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Disney-Star lays off 44 people after Uday Shankar's exit; 400 since 2019

Ajita Shashidhar     October 30, 2020

The Walt Disney Company announced a month ago that it would be laying off 28,000 employees at its theme parks across the globe. In India, ever since the company took over Star India in 2019, around 400 employees from its 3,000-odd employee force have been laid off. Soon after Disney-Star Chairman, Uday Shankar's exit from the company was announced last month, there was news that 40 employees from its film production business, Fox-Star Studio, were asked to leave. These employees were reportedly handed over pink slips the same day as Shankar's exit was announced. The American media conglomerate is reportedly planning to write-off its India studio business into an entity that would merely distribute its Hollywood releases. While Disney-Star has denied plans of downsizing its Indian studio business, it didn't respond to BusinessToday.In query about lay-offs.

There is more to the exits at Disney-Star. Apart from the studio exits, there have been four high profile exits in the company's sports business too. The Star Sports CEO, Goutam Thakkar, marketing head, Rajiv Mathrani, head of emerging sports Rupali Fernandes and business head of regional sports business, Ashok Namboodiri, tendered their resignation on the same day, and the news is that all of them were sidelined. "The lay-offs in the movie and sports business were planned in early 2020. They deferred it till the COVID situation improved," says a former Disney-Star senior executive.

The coming months could see further lay-offs, as the Walt Disney Company is taking a hard look at the profitability of its India business. There was also news of the company exiting the English entertainment channel business, which could lead to further lay-offs. Disney-Star accumulated a loss of over 1,200 crore in FY19, and the management at Burbank is known to be looking at the Indian business through a tough lens ever since.

"Unlike Fox's vision of taking big bets and burning cash, Disney is extremely cautious about its profit and loss statement. A bulk of its Indian businesses are bleeding, no wonder the tough calls," points out the business head of a leading media business. Apart from the sports and studio businesses, he also expects the network's second Hindi general entertainment channel, Star Bharat, to also come under the axe sooner or later.

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