“Companies are laying off mercilessly”

The layoff scene has not been this bad in years

“Companies are laying off mercilessly,” say fired employees. From tech companies to fitness firms, startups to MNCs, companies are on a firing spree and doing it with an iron fist. Ashutosh Dixit reports for The Probe. 
First Published: Dec 28,2022 08:16PM
by Ashutosh Dixit

Last Updated on December 28, 2022

Representative image | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

“I was laid off last month. I did not get advance notice about it. I was issued the pink slip on the same day, and I was told that I need not serve my notice period. The HR called me along with my team manager and asked me if I knew about the market scenario and how companies are laying off people, including managers, and finally, they broke the news to me and terminated me from service,” says Om Prakash, an ex-employee of Amazon.

Om Prakash served as a Customer Executive with the firm, and he is one among many employees who the company laid off. Amazon has embarked on a long cycle of layoffs. But what has perplexed most employees is how the pink slips are being handed out. Companies like Google and Amazon are planning massive layoffs in 2023. If reports are to be believed, Amazon is expected to lay off at least 20,000 employees to streamline its costs.

Amazon logo on glass building | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement

As for Om Prakash, he was nominated as the best performer of the month just a few days before he was fired. “I used to get gift cards from my company for my service and performance,” he says.

The Probe spoke to many laid-off employees of Oyo. The sheer indifference to workers’ concerns during the laying off process is baffling, say employees. “I understand that it is the company’s prerogative to lay off its employees for various reasons. But it cannot be done ruthlessly. Most of the employees are being laid off all of a sudden without any notice. We were told about the decision after 12 pm. We didn’t even get a day’s notice. We have not been given a severance package. That came in as a shocker. If I talk about engineers specifically, they were at least given a hint of it. But for us, the news came all of a sudden. Out of nowhere,” says Pradeep Kumar (name changed), an ex-Manager with Oyo.

Hospitality firm Oyo has sliced over 600 tech jobs in the recent past. Many employees have complained that the company did not offer them a severance package or assistance. We got in touch with another ex-employee who served as a Product Manager with Oyo. He says on condition of anonymity, “They are not firing employees like us because of our performance-related issues. They are firing us because of the crisis in the job market and fears of an impending recession. That’s why I feel that the company should have increased the notice period so that at least we get a fair amount of time to look for another job. When they fired us, they never spoke about the market crisis and why they wanted to cut costs. They just said they are laying off people because of “restructuring”. I feel they could have been honest.”

Oyo Townhouse | Photo courtesy: Oyo

In a statement, Oyo said that it was trying to help as many employees as it could in outplacement. Dipankar Mishra (name changed), another laid-off employee from the firm, says: “In August when they laid off people, we heard from our colleagues that cost optimisation was going on, and that was the reason for the job cuts. So, we were taken aback when they again started laying off people without any prior intimation. I am personally very disappointed with the organisation because I feel that they could have handled it better. I got a call from a senior team member, and I was told about the current market scenario and how Oyo was also going to cut costs and then I was asked to put in my papers. They didn’t fire me directly. They asked me to put in my papers so that it doesn’t show on my employment papers that I was fired.”

The Probe also caught up with Ritika Mourya, a recently laid-off employee from Unacademy, an ed-tech firm. Ritika used to work in the Sales and Marketing department of the company and reveals startling details about how the company laid off some of its employees. “You are informed on the same day that you are being laid off, and then on the same day, your emails get deactivated. Your slack and your login tools, and everything else get frozen. Everything happens on the same day. You are completely cut off from the company on the same day”.

Reminiscing about her last working day, she recounts: “It was a fine day, and we were working on our daily KRAs, and then we got to know from Twitter that our boss mentioned that there could be some team cuts. And then the emails started pouring in. We were all in a state of shock.”

Unacademy team | Photo courtesy: blog.unacademy.com

Like many other laid-off employees across sectors, Ritika too says she was laid off despite her excellent performance. “I had gotten many nominations and rewards in the past. So, I did not particularly expect to be on the list. It was a sudden shocker for me. I really feel that the company should have given us prior notice and prepared us for this uncertain future.”

The ed-tech firm Unacademy along with its peers in the industry like Byju’s, Vedantu and the like, have terminated the services of thousands of employees in the recent past. On the other hand, Bangalore-based health tech and fitness startup HealthifyMe too, has issued pink slips to its employees.

A picture of HealthifyMe office | Photo courtesy: @TusharVashisht | Twitter

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, Geeta Arora (name changed), who was in charge of talent acquisition and recruitment at HealthifyMe, says, “It happened all of a sudden. I was very happy with the company. Before I got laid off, the company had frozen its major hiring processes. When I joined in September, they used to hire rigorously, but by November, they froze all of the hiring processes, and then the firings began”.

Companies like Google have already put in place systems to identify poor performers. The company is expected to lay off a part of its workforce in 2023. Speaking to The Probe, Human Development Economist Santosh Mehrotra says the 2023 scenario is only going to go from bad to worse.

“The government is trying to sell the story of phenomenal growth, but some of us have been saying for quite some time that the growth rate is actually on a decline. More layoffs in the organised sector in 2023 are inevitable because demand is not picking up. The new startups that were creating jobs and had picked up are now resorting to job cuts. Their profitability has fallen. The 2023 scenario will continue to be bad. The employment rate will continue to decline. Youngsters are looking for a job in a labour market that is sliding. The only way forward is for youngsters to upskill themselves and keep looking out for opportunities,” says Mehrotra.

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