Sea’s E-commerce Platform Shopee Cuts Staff in China

Shopee, an e-commerce platform owned by Singapore-based Sea Limited, told employees on Sept. 19 that they would begin a new round of team rotations and cut some jobs around the world, Bloomberg reported. The company has reduced at least one business unit to a third of its original size, according to a Shopee employee in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, who posted on China’s Maimai job information-sharing platform.

According to Bloomberg’s report, Shopee will cut about 3 percent of its employees in Indonesia as part of the restructuring, which will affect marketing, operations and technology teams. According to people familiar with the matter, the main purpose of this adjustment is to streamline the organization and increase its efficiency. The group intends to reduce its workforce at Shopee Indonesia by “a low single-digit percentage” while not impacting business operations in each market.

The job cuts in Indonesia come shortly after Shopee’s parent company announced last week that management would waive their salaries and limit the company’s expense policy until it achieved independence. CEO, co-founder and chairman Forrest Li told employees in a memo that while the company has solid cash reserves, it needs to be prepared for a challenging funding environment with the primary goal of being cash flow positive over the next 12 to 18 years achieve months.

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In order to control costs and streamline operations, Shopee has recently made many changes. A few weeks ago, Shopee closed its local operations in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico (keeping only cross-border e-commerce) and pulled out of Argentina entirely. Garena, its gaming division, will cut hundreds of jobs in Shanghai.

Founded in 2015 by Chinese entrepreneur Forrest Li, Sea has followed the typical path of Chinese Internet companies in terms of founding background, business model and financing process and was once called “Little Tencent in Southeast Asia” because of Tencents investment. Its e-commerce arm Shopee is also outperforming Lazada, which belongs to Alibabain several markets.

Over the past year, however, shares in Sea, as major shareholder Tencent, have plummeted more than 81% has reduced its stake in the company and the Indian market has banned Shopee and Sea’s Free Fire game product over data security concerns.

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Even greater turbulence has occurred within the company. A number of Shopee employees in Singapore confirmed to Chinese media outlet PingWest that since March 2021, Shopee’s Singapore team has handed over power to the Chinese team and most of the focus of the technical project has shifted to Shenzhen. The Singapore management team was subsequently taken over mostly by Chinese executives, with many members of the Singapore team changing or resigning.

Shopee’s recruitment boom in China in 2021 is evident as the major domestic recruitment platforms are filled with job postings to work for the company. Discussion of the company’s interview and how it compares to other similar platforms has also surfaced on forums in China.

A person familiar with the matter said that in addition to the usual executive recruitment, Shopee has also poached R&D talent from China’s internet giants by offering higher salaries. AlibabaExperienced technical staff typically have annual salaries ranging from 600,000 yuan ($855.48) to 1.5 million yuan, but at Shopee they often earn 2.2 million yuan.

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A number of Shopee employees said that after the large-scale transfer of the core business team, Shopee still has about 4000 employees in Shenzhen and about 1000 employees in Singapore. However, the number of Shopee employees in Singapore and Shenzhen was the same as of March 2021. In addition, the Shenzhen R&D center had few employees in the early years of Shopee’s establishment, while the technical construction, iteration and maintenance of the platform in the early stages were all completed by the Singapore team.

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“The size of the China team continues to grow. The decision-makers are also planning to build another base in Beijing, which is expected to be as large as the Shenzhen base,” a person close to Shopee’s decision-making team told PingWest.

Amidst these tremendous changes, Shopee has now become a Chinese company in the eyes of many employees.

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