Did You Know That Opera India Pretty Much Closed Shop Ten Months Back?

Did You Know That Opera India Pretty Much Closed Shop Ten Months Back?

Did you know that Opera India pretty much closed shop ten months back? Neither did I, until a few weeks back. Apparently, back in March 2010, Opera fired almost all of its employees in India, and shut down the entire engineering division. Opera had opened its Chandigarh office in 2006 amidst much fanfare. In 2009, they even shifted to a swanky new office in Chandigarh’s IT Park. So, what went wrong?

We reported in January that Opera co-founder Jon von Tetzchner had stepped down as CEO to make way for Lars Boilesen. It appears that the new man in charge made all the difference. Opera had suffered surprise losses in Q3 2009, and their shares had shed a lot of value. Boilesen was obviously entrusted with the responsibility of getting Opera back in the black.

Opera India had just delivered the eBook Reader and Unite Media Player widgets, which are still among the most downloaded widgets. Opera 10.5 with widgets that could run as independent applications was released a day earlier. Even before employees could get their breath back, on March 3, Boilesen informed them that the entire engineering division will be shut down. From what I have managed to gather, the only explanation offered was that this was a part of the restructuring at Opera Software.

Of course, downsizing and restructuring are harsh realities of life for IT and Software companies. However, what surprises me is how silently Opera managed to pull this off. Neither was there any announcement, nor any media coverage. The restructuring has left Opera India with a handful of employees – Mrunmaiy Abroal, Shwetank Dixit and Hari G. All of them currently work from home. Sagar Chandna was called back to Norway.

Opera India Team

I tried reaching out to some ex-Opera India employees; however, (apparently) they are contracted not to speak about Opera in negative light. Nevertheless, you can glean more about what went on from their public blog posts. Check out the blog posts by Vishal Lahsiv, Amit Patil and Vivek Jisthu.

Speaking on the issue, Opera’s co-founder, Mr. Tetzchner said, “The decision to close an office that and let people go is always a tough one. At the same time, it is difficult to maintain and control a far away office as it requires quite a lot of resources.”

It’s disappointing that Opera chose to shut down their Indian engineering team. They had an immensely talented bunch, including four IITians. I wish that they had made better utilization of the talent pool available to them. However, it isn’t surprising, simply because Opera is a public company that has to answer to shareholders. At the same time, while it is always nice to have a formal announcement, companies aren’t required to announce workforce cutbacks, and they often don’t. From the anecdotes I have heard, the lack of knowledge also hurt the employees who were fired. Although, most of the employees have succeeded in finding new jobs for themselves, it was a big hurdle for them to convince potential employers about the closure of Opera India’s engineering department. With everyone from managers (Wolfgang Maehr) to testers axed, there wasn’t anyone to back them up. After all, major software firms shutting down in India is still a relatively rare phenomenon.

We moved ahead ! there was lots of hicupps after this, it was undoubtedly one of most hard faced part of life. It has been almost 8-9 months to the incidence but still feels like it was yesterday only. Opera being the first company of my career will always be cherished . This company taught me technology , “how to code”, and more over few essential lessons of life .

– Vishal Lahsiv

All said the india office was also not so very expensive to Opera India ´s pocket. Which is one of the more surprizing realities of closing down the India Operations. Everyone will find their way…move on…but the values that companies talk about…particularly values of one family openness etc. Well they all collapse when it comes to business decisions. In the brief sojourn working in Opera, i was satisfied with the work culture and the type of work. Perhaps thats the reason for some good team morale and productive output by end of the day.

– Amit Patil

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Pallab De

Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

  • Very informative article Pallab.The entire episode was so covered up, that a balanced take on it was needed to fill the void.
    While restructuring and downsizing may be valid for corporations, this definitely has a very human edge to it for the employees who suffer.Ultimately,as in all things life- its a grey zone-with individual perspectives.Being silent about it was, however,a cold gesture from Opera and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    • latch

      Covered up? Silent about it? The layouts were announced to the market earlier this year. Conspiracy theories are fun, though…

      • Was this done silently? Yes. But, I won’t call it a coverup. When I asked, I got the answers.

        • latch

          How can you claim that it was done “silently” when it was reported to the market in advance?

          • Abhishek Pathak

            Can you please attach some references/links to the market announcements?I would like to have a look at it.

          • xonfuxion

            Maybe you should pay attention to Opera’s announcements to their share holders?

          • anonymous

            I too would like some references /links to the market announcements?
            about the india office closing.
            I Donno what opera says retaining 1 one and firing all the rest from engineering mean?

          • xonfuxion

            Read Opera’s quarterly reports. They didn’t mention India specifically. They reported that they would shuffle things around due to an increased focus on mobile operators, and at the same time cut costs. If you are too lazy to find this yourself, then so be it.

          • Banger

            A full department has been removed “Web Applications”. Most of the guys are been adjusted in different offices/departments except the Indian Office employees.
            Will be great if you could share the link of some public/shareholder’s release mentioning this.

          • xonfuxion

            Feel free to do some basic research for yourself.

  • .Being silent about it was, however,a cold gesture from Opera

    True. Making a formal announcement isn’t mandatory, and probably not even expected from most. However, normally Opera Software holds itself to higher standards than rest of the industry. The hush hush nature of this is indeed in stark contrast to the image of openness that Opera Soft tries to project.

    • latch

      Um, the layoffs were actually announced earlier this year. First or second quarter or so. Someone might want to pay attention if he wants to be a “journalist”…

      • Where? Its possible that I might have missed it. But I didn’t find any mention in the media either.

        • latch


          Yes, exactly… Might want to pay attention to Opera’s quarterly reports to the market. It was even covered in the media, although it’s such an irrelevant thing that no one really bothered to do extensive reporting on it.

          • I read all of them as I generally cover Opera’s financial performance.
            I remember reading something about a restructuring in Q1 (I think) reports. It didn’t really mention anything specific, and I certainly don’t remember reading about entire departments being shut down.

          • latch

            What makes you think an entire department was shut down? Are Opera’s departments (QA, developers, designers, and so on) defined by countries? That sounds odd, since the desktop department apparently has members from several different countries.

          • I was talking about closing the Indian office, and firing the entire engineering division in India.

          • latch

            How can you claim that the entire engineering division was fired when some of them kept their jobs?

          • Because none of them are from the engineering division.

          • latch

            Says who?

  • Amit Patil

    If people claim about a press release, i would love to see those links…

  • Thanks for reporting, I had not read anything public on this topic either, if there is a press release, please share the link…
    Anyhow, as this can be a reference point, here the full list of the former Opera India engineering team:
    Alina Banerjee, QA
    Amit Patil, interaction designer
    Anil Siwach, graphic designer
    Arvind Bhateja, senior developer
    Mukesh Pant, developer
    Saif Uddin Shaik, developer
    Sameera Thangudu, developer
    Sripathi Pai, QA
    Vishal, developer
    Vivek Jishtu, senior developer
    Wolfgang Maehr, project manager

    Thanks, it was great working with you all. I can recommend every single one—you might wanna headhunt them. :)

    • And not to forget, without an office, there was no need for HR, which unfortunately affected Meenu Yadav, who was also a charm to work with.

    • xonfuxion

      It was announced to the market. Not specifically India, but that there would be changes to the staff due to new priorities. Looks like letting these people go was better than moving them elsewhere (or maybe they didn’t want to move). Don’t know what that says about those people…

      • Xonfusion,

        Yes, you are right about the announcement of changes in staff and new priorities. That was announced.

        However, the fact that a satellite office was closed was not. As the author argues as well, this is not required but would be a nice gesture for a company that tries to be the good guys and have ethically high standards.

        And about the people I can tell you that for most it was surely not a matter of not wanting to relocate… But anyways, that’s a completely different story. ;)
        Yes, it says something about “those people”.

        Anyways, time to move on, there are more important problems in this world.

        • xonfuxion

          If your services are no longer needed, you are let go. Simple as that.

      • Vishal

        Mr. xonfusion,

        Talking about “those people” , you need to do some basic research as well . Rather please go ahead and do some meaning-full research in order to get correct insight.

        Or else if you belong to same cadre then “Good job, You are doing doing great job “