Bengaluru | Kolkata: ByteDance, until recently a formidable Chinese Internet and technology company in India, is slowly turning into a shadow of its former self with business at a standstill and a number of senior executives walking out of the door.
The last couple of months have seen several senior-level exits, and most others still in the organisation are looking out, people in the know told ET.
Rohan Mishra, who was the India head of Helo, left the company in July to become the director of government relations and public advocacy at Coca-Cola. Nitin Saluja, ByteDance’s director of public policy until August, is now Amazon India’s senior manager, public policy.
ByteDance’s head of strategy Raj Mishra has been leading Triller India’s business since August, while Rohan Tyagi, the former associate director of marketing at ByteDance in India, has joined him as vice president, marketing. Karan Grover, who was senior director, partnership and alliances, is director – music partnerships at Dolby Laboratories. Sachin Sharma, ByteDance’s director – sales and brand partnerships, had left for LinkedIn just two months before the ban was announced.
ByteDance declined to comment.
A head hunter who has been speaking to several senior ByteDance employees, said while it was not a desperate situation yet, nearly everyone was open to outside opportunities.
“Not one person I’ve approached has said they are not looking,” this person said. “People are expecting that something will work out for the company but at the same time, they know it may be a good idea to look out. For instance, if Reliance makes an investment, then they might look at cutting down the flab; it’s unlikely they will retain many people at such high compensation levels,” he said.
Nikhil Gandhi, head of TikTok India; Sameer Singh, VP monetisation at ByteDance India; Ashok Cherian, marketing head at TikTok India; Apurva Mehta, director corp development and regional counsel; and Mohit Bansal, head of public policy at TikTok are among some of the top management holding the fort at the company.
At the regional level, some senior executives hired only months before the ban was imposed are still around. Hemant Arora, zonal head, global business solutions, ByteDance, joined in March while Seema Walia, zonal head, north and east, global business solutions, joined in May.
While many ByteDance executives may be more than willing to jump sides as the Indian government shows no indication of lifting the ban on the apps, they aren’t exactly affordable talent, according to head hunters and senior executives at Indian technology firms. Several senior ByteDance executives are getting upwards of Rs 2 crore, making it difficult for other companies to match their current compensation. Almost all the senior management people who have left already have gone to multinational companies.
“It’s difficult, particularly in the current context, to match Rs 2.5-3 crore cash compensation at the leadership level,” said Ashish Sanganeria, a partner at Transearch India.
“People will have to take cuts but some will try and make up for it through employee stock ownership plans/long-term incentives. For some, who have joined in the last few months, their earlier salary will be looked at as a more realistic compensation,” said a head hunter.
ByteDance also wants to retain as much talent as possible as it negotiates various sale options in the United States and India. Last week, ByteDance said it would hand out cash bonuses to employees working to help it “overcome challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and changing macro environment”. The company has been keeping its India staff busy with learning and development courses until more clarity emerges on either the ban or a sale.