SHANGHAI: Richard Liu, founder of Chinese online trading giant JD.com Inc., took part in the ongoing debate about the grueling work culture of the Chinese technology industry, lamenting that years of growth have increased the number of companies that are not his "brothers".
Liu's comments, which were published Friday in the Chinese media, on WeChat, are the latest contribution to a growing discussion on the work-life balance in the technology sector, as the sector slows down after years of dizzying growth.
They also come amid reports this week that the company is plagued by widespread layoffs. Three company sources told Reuters that the cuts had started earlier this year and had been gaining momentum in recent weeks.
A spokesman for JD.com confirmed the authenticity of Liu's note. He declined to comment on the layoffs, but said some adjustments were underway in the normal course of business.
"JD.com is a competitive workplace that rewards initiative and hard work, which is consistent with our entrepreneurial roots," said the spokesperson. "We find these roots as we seek, develop and reward employees who share the same hunger and values."
Liu, who founded the company that would become JD.com in 1998, explains in a note how, in the early days of society, he set his alarm clock every two hours to wake him up so he could offer his customers a service 24 / 24. – A step that he said was crucial for the success of JD.
"Over the past four or five years, JD has not done any eliminations, so the number of employees has grown rapidly, the number of donors has increased and the number of people who work has dropped, "Liu wrote. "Instead, the number of slackers has increased rapidly!"
"If this continues, JD will no longer have any hope! And the company will be rejected only with no heart of the market! The lazy ones are not my brothers!" he added
The term that he used, which is commonly translated in China as "loafers," can be translated directly by people who drift aimlessly or waste time.
The content of this note was reported Saturday by major Chinese media such as Caijing Financial magazine and the 21st Century Herald, as well as by a platform widely shared on Twitter, the platform Weibo, where it was read more than 400 millions of times.
Cups and slowdown
Three JD employees, who declined to be named because they were not allowed to speak to the media, told Reuters that the company's morale was low after several senior executives and layoffs in the business in the last few weeks. One of them said the cuts had also affected the staff at the Vice President level.
Website Tech The Information reported this week that JD.com could cut its workforce by 8%. JD, which had more than 178,000 full-time employees at the end of last year, said the figure was incorrect.
"It's now a kind of inflection point, where too many people and too many business leaders or department heads have been laid off. Nobody is safe." , said one of the sources.
He added that this had affected the productivity of his service and that many workers had controlled Weibo, stock markets or played games rather than focusing on work.
The layoffs "are pretty much every JD employee can talk to," he said.
When asked about morale, JD spokesman said most of the team members were very engaged.
"The changes, even if uncomfortable for some, can be encouraging for most, who are dedicated to our common future."
JD, backed by Walmart Inc., Google Alphabet Inc and Tencent Holdings in China, posted its lowest quarterly quarterly growth rate in February since listing on the stock market in 2015.
Other Chinese technology giants have lowered their growth forecasts and staffing premiums in the context of a downturn that has resulted in better working conditions for their workers.
The "work schedule", which refers to one hour-9 pm to 9 pm The work day, six days a week, has in particular become the focus of online debates and discussions. demonstrations on some coding platforms, where workers have exchanged examples of excessive demands for overtime in some companies.
Alibaba's founder and billionaire, Jack Ma, also spoke Friday, telling company employees in a speech that the opportunity to work at such times was a "blessing".
Liu said that JD had not forced his staff to work according to the schedule "996" or even "995".
"But every person must have the desire to push himself to the limit!" he said.
(Additional report by Cate Cadell and Zhang Min at BEIJING, edited by Gerry Doyle)