Indian ticketing group BookMyShow has laid off 200 more employees, its founder has confirmed.

Ashish Hemrajani, who is also chief executive of owner Big Tree Entertainment, said the group had released more staff as it continues to be impacted by COVID-19 following widespread lockdowns in April as India was hit by a second wave of infections.

Cinemas remain closed in major population hubs such as capital city New Delhi and BookMyShow’s home city of Mumbai, and many films are being released straight to streaming services rather than waiting for box offices to reopen.

Despite launching its own pay-per-view streaming service in February 2021, Big Tree is missing the income from the 10 million tickets it sold monthly before the pandemic struck. It made 72 per cent of its turnover from online ticket sales in the year to March 2020, with the next biggest segment being 6.7 per cent from turnkey ticketing solutions.

BookMyShow laid off or furloughed 270 employees last year with many of the remaining staff being reallocated towards work for the group’s Book A Smile India charity. However, it has now cut its staff further, with estimates claiming that the group now employs fewer than 1,000 workers.

“COVID19 has taught me many lessons and I learnt another one today,” Hemrajani wrote on Twitter. “As we let go of 200 of the most incredibility talented and performance-driven individuals, each and everyone has messaged, thanking me for the opportunity, the love for BookMyShow and asking me if they could help ‘me’ in any way possible. Now that’s character.

“And if there is a ‘Unicorn’ of wealth then this is it – the character of people you choose to surround yourself with. All of us together for the past 15 months through our charity @bookasmileindia impacted about 1,000,000 COVID-affected people.

“These 200 folks were handpicked and curated over years and had surrounded themselves with the highest values of culture, performance and empathy. As the day passed, I had two thoughts, one of managing optics or two – just doing the right thing.

“And for me, finding each of them a new home, where a new journey can begin, was the easy choice. So, if you have leads, please DM me and we will do the needful. They will contribute incredibly to the growth of your wonderful firms. I’m sure we will all come out stronger.”

In 2019, India’s cinema box office reached $1.5bn making it a record year, according to Mumbai-based media consulting firm Ormax Media’s Indian Box Office Report 2019.

Cinemas in India closed following the initial COVID-19 outbreak last year but began to reopen at restricted capacity in October. They were allowed to open at full capacity in February 2021, but the second wave led to nationwide lockdown once more in April.