Commentary: After huge pandemic gains, why are tech

US consumer prices rose by 8.6 per cent in May year-on-year, the highest since 1981. In response, the Fed raised interest rates three times this year, with the latest hike the largest since 1994.

With the evaporation of cheap capital, investors have become jittery and more prudent with their portfolios. As a result, stock markets and riskier assets across the world plummeted, with tech companies bearing the brunt.

In a world where much of trade and international debt is denominated in US dollars, the impact on the real economy is significant. Everything from electricity tariffs to ride-hailing prices in Singapore have increased.

TECH COMPANIES CHASED GROWTH OVER EFFICIENCY

How have these factors contributed to tech layoffs?

During the pandemic, there was a big opportunity for tech companies to scale. Some companies burnt through cash to grow, so efficiency was not the top priority. They hired aggressively to expand as quickly as possible.

To attract fresh talent, some offered such high compensation and benefits that they might have influenced the “Great Resignation Wave” – where employees were picking jobs instead of the other way around. Companies like Twitter were among the first to encourage work from home. Others like Google offered extra weeks of family care leave – some like Amazon even subsidising backup childcare.

But in 2022, pandemic winners from Zoom to Netflix have announced lower-than-expected consumer growth. Within the region, Grab faced tumbling share prices and has yet to reach profitability.

Recent layoffs are part of a cost-cutting exercise, as tech companies now pivot towards efficiency.

As the industry matures, the number of new customers a tech company can acquire naturally reduces. Tech leaders have seen this happening before and during their heyday, have been expanding their product offerings and even expanding into other countries.