Non-revenue generating jobs tend to be more affected in the current downturn: Glints CEO

Non-revenue generating jobs tend to be more affected in the current downturn: Glints CEO

Glints Co-Founder and CEO Oswald Yeo

Globally, the last couple of months have witnessed many layoffs as companies began to tighten their belts to tide over the current financial slowdown. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their livelihoods. In Southeast Asia, companies, including Shopee and, handed pink slips to hundreds of people. Many more companies are likely to reduce their workforce in the coming weeks.

The situation is grim, but there is some silver lining, says Oswald Yeo, Founder and CEO of Glints, an online talent platform in Southeast Asia.

In this interview, he discusses the crisis, the silver lining and more.

Edited excerpts:

Globally, companies have started laying off people in doves to tide over the funding winter. What does the overall job situation look like in Southeast Asia?

If you are in engineering or product [development], your job situation is good as these are still highly sought-after roles, and there is still higher demand for these roles across markets than supply. We see that non-revenue generating roles, such as marketing, operations, and HR, tend to be more affected in the current downturn.

Also Read: Tech companies lay off, now or never for smaller startups

However, we do not see the situation as all doom and gloom. There is a silver lining in all this: many companies and talent in Southeast Asia have proven themselves resilient. What we see is that companies and talent are adopting more of a borderless mindset. Strong talent is looking outside of their local markets for opportunities.

How do tech companies in different markets in Southeast Asia react to the situation differently? Is there a panic among tech firms?

We see more layoffs in Indonesia and Singapore, the markets that attracted significant investments over the past few years. Now, major corrections are happening on the ground.

In other markets, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, we are yet to see many layoffs. We see that not all markets have been affected equally. And not all businesses are being impacted equally either. Prudent tech startups with strong unit economics will continue attracting funds and will likely continue hiring.

Is the situation in Singapore better?

Compared to other markets, Singapore is adapting more quickly than other markets. The city-state is adapting faster than other markets partly because it is much more connected to global markets.

Many international companies’ regional headquarters are based in Singapore and, where needed, have taken decisive cuts.

How can companies tide over this crisis without resorting to workforce reduction?

It depends on the company and its current financial position and balance sheets. For companies that unfortunately need to make difficult decisions to adapt to the new economic realities, we see the best companies do it with compassion and honesty, supporting their employees through it.

Is it a short-term phenomenon? When do you think the world will come out of this? Do you see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Unfortunately, it is likely just the beginning of a correction. In the next six months, markets like Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines will probably see further belt-tightening. However, we see a silver lining: now, many companies are not only thinking about how they can hire talent locally but also how to build a strong workforce borderless way.

We’ve been working with companies like AIA and Setel to hire remote teams in markets like Indonesia and Vietnam. This is also an excellent opportunity for talent in emerging markets as they are no longer constrained to just local opportunities – they now have access to opportunities all around the region and even around the world with this new remote work trend.

How do you compare the current recession with the COVID-19 crisis?

The decline during the COVID-19 crisis was a sudden shock to the system and much steeper, but recovery was also swifter due to massive fiscal stimulus. Recovery was speedy in the tech industry due to the vast funding available at the time.

Also Read: Compassionate layoff — Airbnb shows the way

The current decline seems to be more gradual, more companies realise the changes in the economic environment over time, but some may realise these changes too late. Recovery is unlikely to be as swift as the cost of capital has changed. Eventually, we believe it will recover, but we need to maintain patience and resiliency.

Southeast Asia companies and talent have proven themselves resilient by adopting a borderless mindset. Talent is looking for opportunities outside their local markets, and companies adapt to borderless workforces for greater cost efficiency.

What lessons can we draw from these crises?

There are a few lessons learned in this time. The first is being able to confront reality. Companies that do best during crises are those that confront reality instead of being blind to the real challenges.

It’s essential to be pragmatically hopeful instead of sheer blind optimism. It’s also important to recognise the problems and not just tolerate them.

The second is to be resilient. We have seen many founders and companies looking for new ways to adapt to the new realities. For example, many of our employers have adapted by adopting a borderless workforce.

The third is to look for opportunities in times of crisis. For companies in a strong position, now is the time to look for senior talent with less competition. It is also a great time to strengthen the current bench with more top talent.

Do you think the “aggressive growth at any cost” era is over? Should companies now focus on fundamentals and achieving profitability?

We certainly see more focus on fundamentals and profitability now. And we believe the best companies will be able to deliver growth efficiently.

Profitable and cash flow-positive businesses are in a good position particularly prudent tech startups with strong unit economics will continue to attract funds and therefore likely to continue hiring.

However, early-stage companies that do not have a strong cash position or are very dependent on liquidity (for example, Buy Now, Pay Later) or inventory-holding businesses like retail and e-commerce will be negatively impacted.

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