Waze, the Google-owned navigation and mapping service, will lay off 5% of its global workforce, said its CEO Noam Bardin in an email announcement to employees. This equates to about 30 people out of its 555-strong global workforce. It did not mention how many of its Singapore staff are affected.
All affected employees will receive a severance package that includes career transition opportunities within Google, outplacement services, financial help and eligibility for year-end bonuses, and healthcare benefits. Waze said the retrenchment was partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw its users driving less or stopped driving altogether, resulting in them using Waze less for their daily navigation needs. Fewer eyeballs on the app resulted in decreased advertising revenue for the company.
Acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported USD 1.1 billion (SGD 1.4 billion), Waze has seen a plunge in both monthly active users and driven kilometers, the metric by which the company measures how far its customers drive while using Waze. In April, Waze laid out in a blog post that its customers drove 60% fewer miles in March, when lockdowns started going into effect, as compared to February.
Those figures worsened as the pandemic stretched on. Waze says that at one point during the lockdown, global weekly driven kilometers were down 70%. Since June, Waze has begun to see a recovery of driving as people returned to work in countries where restrictions have been lifted. Globally, the company says it’s back to pre-COVID driving levels.
“This has forced us to rethink priorities and we have decided to focus our resources on product improvements for our users, accelerate our investments in technical infrastructure, and refocus our sales and marketing efforts on a small number of high-value countries,” said CEO Noam. His note added that Waze’s advertising sales team will “pare back and focus on the key markets that drive 93% of revenue and carry 95% of kilometers driven we sell in”.
This means the company will close its sales offices in Asia Pacific—in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia—as well as in its smaller Latin America markets of Colombia, Argentina, and Chile. It will continue servicing these countries through increased investments in Waze Local Starter—a self-service advertising solution that businesses can use to promote their physical stores via a pin on the Waze map.
Previously, ride-hailing apps Grab and Gojek had also cut jobs to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak as people stay home and avoid going outdoors, leading to a drop in demand for transportation services. On September 4, Singapore’s transport minister Ong Ye Kung said in parliament that all 356 bus services in Singapore are in the red with commuter numbers plunging. Before COVID-19, only 11 bus services, or 3% of all bus services here, were profitable, according to Ong.
Pandemic-related layoffs continue to happen, with the recent case of Singapore Airlines Group (SIA) cutting about 4,300 positions across its three airlines.
This article was originally published by Vulcan Post.