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Futile for IT firms to prevent moonlighting: Rajeev Chandrasekar, Wipro rolls out annual hikes for FY22, TCS wants staff back in office

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Just a few days after Ola said it would lay off 200 engineers, the cab-hailing platform reversed its decision. The development comes amid Ola’s successive rounds of sacking over the past couple of months as the company aims to undergo restructuring to propel its ambitious electric vehicle (EV) project.

Also in this letter:
■ TCS tells employees to return to office 3 days a week
■ Three in four brands up mobile gaming spends in India: report
■ Twitter desperate to find a link between whistleblower and Musk
Ola won’t fire 200 engineers as planned

Ride-hailing company Ola has decided to not lay off the 200 engineers the company was earlier planning to let go, according to sources in the know. We had reported on September 19 about these 200 engineers being fired across its ride-hailing and fintech businesses in a fresh round of layoffs.

Employees were informed about the change in the plan at a townhall meeting helmed by some of the company’s senior tech leaders.

Change of plans: The layoffs would have constituted 10% of the company’s engineering workforce. The Bengaluru-based firm said at the time that it would increase its engineering headcount to more than 5,000 in the next 18 months as it doubles down on cell manufacturing, a four-wheeler project, and other efforts related to EVs and mobility.

Successive sackings: There has been a spate of sackings at Ola over the past couple of months along with some top-level exits as the Bengaluru-based firm progresses aggressively on its EV business.

We had first reported on July 6 that Ola was handing pink slips and deferring appraisals as the mobility platform is restricting some of its businesses amid a tightening funding environment globally. This was followed by reports of Ola being in the process of laying off close to 1,000 employees. While the retrenchment number was estimated at around 400-500, sources said the final figure could touch about 1,000.

In addition to mass layoffs, the mobility firm has seen some of its top brass take an exit - Yashwant Kumar, senior director, and business head for charging network at Ola Electric, put in his papers in July, and Arun Sirdeshmukh, the chief executive of Ola Cars, stepped down in May.

Ambitious plans: Despite reports of retrenchment and exits, shuttering of multiple other businesses like used car marketplace, food, and grocery delivery, and an overall tightening of the tech funding, Ola is betting big on its EV plans.

On Thursday, it announced its plans for an international foray beginning with Nepal and then moving on to Latin America, ASEAN, and European Union. Last week, Ola Electric said it would be opening "experience centres" across the country amid falling sales of its flagship Ola S1 Pro electric scooter.
Return to office three days a week, TCS tells its staff

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has asked 85% of its employees to return to office at least thrice a week while senior-level executives have been asked to do so five times a week, according to sources aware of the matter.

Sources told us that managers will prepare a roster informing associates about their workdays. The Tata group company sent an internal email on the development earlier this month.

Verbatim: “We are moving in a phased manner to get our associates back to the office. This is in line with our vision to transition to the 25/25 model,” the company told ET, in response to specific queries. TCS has not issued an effective date of implementation for the new guidelines and it also did not provide further details to our queries.

25/25 model: TCS announced a new 25/25 model in 2021, to be implemented by 2025 whereby only a quarter of the company’s half a million employees would be required to work from an office at any given point and would spend only a quarter of their time in the office.

However, the company wants all employees to return to the office before it transitions to the new model in phases.

WFH not a sole option: IT firms have been dealing with issues of high attrition, moonlighting and a talent crunch since the WFH option was implemented after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to TCS, remote working cannot be the sole work arrangement.

ETtech has been covering this moonlight issue in depth over the past few weeks. Recently, we were the first to report that Wipro had sacked 300 employees who were moonlighting for their competitors. The IT industry, including startups, are divided over this buzzing trend. While Wipro's Rishad Premji has spoken against the idea, other industry veterans like CP Gurnani are unfazed by it. Among startups, Swiggy became the first to roll out a company-wide policy encouraging moonlighting.

Also read: Moonlighting polarises IT industry opinion; experts say return to workplace may ease concerns
Wipro rolls out annual hikes for FY22, covers 96% of employees

Wipro will be awarding annual increments or merit salary increases (MSI) hikes for the financial year ending 2022 covering 96% of its employees.

The Bengaluru-based company will be awarding annual increases to eligible employees with effect from September and the employees will be receiving the increment letters from the managers in the coming days, according to an internal mail sent on Thursday.

The announcement: "Despite financial pressures in the last quarter, we have ensured a substantially wider coverage and market-aligned salary increase," the internal mail sent by Chief Human Resource Officer Saurabh Govil stated. "You will receive your MSI letter from your manager over the next few days. The salary increases in this cycle cover about 96% of all Wiproites based on performance and meeting eligibility criteria," it added.

What else? The development comes after Wipro had decided to hold back variable pay to its mid- and senior-level executives for the June-ended quarter due to pressure on operating margins.


ETtech Deals Digest

Big numbers continue to call it a pass in the Indian startup funding scenario. After weeks of tepid funding rounds regarding numbers and values, this week also seems to have sub-$100 million deals. Macroeconomic considerations, slowing economies, and tighter liquidity across economies are likely to be the reason.

The number of funding rounds of $100 million and upwards has fallen from 29 in the first quarter of the calendar year to 18 in the second quarter and just three in the third quarter (as of August 24).

With large PE and VC funds still placing their bets cautiously amid the volatile macroeconomic environment, the dry spell might continue for some time. Insurtech platform Zopper and Gifting solutions company Join Ventures led the funding charts this week.

Here is a list of all the startups that raised funds this week

Twitter desperate to find link between Musk and whistleblower Zatko

After being hammered by whistleblower allegations, Twitter is now seeking if there is a connection between its former head of security Peiter 'Mudge' Zatko and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Some respite: The Delaware Court of Chancery in the US, where the legal battle is set to begin on October 17, has agreed on a request by Twitter for details about whether Musk or his associates knew about Zatko's claims before he took them to the public.

Judge Kathleen McCormick on Thursday ordered Musk's legal team to provide some of the documents being requested by Twitter regarding any communications by them with Zatko.

Asking for more: Twitter is also requesting from Musk's legal team communications sent or received by from December 1, 2021, through August 22, 2022, that relate to "Zatko or his July 6 complaint, including any of the allegations contained therein".

Larger context: Twitter is facing larger scrutiny from the governments after Zatko claimed that the company had negligent security practices, misled federal regulators about its safety, and failed to estimate the number of bots on its platform.

The Tesla CEO is also trying to buy more time from the court to kick off the Twitter trial citing Zatko’s testimony.

Today’s ETtech Top 5 newsletter was curated by Gaurab Dasgupta in New Delhi and Aishwarya Dabhade in Mumbai. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.

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