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