Several young techies as well as seasoned IT professionals with over a decade of work experience have taken a hit in the ongoing layoffs across tech firms in the US.
The majority of those affected are of Indian descent, including people from the Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
It is estimated that over four lakh Telugus live in the United States, with most of them working in technology.
According to a layoff tracker, at least 1,17,300 employees were fired by 242 companies in January this year, while 25,256 have been shown the door in February so far.
Among these are tech giants, Google, which sacked 12,000 employees in January, Amazon (18,000 employees), Microsoft (10,000 employees), Zoom (1,300 employees), eBay (500 employees), and Salesforce (8,000 employees). Yahoo is the latest to join the bandwagon.
Facebook parent Meta laid off 11,000 employees in November last year.
Visa challenge for sacked NRIs
The sacked employees have the most immediate and significant challenge of remaining in the United States.
The H-1B visas permit them to stay for an additional grace period after the expiry of their work.
This period, known as the “discretionary grace period”, is of 60 days after which the employer notifies the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the worker on the visa is no longer employed with the company.
In this period, the workers can maintain their visa status only if a new employer files a petition with an extension of stay request.
Workers can also apply for a change in their visa status, such as from H1B to H4 (dependent on a spouse), B2 (visitor), or F1 (student), all of which have restrictive working conditions.
Telugus finding alternative ways to extend stay
People of the Telugu community are now finding alternative ways to stay put in the US. With the cost of living rising due to inflation in the last two years, gas prices are skyrocketing, and they are already in financial trouble.
“To secure their stay, some Telugus are signing up with smaller companies to take them on formally on paper, but in practice, without paying them,” a Telugu community leader in the Bay Area told South First.
The Telugu leader added, “This allows them to keep their visa status and gives them more time to find work. However, finding a company willing to do this for you is critical. By identifying such smaller companies, we are able to help a few of them.”
Another NRI with roots in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, told South First that in some cases, both the wife and husband work, and if one job is impacted, the family’s saving grace is the second job.
“However, it is difficult to survive for long on a single job with high monthly overheads. They’ll have to find work sooner or later. It will only provide a temporary cushion,” the NRI added.
Hiring slow back home
Experts told South First that “layoffs are being done by US-based companies to increase the profit of investors”, and most are not being executed in India.
However, they contended that the hiring process in Indian tech companies has been slow.
“Indian companies did over-hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic. There are rare instances where they are cutting down on people. But mostly the hiring process has been frozen in Indian companies,” Harpreet Singh Saluja, president of Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES), a union for IT worker’s rights, told South First.
Meanwhile, last month, the NITES had written to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, demanding an enquiry into Wipro’s recent termination of 450 employees in India.
“For a year these employees were struggling to join the company despite clearing interviews, trainings, assessments and internships. Wipro even asked for training fee of ₹70,000. The company has not paid a single rupee to these employees, and fired them illegally,” Saluja alleged, adding that the termination was unethical.
Techies reaction on social media
South First came across the social media posts of several techies, who have been laid off.
A head of an IT firm posted, “I prefer to not rant but there are some topics that we should speak up. I’m appalled to see how some of the leading companies in our industry are going about the layoffs. I understand layoffs. What I don’t understand is this disingenuous and impersonal method of letting go. Many folks are finding out about their employment status when they show up on the doors and their cards don’t work. We spend millions of hours and dollars to engage the same employees when the going is great. When the going gets tough, can we not gather enough courage to say it to the face of that employee? He/She may or may not have performed. But you shared work places, work hours and experiences together. They deserve the respect to be told to their faces and not by their disabled ID cards.”
He added, “I don’t know how to justify this crass and uncouth method of letting go and why it has crept in the minds of some HR leaders. A complete lack of empathy, respect and dignity in this way of working. Please desist from such practices if you agree and let’s bring back the humane element in corporate.”
A software developer from Ola wrote, “Hi Everyone !! As of the start of 2023, I unfortunately became part of the recent layoffs at OLA. I’m a 2022 graduate from National Institute of technology Patna. And I worked as a Software Development Engineer (SDE) -1 in OLA for the last 7 months. Unfortunately, My time at OLA has come to an end. I am graceful for the professional growth and experience, as well as the amazing relationships I’ve built over the year as a fresher. Moving ahead I am actively looking for any open opportunities in the field of software engineering (Frontend, Backend, Full stack or IOS development).”
Meanwhile, a YouTube video on the issue of tech layoffs by comedian Aiyyo Shraddha has gone viral, and helped lighten the mood amidst the grim tidings from the US.