Tech layoffs to continue for sometime thanks to a slowdown in demand and an uncertain economic environment

Tech layoffs to continue for sometime thanks to a slowdown in demand and an uncertain economic environment
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  • The tech industry has seen more than 200,000 layoffs since the start of 2022.
  • Instead of performance, the focus for layoffs is more on eliminating redundant roles that no longer add a major value to the organization.
  • Some of the red flags an employee should look out for are a decrease in hiring, budget cuts and changes in management.
Bipin Singh, a business development manager at Byju’s with over 11 years experience in the EdTech industry was laid off last month after a stint of 1.5 years at the company. In his LinkedIn post he mentioned about the layoff and urged everyone to reach out to him with job offers or if not, like share and comment on his post to increase reach.

Anil Sahani, a software engineer, lost his job in Accenture recently .“I was one of the first ones to let go as I was a contract employee and also did not have any notice period. The layoffs are still on.”

Singh and Sahani are among the thousands of employees who have been affected by tech layoffs in India.

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Google trend data, which reflects what people search for, shows that between January 22-28 this year, the term ‘layoff’ was at its peak popularity of 100, while between January 23 to January 29 last year, it was just at five. This is not surprising because layoffs are being reported majorly in the media and almost every other post on Linkedin is talking about layoffs.

It all started with the news that the big tech giants like Amazon and Google parent Alphabet were laying off in large numbers. While Alphabet laid off 12,000 people, the Amazon layoffs affected more than 18,000 people. Microsoft said it will lay off 10,000 people by the end of the third quarter of 2023 and even SAP and IBM have started laying off employees. It seems it is almost like a contagion that is spreading rapidly like wildfire.


The Indian situation: Which brings us to the question: Is the situation as bad in India? Layoffs are now a reality in India too. Reports suggest that around 21,000 techies have lost their jobs in the last three to four months.

In the third week of January, Wipro fired more than 400 freshers for failing performance tests. While Amazon has laid off 1,000 of its employees in India, IBM and SAP are also laying off employees, affecting their employees in India as well. Very recently, Byju’s laid off 1,000 people, in a second round of layoffs in February.

Sivaprasad N, vice president & business head, TeamLease Digital, a staffing solutions company, puts the number of layoffs in the tech industry at more than 2,00,000 since 2022.

Over 21,000 employees have been laid off by 70 startups in the past 3-4 months including from unicorns like BYJU'S, Ola, MPL, Innovaccer, Unacademy, Vedantu, Cars24, OYO, Meesho, Udaan and many more.

Anuj Gupta, who has over 10 years of experience in SEO, has lost his job in edtech company upGrad and is a part of the current tech and marketing layoff wave.

The layoff situation in India is currently more of a spill-over effect of shake-ups in the West. Unlike the funding winter that hit the Indian funded tech startups cohort in 2022, the current layoffs by big labels are largely corrective talent adjustments.

“Despite potential opportunities coming our way due to global shakeups, it is prudent for India Inc. to treat the current layoffs as a tip of the iceberg,” says Kamal Karanth, CoFounder, Xpheno, a specialist staffing company. He adds that enterprises, especially in tech, will benefit from remaining alert and conservative on costs for at least two quarters.

Agrees Sivaprasad, “Companies are battling a slowdown in demand after a hiring frenzy. No company is certain to avoid significant cutbacks in such an economic environment. We are witnessing a significant drop in tech hiring unlike previous years as companies are only doing selective hiring for critical projects. It looks like the trend will continue for some time.”

Many IT majors have announced mass layoffs in the last couple of months, quoting factors like overhiring, an impending recession and geopolitical conflicts. “We expect businesses to exhibit caution in hiring and workforce management through a major part of 2023,” Sachin Alug, CEO, NLB Services - a global technology & digital talent solutions company.

Delhi-based Pankaj Kumar, laid off from a software company this month, says that one day he got a message saying that the company was restructuring and that it was his last day. “However, we were forced to resign and also we received very little in the name of assistance as promised.” Kumar feels that most startups today have no clue about manpower requirements and just hire to show their investors that they are doing well without having an idea of how they can sustain themselves in crucial times.

Tech jobs have been the most affected: As discussed, tech companies, especially IT firms, are very vulnerable to an impending recession in the US. “The tech sector has always been highly sensitive to economic cycles, and the current economic downturn could have a significant impact on these companies. A recession could lead to decreased consumer spending, reduced corporate investment, and layoffs, which could all hit tech companies hard,” says Sandeep Budhiraja, Co-founder, Executive Director and Chief People Officer - BYLD Group which provides HR and Business productivity solutions,

Additionally, the US market is a major source of revenue for many tech companies, so a recession here could have a widespread impact on global operations. Finally, any disruption to the global supply chain could further disrupt tech companies, as many rely on components and materials sourced from around the world.

“The sectors that may be most affected, other than the technology, are telecommunications, financial services and retail. The telecommunications sector could be hit by reduced investment in infrastructure and lower customer demand. The financial services sector could be adversely affected by a decrease in credit availability and tightened lending standards, while the retail sector could suffer from decreased consumer spending,” adds Budhiraja.

Everyone is vulnerable: “Instead of performance, the focus for layoffs is more on eliminating redundant roles that no longer add major value to the organization. Usually, mass layoffs affect employees invariably regardless of their performance but in organizations that choose to let go of a selected few, performers at a certain level tend to be the target,” says Alug.

The primary causes of layoffs are the foreseeable recession and the geopolitical scenario which have led to inflation, impacting many industries. Prominent players in the IT and Technology domain are being cautious to ensure profitability and better predictability of business.

Agrees Karanth, “The larger layoffs related to enterprise strategy and austerity are mostly across the ranks and ratings of performance. Such layoffs related to macroeconomic movements are typically steamrollers on entire divisions, geographies and business units. While each enterprise has their own pattern of priority on the layoffs, the high cost and high volume headcounts typically come under the lens faster.”

Look out for red flags: “Layoffs in a situation like now are largely written on the wall. It is often the speed and style of a layoff that's a surprise to talent, and not the layoff by itself,” says Karanth. Some of the red flags an employee should look out for are a decrease in hiring, budget cuts and changes in management. “Additionally, if a company is reducing or eliminating certain departments or projects, it may be a sign that layoffs are coming. If there are rumours of layoffs or if employees are being asked to take unpaid leave, this could also be a sign that layoffs are imminent. Finally, if the company is not meeting its financial goals or is experiencing a downturn in business, layoffs may be a possibility,” says Alug.

Hiring remains slow: “Many of those who lost their jobs are still looking for work, as nearly every major corporation has put a freeze on new hiring due to global macroeconomic conditions and recession fears. We are witnessing a significant drop in tech hiring unlike previous years as companies are only doing selective hiring for critical projects. Looks like the trend would continue for some time,” says Sivaprasad.

However Karanth feels that while tech hiring has slowed down, there are opportunities for talent who are flexible and agile to look beyond their domain. The non-tech sector's talent demand has been compensating well for tech's hiring slowdown.

Shraddha Jain, who is also known as 'Aiyyo Shraddha' on social media, posted a hilarious video on Instagram, where she slammed companies for laying off employees despite making a profit. "At the company offsite, we celebrated the company tripling its profit in a year. What happened? A month later we are so poor. Who robbed us?" she asked.

While these are questions that reflect the grim reality of large scale layoffs, employees should brace themselves for tough times ahead. 2023 will be a turbulent ride.