The ByteDance India Layoff Nightmare: A Lesson in Disguise for Every Employee

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The best of poisons do come in the fanciest of wrappings. If you ever needed proof, look no further than the bane ByteDance has unleashed on its Indian employees.

The thing is, just after reports claimed that India was set to bury TikTok, its Chinese parent company ByteDance began the process of laying off a large chunk of its nearly two thousand people strong workforce in India. While not an irregular occurrence in the corporate world, the disarray in which it leaves its employees is something that sticks out for all the wrong reasons.

Now, the numbed employees are, having to jump ship to once rival social media and video apps, flooding their domains with incessant job requests and resumes.

Needless to say, now that the TikTok ship has sailed, Indian counterparts like MX Player’s TakaTak, ShareChat, Trell, Chingari, Bolo Indya, Mitron and Roposo, and Josh have set their eyes on these impacted employees.

The unbalance in the ecosystem can be well documented by the stat backed claims several of the rival app top brass has made against the foraging employees.

Pulkit Agarwal, a co-founder at Trell, a lifestyle content focused short video platform, said his team had received up to 800 emails from job seekers, 50 of whom were approved for jobs.

Chingari, which was one of the biggest gainers from the TikTok ban, seeing as many as 3.5 million user additions in June 2020, has also been reached out to in droves.

Bolo Indya, another competitor in the entertainment app space, was blown up after receiving 4500 emails in a space of 36 hours after the layoffs were made public.

All modes of establishing professional contact, from LinkedIn to emails to referrals by previous employees are being explored by the culled workforce.

Needless to say, with the market open in terms of opportunities, ex-TikTok employees in content, user engagement, creator growth, brand partnerships, and product management are all trying to find the most suitable brand for their skill and taste.

Ashish Sanganeria, senior partner, Transearch made a good point by saying that ByteDance and other Chinese app laid-off employees are most likely to find jobs with TikTok lookalikes; with many start-ups and technology companies waiting to take advantage of the employees’ skillset and work experience in what was a path-breaking company, but it is this very fact that comes with an ungainly catch.

The thing with ByteDance’s rocky exit is that even though the layoff is not unprecedented, it is beset by various unique characteristics.

While the ban was a long time coming, ByteDance clung on and added employees through appraisals and cash bonuses. Offering hikes anywhere from 60%-100% in the 12 months preceding its ban, a number of employees enjoyed salaries of Rs. 1 crore, while the top management even pocketed Rs. 2 crores plus. What should have sent alarm bells ringing at the first mention, were clouded by greed and the tumult has surfaced thus.

ByteDance went overboard with its compensation, something which wide-eyed employees couldn’t resist. Alas, they failed to realise the long term impact on their career and turned a blind eye on the market standards in order to grab a job with jaw-dropping salary – ideally that should be the alarm bell for many.

Now that the axe has fallen, the employees find themselves in a situation where even if they do land a job, they are unlikely to ever be compensated at the level they were in TikTok, simply because of the ridiculously industry-defying packages that ByteDance was offering to its employees.

A man-power consulting firm, approached by few senior employees of TikTok, on the condition of anonymity, disclose that companies are giving cold shoulders to TikTok employees primarily due to their current an expected salary package. The firm said that other companies are finding TikTok employees, that are being laid off, expectations quite ridiculous given their experience and skill sets.

It is indeed a saddeningly strange situation, given how the once-popular app was aggressively looking to expand before these horrific instances of the pandemic and the border incident. It is humbling how an app once gearing up to compete with the Big Tech, accumulating a $75 billion valuation, racking up record 600 million-plus users in India in its upswing came to pass.

Excited employees could almost be forgiven to jump on the bandwagon that TikTok was gearing up to be. But more importantly, after what has transpired and the companies unwilling to match the employees in a paycheque, it has etched a sobering lesson for all present and future employees. The struggles which the employees would have to go through to make the transition in their own lives will always attest to that.

Clearly, all is not what it seems. So, the takeaway here is Job Seeking 101: Seekers, look before you leap, interpret the warning signs, and make the hard, right decisions for your future and not just a plush present.

Stay tuned for more such updates.


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