were offered some tea and snacks. The only appetite anyone had, however, was for emails. If they got an email after the meeting, they still had a job.  

The rest were asked to leave their phones behind and file into a room, one by one, where they were handed their resignation letters and asked to sign them. Most signed and walked out in 5-7 minutes, asking questions, but barely protesting. The answers they got left little room for reasoned argument. One OYO HR person simply told the employee quoted above that the company had used a filter on an Excel sheet containing the names of all Lucknow employees. It was essentially a random process, he claims. A total of around 160 people were laid off that day. 

The sequence of events that led to layoffs at OYO

The same pattern—email by email, resignation letter by resignation letter—has played out across the country. Hundreds of OYO employees were fired—across divisions, geographies, age groups and experience levels—according to 20 current and former employees across regions like Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad The Ken spoke with. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from the company and their final settlements being withheld. In Kolkata, OYO even stationed bouncers and police officers at the meeting, an executive who was let go said.

“The numbers and data gathered are inconsistent and off the mark,” an OYO spokesperson said in an email to The Ken, adding that “OYO Hotels & Homes is focusing on all the metrics of the business”. However, the OYO spokesperson did not divulge any specifics, also choosing not to respond to a detailed set of emailed questions sent by The Ken.