The COVID-19 pandemic is leading companies to layoff or furlough employees, or implement pay cuts. Brands such as Singapore Press Holdings, AirAsia, Garuda Indonesia, Grab and Malindo Air have seen leaders and employees take salary deductions. Meanwhile, companies such as Zilingo, Sojern and OYO have laid off employees amidst the pandemic. Many in the marketing industry are no doubt, feeling jittery about their jobs and how they can tide through this challenging period.
Amidst these challenges, a Google Sheets document titled "SEAriously Awesome People List - Start Up Layoffs COVID-19 Layoffs" has been circulating online recently, featuring the list of employees from start ups who have been impacted by the job cuts and are on the hunt for jobs. While those listed are mainly from Singapore (34.7%), Indonesia (46.9%) and Malaysia (5.9%), there are also individuals from the US, United Arab Emirates, India and Australia. Among the companies the individuals were previously from included HOOQ, Traveloka, dahmakan, iflix, and Tokopedia, and they range from executives to senior management.
According to the spreadsheet's data analytics, 20.4% of the names are from the marketing industry while 9.3% are from data and analytics, and 1.3% from content. Most of them (66.7%) are looking for full-time positions while 31.9% are seeking full-time positions but are open to consulting. Meanwhile, the remaining individuals target consulting positions.
The initiative was conceptualised by Saison Capital's principal Chia Jeng Yang (pictured below left) and FutureLabs Ventures's venture analyst Liu Simin (pictured below centre), who drew inspiration from a similar list in the US. Subsequently, Chia and Liu brought on board communications professional Rachael De Foe (pictured below right) to manage communications for the initiative.
De Foe told Marketing over a phone conversation that the spreadsheet launched on 1 April as a blank spreadsheet for individuals to fill in their names. Prior to that, it took four days for the team to get everything sorted out and at the time of the launch, the trio managed to get the backing of nine venture capitals which were willing to share the spreadsheets on their platforms.
"Venture capitals are uniquely placed in the start up industry, especially the tech industry. They are connected to the right people and the biggest resource they have is their network," De Foe explained. She added that the industry is really coming together to help provide a band aid solution to what is needed right now, and the spreadsheet as a first step is effective.
Within 48 hours of launch De Foe put together press releases for mainstream and business journalists and wrote social media copies for the nine venture capitals to share. "I have never done something like this before, but with everything being online, we need to be on the ball and ready to work with such tight timelines," she said. The team started out by raising awareness of the spreadsheet through social media and LinkedIn, which helped them build up credibility. Much of the traction gained by the spreadsheet is organic as De Foe said no ad dollars were invested to promote the spreadsheet. The media and venture capitals have played a crucial role in amplifying the team's efforts, she added.
Currently, 25 companies have come on board to share the spreadsheet, with most of them being venture capitals such as Alpha JWC Ventures, Trive Ventures and B Capital. Even the Action Community for Entrepreneurship, an entrepreneurial organisation created by Singapore's Ministry of Trade and Industry, also shared the list.
By the second week, the spreadsheet had about 600 names and at the time of writing, it had 892 names.
The list also shows companies that are still hiring during this period and De Foe said they voluntarily reached out to the team to be included in the list. A quick check by Marketing found that these companies included Carro, StashAway, Circles.Life, NinjaVan, Kopi Kenangan, foodpanda and Carsome.
"For companies, it's worth rethinking how they do communications. The role needs to evolve. This period has shown that it is not just about putting out ads but communicating what matters. I hope that this will inspire new ideas. This isn't the only solution out there but it's a matter of who is ready and willing to try something different," De Foe added.
Separately in a statement to Marketing, AiRene Tan, director, sales and marketing, commerce finance, healthcare and tech at Robert Walters Malaysia, said in terms of hiring trends for marketers, industries that provide essential services such as food and beverages, healthcare, grocery and more, have seen a stable demand for marketers. "Digital marketing, eCommerce, social media, SEO, CRM and content marketing are some skill sets we have seen consistent demand for – particularly as consumers in Malaysia spend more of their time online," Tan said. However, in Malaysia's B2B and industrial sectors, the company has seen demand for marketers cautious over the last few weeks.
Marketing professionals looking for jobs during this period will need to highlight their expertise in digital marketing, in addition to their ability to be flexible, creative and adaptable given the ever-changing situation.
Last year, Robert Walters Malaysia's 2020 salary survey said the top areas in demand for the marketing sector are brand management, programmatic marketing, export sales, and retail operations. In Singapore, digital marketing skills including CRM, social media and SEO/SEM were predicted to be in demand for 2020. As for Indonesia, Robert Walters said eCommerce, trade marketing, and consumer insights would be the most sought after skills this year.
Meanwhile prior to the pandemic outbreak, Hays regional director Grant Torrens said investment in online and digital is unlikely to slow down in 2020, resulting in a higher amount of investment being poured into the medium. To a certain extent, Torrens is accurate as more companies are currently shifting their ad spend online to target consumers who are practising social distancing and staying at home. According to Torrens, the trend of investing in online and digital will likely lead to "inflated salaries for digital marketing professionals in the year to come".
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