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AIB announces departure of Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat no longer CEO, entire staff sacked

AIB has announced the departure of co-founder Gursimran Khamba following sexual harassment allegations made against him. Tanmay Bhat will no longer be CEO, expect no new content in the foreseeable future.

tv Updated: May 22, 2019 19:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
AIB,Gursimran Khamba,Tanmay Bhat
AIB co-founders Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhatt, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi.

The comedy collective AIB on Wednesday released a statement updating its fans as to the status of the ongoing investigations into allegations made against co-founders Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat. The statement has been shared by each member of the group, except Khamba.

Khamba has withdrawn from the ongoing investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against him by a former partner, thereby forfeiting his involvement with AIB. Bhat has been removed as CEO, although the temporary ban that had been placed on him has been lifted. Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya remain on board to conduct affairs.

The statement also reveals that the group had to let go of its entire staff and Mumbai office space following the allegations. Khamba had been accused of sexual harassment by a former partner - which he denied - and Bhat had been accused of turning a blind eye towards allegations of sexual harassment made against former AIB employee Utsav Chakraborty. Tanmay later accepted that he was aware of the allegations but didn’t do enough. “I should’ve ended ties then, and I didn’t, and it is my fault. I’m truly sorry. I should’ve acted stronger,” Bhat had said.

The controversy resulted in sponsors and collaborators cutting all ties with AIB, which stopped income completely.

Several prominent personalities in the film and media industries were accused of sexual harassment during the Indian #MeToo movement, that swept the country in 2018.

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An update

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Here’s the statement in full:

It’s been a long several months for us at AIB. But before we get to the updates, we’d just like to say thank you to everyone who reached out to us. While we may have not been able to reply to everyone, please know that we are immensely grateful.

After the events of early October, things moved fast. Almost all of our partners hit freeze on future associations, while others pulled out of active projects effective immediately. All of this hit revenue hard.

We’ve always prided ourselves on being a hundred percent independent, creator-owned company. We’ve been free to choose our own destiny and set our own content standards as a result of this independence. However, the flip-side to this is that with business going to zero, the lack of revenue inflow made it impossible for us, as owners. to sustain outgoing costs.

To be clear, we weren’t randomly reckless or fast and loose with our money. We had invested a lot of our profits over the last few years - including those from our personal individual projects - into building the content house of our dreams. But with no incoming revenue and operational costs piling up, we had to make some hard, and unfortunately permanent, decisions.

We had to let our office space and entire team go overnight. Production, creative, admin, all of it. This was particularly hard not just because making people laugh with us is a ton of fun, but because we had to say goodbye to some of the finest minds in the field, people we’d built dreams with for many years. One small point of pride in all this for us is that with the work they’d done at AIB, not one of them struggled to find another job. However, to that end, the AIB YouTube channel is for all intents and purposes, dead for the foreseeable future - there will be no new sketches anytime soon. It sucks, but it is what it is. If and when we decide to release other content on the channel (for e.g. stand-up clips). you will be the first to know.

We’d also like to state that we at AIB have had an IC and anti-harassment system in place from the start. However, we recognise that the culture at work may not have been perfect and simply put, we need to be better. To that end, we maintain that Tanmay Bhat’s lapse of judgement regarding Utsav Chakraborty was egregious. As a result, even though Tanmay Bhat’s suspension has been lifted. he will no longer hold the position of CEO.

With regards to Gursimran Khamba, an External Committee (EC) was appointed to look into the allegations made against him in October. The EC comprised of two experienced senior members -a senior partner at a law firm and a diversity consultant - and its mandate was to conduct a fair investigation into the matter. As required in such cases, the proceedings remain confidential.

However, during the course of the investigation, we were informed that Gursimran Khamba had stepped away from the process, citing issues with the procedure. The EC was unable to conclude the investigation on account of his withdrawal. Given these circumstances, Gursimran Khamba will no longer be involved in operations at AIB. and will be working independent of us.

Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya will continue to manage the remaining affairs at AIB, but will also be pursuing solo interests in the coming future.

While we may not have a complete road map yet, we are sure of one thing going forward - we never want to stop entertaining. Making people laugh has been the great privilege of our lives and we hope to be able to keep doing that. In whatever new form the future holds for us. So once again, thank you for letting us into your world. It has been an honour.

“We have been closely monitoring the sequence of events on social media around the allegations against AIB and also our Co-founder and CEO, Tanmay Bhat. We cannot overlook Tanmay’s role and in light of this, he will be stepping away from his association with AIB until further notice. This implies that Tanmay will not be involved with the day to day functioning of AIB or in any other manner,” AIB said in a statement in October.

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First Published: May 22, 2019 19:02 IST