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Indian TikTok rivals flooded with CVs as China’s ByteDance fires hundreds amid ban

ByteDance is laying off India-based employees as the government shows no signs of lifting the ban imposed on its most popular apps TikTok and Helo last June.

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New Delhi: Bolo Indya, an Indian short video platform, has said it received 4,800 job requests in 36 hours — between 28 and 29 January — after Chinese giant ByteDance, which owns TikTok, began layoffs in India last week.

Bengaluru-based lifestyle video app Trell said it hired around 50 ex-ByteDancers within 48 hours of the layoffs, while Chingari, another Bengaluru-based video-sharing platform, claimed it had received over 100 resumes from former employees of the Chinese company by 29 January.

ByteDance is laying off India-based employees as the government shows no signs of lifting the ban imposed on its most popular apps TikTok and Helo. In June last year, the government banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including TikTok, SHAREiT and WeChat, citing national security concerns. The move came amid a border stand-off between India and China in Ladakh that began last May and continues to this day.

On 27 January, a report in tech news portal TechCrunch quoted a source as saying that the ByteDance layoffs may affect two thirds of its over 2,000 employees in India. A TikTok spokesperson was also quoted confirming layoffs in India.

For many former “Bytedancers” — a name Bytedance employees use for themselves — Indian video social media apps appear to have emerged as the first alternative.

A senior ByteDance employee, who was laid off last week, told ThePrint that it is likely there would be another round of layoffs in June this year as the Chinese internet giant looks to wrap up TikTok and Helo operations in India.

The employee said ByteDance may retain only a small 15-20 member team in the country to work on its music streaming app Resso.

ThePrint requested ByteDance for a response about its probable exit from India. But an executive from the firm handling ByteDance PR said “TikTok won’t be able to participate in the story”.

Also read: How a college dropout undercut China’s app titans to become a billionaire

‘Hope they come with experience, contacts’

There are several Indian short video apps competing to grab TikTok India’s 200-million-strong user base. For these companies, having former Bytedance employees on board presents the prospect of tapping some of TikTok’s viral success in India.

In an email response to ThePrint on 29 January, Bolo Indya’s CEO-Founder Varun Saxena said, “Bolo Indya has witnessed an impressive number of interests and we are humbled by the response. Over the last 36 hours, we have received more than 4,800 inbound mails for job requests.”

Trell co-founder Pulkit Agarwal was quoted as saying in a report on Exchange4Media he hopes the former ByteDance employees come with experience, expertise, and good contacts with “advertisers, influencers, and publishers” that can help his company grow.

Sumit Ghosh, co-founder of Chingari, tweeted on 27 January that former ByteDance employees can approach him for work. Ghosh told ThePrint that, by 29 January, the firm had received over 100 resumes.

However, many former ByteDance employees are concerned if Indian companies will be able to absorb all of them.

A second former ByteDance employee, who did not want to be identified, said the number of job seekers in the market is higher than the number of vacancies available. The employee also noted that many Indian apps are working at a smaller scale and budget than ByteDance. One can’t be sure if the Indian market will be able to provide suitable employment with adequate payment the employee added.

ByteDance reportedly paid employees above industry standards. For some senior roles, salaries exceeded Rs 2 crore per annum. While Trell has hired around 50 former ByteDance employees, the annual budget for the new hires is reportedly Rs 10-12 crore.

There might also be a potential mismatch in the skill set of the ByteDance employees and what the Indian firms are looking for.

Chingari’s Ghosh, for example, noted how most of the resumes received were for roles in content and community management.

The company, he said, has vacancies for engineering graduates and is looking for those skilled in artificial intelligence/machine learning, backend operations, programming language Python, and Node, a software supporting web applications written in JavaScript language.

However, Ghosh added, the company hasn’t received any resume from candidates with an engineering background.

‘Proud ByteDancers’

One of the former ByteDance employees quoted above said he was “hopeful” of getting another opportunity soon since there has been a “good response on LinkedIn (an employment-oriented online service)” to those laid off by the Chinese giant.

Many former ByteDance employees have added a label to their LinkedIn profile picture called ‘#OPENTOWORK’. It’s a LinkedIn feature to let employers know a user is looking for jobs.

Despite losing their jobs, many of the former India employees of the Chinese social media giant only have positive things to say about the firm on LinkedIn.

One former employee, whose LinkedIn profile says he worked with ByteDance from September 2019 to January 2021, has made a video collage of news reports about the layoffs. The video features text that reads: “Now what? Will employees fight? Will they have grudge? Are they sad? Will they sue the company?”

The clip then shows a collection of social media posts from former ByteDance employees expressing sadness but also appreciating their time at the firm. While one person noted, “I have never felt this hard while leaving an organisation”, another said, “I will always be proud that I was a ByteDancer”.

Also read: ByteDance rival seeks $5.4 billion in world’s biggest tech IPO since Uber


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