India employees of Meta, the firm that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, have been thrown off-guard after the US firm announced 11,000 layoffs globally or 13 per cent of its workforce.
While no country-specific numbers have yet been disclosed, Meta’s India staff are looking for clues on their future.
Company officials went incommunicado soon after Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg made public a letter he had written to employees announcing the job cuts.
Meta’s rival Twitter had just last week fired more than 90 per cent of its just over 200 India staff as part of a global reduction by new owner Elon Musk.
To handle multiple operations for Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, Meta has an estimated 300-400 employees in India. The smallest team of 60-plus is with WhatsApp.
India is a key growth engine for Meta Platforms Ltd, Twitter, Alphabet Inc’s Google and other global internet companies.
These firms reaped a financial boost during the Covid pandemic lockdown era because more people stayed home and scrolled on their phones and computers. But firms are now faced with a rising in interest rates, which has increased outgo on the money they borrowed for expansions. This together with a grim outlook for online advertising amid an economic slowdown has added to their woes.
This summer, Meta posted its first quarterly revenue decline in history, followed by another, bigger decline in the fall.
According to Musk, Twitter is losing USD 4 million per day.
US-based companies, including many tech firms, have cumulatively laid off thousands of employees in 2022 alone and slammed the brakes on hiring. The storm clouds over the global economy have prompted economic commentators to flash warnings about recession risks up ahead and international market shocks.
“We are not providing details on specific team impact,” Meta India said in response to an email seeking comments on country-specific impact.
Earlier this month, Meta India head Ajit Mohan resigned from the company to join rival Snap from February.
“Ajit has decided to step down from his role at Meta to pursue another opportunity outside of the company. Over the last four years, he has played an important role in shaping and scaling our India operations so they can serve many millions of Indian businesses, partners and people,” Meta’s Global Business Group Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn had said in a statement on November 3.
Mohan, who resigned with immediate effect, had joined Meta which was earlier known as Facebook in January 2019 from Hotstar.
Mohan’s resignation in fact came within a week of the government notifying stringent norms under the IT Act for social media platforms.
“Today, I’m sharing some of the most difficult changes we’ve made in Meta’s history. I’ve decided to reduce the size of our team by about 13 pr cent and let more than 11,000 of our talented employees go,” Zuckerberg said in a letter to employees.
The government recently notified rules under which it will set up appellate panels to redress grievances that users may have against decisions of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook on hosting contentious content.
Minister of Electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar had said the move to form three-member Grievance Appellate Committees (GACs) was necessitated as the government has information that there were lakhs of messages from citizens where grievances were not responded to by social media firms despite complaints.
There will be one government member and two independent members in these committees.
During Mohan’s tenure, Facebook came under sharp criticism for allegedly favouring ruling party leaders on the platform. The controversy followed the resignation of Facebook’s then policy head Ankhi Das in October 2020.
India is one of the biggest markets for digital platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and Twitter. As per data cited by the government last year, the country has 53 crore WhatsApp users, 44.8 crore YouTube users, 41 crore Facebook users, while 21 crore use Instagram and 1.75 crore are on Twitter.