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Yahoo's Bangalore Centre -- once proud outpost of creativity: Photo courtesy Arijeeth.B.
 
 
Yahoo ditches its India R&D team

An India TechOnline Special analysis
Bangalore, October 8 2014: Internet company Yahoo is  laying off its most valuable asset --  the innovation  and intellectual property that the   500-strong team of engineers at its  Bangalore, India-based Software  Development Centre  provided for more than a decade.
For twenty four hours now,  social media  has been ablaze with  anxious posts by Yahoo employees in India who they say, have been asked to leave the  Internet firm  by November 1.  A small number -- less than 5 % say insiders -- have been offered jobs in the company's Sunnyvale, California headquarters.
This will  practically wind up Yahoo's India R&D -- its largest outside the US - and  the source of a lot of innovation in the mobile area that targeted emerging economies.  Now, only support and operations functions will seemingly be  carried out in India. With one savage stroke, Yahoo which was among early comers to India for  its software  skills, has destroyed  the very rationale that    persuaded technology MNCs to set up an R&D unit in India.
Ironically the  downsizing that affects only India at this time comes only days after Yahoo  become wealthier by some 5 billion dollars -- the money it stood to earn  when it sold  121.7 million shares it  held in its former Chinese partner, Alibaba, which  just  launched a very successful IPO in the USA.
The company has not confirmed the extent of its layoffs in India except to issue a bland statement  couched in the hocus pocus  that has become a characteristic  of tech  MNCs when they avoid breaking bad news: " As we ensure that Yahoo is on a path of sustainable growth, we’re looking at ways to achieve greater efficiency, collaboration and innovation across our business. To this effect, we’re making some changes to the way we operate in Bangalore...." Yeah.
Some of its Ali Baba money  will doubtless be used  finance its first India acquisition-- Bangalore-based  file editing software maker Bookpad.
The  drastic  wipeout of Yahoo's Indian development face may flow from CEO  Marissa Mayer's somewhat unconventional take on such matters. Yahoo's CEO since July 2012,  is known to disfavour   development that  takes place at multiple centres  and  prefers a more centralized approach. This  is consistent with her decision  in 2013 to  stop policies like 'work from home' and flexible hours  and mandate a more rigid, if outmoded work ethic for the company.
Whatever the logic,  I cannot help feeling  a tinge of  sadness that  such a large number of skilled  Indian engineers  (the number given the chop is speculated to be anything from300 to 2000, but we prefer to make a more conservative  estimate)   who contributed so much to  Yahoo's  product portfolio  over the years  are now being let go with nary a  hint of regret. In happier times I  joined the annual events at Yahoo India when  the company's co-founder David Filo, invariably flew down from the US,  to  listen and learn as his India team of engineers competed in a day long hack to come up with the brightest, most innovative ideas. I don't think  Ms Meyer has found the  time to visit  her Indian outpost of creativity. Now ofcourse it would be pointless.
When HP announced its split  intotwo  companies, yesterday and analysts put the consequent number of layoffs at 5000,  totaling  some 55,000 in recent years, a commentator at Bloomberg   added the interesting aside:  "The bigger the layoff, the bigger (CEO)  Meg Whitman's bonus package". Is this standard industry practice in the US? I don't know. 
But I'm guessing the  problems of a few hundred Indian engineers who chose to work for what they thought was one of  Internet's brightest stars,  doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy technology-business world.  No worries guys! I give it a week before every one of you  geeks will be snapped up by one of our own home grown, desi,  innovative startups.  Yahoo will  pay the price for   dumping its crown jewels -- sooner rather than later.

Anand Parthasarathy




    


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