Start-up disappears mysteriously; employees left unpaid

Phablecare and its founders are now untraceable. The Labour Department supports the case and suggests employees pursue legal action


Phablecare, a Bengaluru-based health-tech startup, has mysteriously vanished, leaving hundreds of former employees unpaid and disgruntled. The company, which had secured a hefty $25 million in funding in March 2022, raised eyebrows when it suddenly deactivated its website and ceased all business activities last month, that is, August 2023.

Founded in 2018, Phablecare initially boasted a workforce of around 2,000 employees but saw a drastic reduction in headcount being left with merely 200 employees in the months following its funding round. Although the company appeared to be on an upswing in January 2023, welcoming new recruits and relocating to a larger office space, it took an abrupt turn for the worse by urging all employees to resign within six weeks due to severe financial constraints. Former staff members have been struggling to receive compensation for their work spanning December 2022 to February 2023.

A former employee stated that they hadn’t been for two and a half months of work. While the management did promise to settle what was owed to employees by May, none of their promises were kept. Salary delays had plagued the company since October 2022, and by January of this year, it became evident that financial troubles were mounting.

In April, 20 employees lodged a complaint with the Karnataka Labour Department against the company’s founders, Sumit Sinha and Mukkesh Kumar Bansal. Despite multiple letters from the department urging settlement, the founders offered excuses and even claimed an impending acquisition that never materialised.

Bansal’s response to employees’ emails in May offered little hope, as he admitted an inability to pay them and alleged some employees had misused their positions unethically. Former employees, however, refuted these allegations, placing blame on the founders, who have since gone incommunicado.

Visiting both the old and new office spaces in HSR Layout, former employees found no traces of Phablecare or its founders. The Labour Department has endorsed the case and is advising employees to pursue legal action. The fate of Phablecare remains shrouded in uncertainty, leaving its former employees in a frustrating and challenging predicament.

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