UPDATED on 14 December 2020 at 12.30pm to add information on Net4India grievance redressal as shared by Mr Vikram Bajaj, RP for the company
Net4India Ltd, the largest domain registrar in India that is accredited with Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has become inaccessible to its clients. Neither queries and emails sent by clients have been evoking any response, nor there is any communication coming out from the company. While media reports cite financial difficulties faced by the company, Net4India's abrupt move to go out of reach has left lakhs of domains and its clients for various services in the lurch. Some of the domains registered with Net4India include IndianBank.in and AndhraBank.in.
While the National Internet Exchange of India (Nixi) has allowed transfer of .in domains to other domain registrars from Net4India, there are several hurdles. Most important is the authorisation code without which the other domain registrars cannot accept the request.
Yazdi Tantra from ON-LYNE says, "We have almost 150 domains registered for our clients through Net4India. We are totally stuck as we are not able to renew domains, a few of which have already expired. We even tried to transfer domains to another registrar but are not getting the authorization code from them."
"We understand that all their offices across India are closed and there is no physical interaction possible. All emails sent to them are not responded to. This is putting us and our clients to lot of trouble, including loss of business and reputation," Mr Tantra, a regular columnist of Moneylife, added.
As per media reports as on end February 2019, Net4India had over 100,000 generic top-level domains (gTLD) under its management. The gTLDs includes almost all .com and other legacy gTLDS.
"The trouble started a few years ago when Net4India took loans and failed to repay, therefore, Edelweiss Asset Reconstruction Company sued Net4India to get its money back in March 2019. Furthermore, in June 2019, ICANN had suspended their ability to create new domains and had initiated inbound transfers. This was done due to the ongoing insolvency proceedings," a report from Foetron says
There are two issues with Net4India. One is an order passed by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and subsequent action taken by ICANN. On 8 March 2019, the NCLT bench at New Delhi issued an interim order in the Net4India matter and appointed Vikram Bajaj, as resolution professional. This was the outcome of an application filed by Edelweiss against the company under Section 7 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
In 2002, Net4India had obtained a loan from the State Bank of India (SBI), which, after several enhancements, became a non-performing asset (NPA) of Rs194 crore. In 2014, a year later, when the loan turned NPA, SBI sold this debt to Edelweiss.
However, Mr Bajaj, the resolution professional appointed for Net4India denied that Net4India has closed its business. In an email to Moneylife, he says, "...the committee of creditors has already approved a resolution plan involving change of management, which is sub-judice before the NCLT and upon approval of resolution plan by the NCLT and implementation of resolution plan the Net4India shall continue as a going concern."
After the NCLT order, ICANN, in June 2019 suspended Ne4India's ability to create new domains and initiated inbound transfers.
ICANN is an international body with responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP), country code (ccTLD) and top-level domain management.
A report from MediaNama says
, the same year SBI declared Net4India as an NPA, its founder and managing director Jasjit Singh Sawhney was arrested as the company did not pay the service tax it had collected from customers. Mr Sawhney, however, is no longer a director at the company and lives in the UK, according to one of his lawyers cited in an NCLT order.
"In 2017, Net4India reported a quarterly loss of Rs4.22 crore. In the following year, it was delisted from the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the BSE," the report says.
One former employee told MediaNama that the company was struggling to pay employees their wages on time since 2019, and that it had completely stopped paying out salaries amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with employees largely no longer showing up at work.
On Twitter, many users have complained that no phone call or email is being answered by Net4India. Reports say Net4India is a domain registrar company with around 90,000 website hosting, 1.5 million corporate emails and 3.75 lakh domain registrations. The company’s website is also down.
Many of the clients of Net4India had written to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO, the ministry of electronics & information technology (MeitY), as well as its minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. But there is no response or any resolution of grievances.
ICANN, on its part, is however, responding to clients of Net4India. However, it has a limited role to play in India. ICANN, reportedly says, it is working with the Indian government and the MeitY about transferring responsibility of domains and email registered on Net4India to another Indian company. But so far there is no progress.
On the one hand, there are tremendous efforts by the union government to push India into the digital age, while end-users continue to face serious issues. The Net4India case, however, is very bad for the country's reputation in the information technology (IT) sector and all its clients hope to see some light at the end of the tunnel.
In another email, Mr Bajaj told Moneylife
that the difficulties being faced by customers of Net4India were brought to the attention to the NCLT as well. "The NCLT took cognizance of the issues and issued necessary directions. In consequence of such directions a helpdesk was set up and Mr Pankaj Shukla (+919650821618 / [email protected]
) and an email ID [email protected]
was setup. These are very much functional and the issues addressed here are being regularly addressed. I am also trying to address exigencies and escalations."