Winter for BAT? Baidu announces hiring freeze after Alibaba

Jing Gao

Chinese Internet giant, Baidu, announced a freeze on large-scale non-campus hiring on Tuesday, saying the only exceptions to the rule will be reserved for unusual circumstances.

In an internal email, Baidu Vice President of Human Resources, Liu Hui, wrote: “In light of our current operations, we’ve decided, after some deliberation, upon a hiring freeze effective immediately. We will continue to honor job offers we have already given out.”

If exceptions are to be made for extremely strategic positions, they will have to be scrutinized and approved by either Baidu CEO Robin Li or Mr. Liu himself, according to the email.

In response to an interview request from China Business News, Baidu confirmed that it has put a lid on social recruiting, while campus recruiting will not be affected. It said the move was to further boost efficiency and narrow its focus on recruiting top talent.

The news comes a month after Alibaba, another Chinese tech behemoth, drastically cut its new hires from several thousand down to 400, sparking fear of an imminent bursting of the tech bubble.Tencent also confirmed on Thursday that it has frozen the outsourcing hiring while continues campus and social recruitment.

But industry observers believe what Baidu is faced with does not represent the overall prospects for the entire tech scene. Baidu is simply trimming down its oversized organization and beefing up productivity, as its growth slows to a near standstill. “In other words, it is sifting the wheat through the chaff,” a Baidu watcher said to China Business News.

Founded by Robin Li in 2000, Baidu has grown into an enormous company with more than 50,000 employees. In addition to search, Baidu has spent heavily on its cloud computing, driverless car and robot research projects but has not yet come close to monetizing them.

It has also broadened its portfolio through investments in Uber’s Chinese spinoff, Uber China; online travel agency, Qunar; video-streaming site iQiyi, and deal-of-the-day/delivery site Nuomi, all of which are still in the red and have sky-high burn rates.

What makes matters worse is on many of Baidu’s battlefronts, clouds have emerged on the horizon from the consolidation of power. Didi Dache and Kuaidi Dache merged for a combined market share of 80%, to battle Uber China. Alibaba seeks to acquire video site Youku Tudou in an effort to take out iQiyi. The alliance of Tencent-backed Dianping and Alibaba-financed Meituan, in the eyes of some analysts, practically sounds the death knell for Nuomi.

The change in the pecking order is so apparent that tech blogs have been contending the acronym BAT, which stands for Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, will soon be a misnomer.

“Perhaps it is time to drop the B,” blogger IT Eyes wrote.

Jing Gao

Jing founded her own blog Ministry of Tofu and worked with Los Angeles Times, Greenpeace and LinkAsia. She graduated with a master's degree in Journalism from the University of Illinois.

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