The news came from Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters in early 2019. The telecom equipment manufacturer planned to lay off 15-30% of its Indian workforce. While the company was on the receiving end of sanctions from various countries the previous year owing to its close ties with the Chinese government, the news still came as a shock to employees.

“Until then, me and my peers were indifferent to offers from competitors. But soon, our indifference turned into regret,” says a former senior executive at one of Huawei’s corporate offices in India. Having served the company for the best part of a decade, he received his marching orders in November 2019. He is one of many Huawei employees across the country who was laid off over the past year.

It’s tempting to think the layoffs were directly linked to the US-initiated sanctions. However, similar layoffs have taken place at other telecom equipment companies. 

The likes of Samsung, ZTE, and others have sacked hundreds of employees in India over the last 12-18 months. A conservative estimate puts the total figure in the space around 3,000. This number only goes up when you take into account off-roll employees as well as local vendor partners. Even so, headcounts at the various equipment manufacturers have reduced anywhere between 10-50%.

According to one senior Huawei Telecommunications executive in Gurugram, the company has nearly halved the number of on-roll employees in its core network division. In 2019, this stood at around 1,100. Today, just 600 remain. “The target is to bring down the executive count to nearly 500,” he says.

Several off-roll employees’ contracts will also not be renewed at the end of their terms, the executive added. 

Samsung, meanwhile, has laid off close to 1,000 (both on- and off-roll), while ZTE India has handed pink slips to 230 employees between January and March this year.

Ericsson India has axed over 800 jobs last year, three industry executives told The Ken. Ericsson, however, denied these claims over email. Huawei, Samsung, and ZTE didn’t respond to email queries sent by The Ken.

Layoffs aren’t uncommon in the telecom sector. Equipment vendors tend to lay off staff in their pre-sales, sales, and network management teams when they lose telecom circle telecom circle Telecom Circle In telecom parlance, India has been geographically divided into 23 circles. Circles primarily refer to one or more states. Spectrum auctions are carried out circle by circle. Post the auction, the operators select vendors for each of these circles. Broadly, there are two contracts for each circle: providing equipment and providing managed (support) services. contracts, according to senior executives working at these companies.

AUTHOR

Pratap Vikram Singh

Pratap is based out of Delhi and covers policy and myriad intersections with the other sectors, most notably technology. He has worked with Governance Now for seven years, reporting on technology, telecom policy, and the social sector.

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