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DJI makes sweeping cuts in 'Long March' reforms

DJI makes sweeping cuts in ‘Long March’ reforms

This morning, a lengthy article appeared about the sweeping cuts in the ‘Long March’ reforms that are taking place within the organization of Chinese dronemaker DJI. About 20 former and current DJI employees were interviewed. The article provides us yet another look behind the curtain of DJI.

DJI makes sweeping cuts in ‘Long March’ reforms

This morning an article written by Reuters appeared in the NY Times. The information in the article has been gathered from interviews with about 20 former and current DJI employees and it talks about the sweeping cuts in the ‘Long March’ reforms that are currently taking place within the DJI organization.

David Kirton, Julie Zhu and Kane Wu report that Chinese drone giant SZ DJI Technology Co Ltd has been making sweeping cuts to its global sales and marketing teams as it faces coronavirus headwinds and mounting political pressure in key markets.

Some areas within DJI that have been hit particularly had are:

  • The enterprise sales and marketing team has been cut from 180 to 60 at its Shenzhen headquarters.
  • Similar sweeping cuts have been made on the consumer’s side.
  • DJI’s global video production team has been reduced from 40-50 employees at its height to only three people.
  • A marketing team of six in South Korea has been let go.

The article also includes an initial response from DJI. We have since received a more detailed response from the Chinese dronemaker as well that we will include in a separate post.

Reuters reports that a DJI spokesman said the company realized in 2019 its structure “was becoming unwieldy to manage” after years of strong growth.

“We had to make some difficult decisions to realign talent so that we can continue to achieve our business goals during challenging times,” the spokesman added. He said Reuters’ layoff figures were “very inaccurate” and did not take into account new recruits or internal transfers, but declined to provide specific figures.

DJI has grown rapidly since the success of the DJI Phantom 3 in 2015 and the company is looking to ‘trim the fat’ on its organization of around 14,000 people, sources say.

“After 2015, our revenue ballooned, and we just kept on hiring people without creating a proper structure to take us from being a startup to a major company,” said a former senior employee, according to Reuters.

One former staff member told Reuters that “a confidant of CEO Frank Wang compared the layoffs to the Chinese Communist Party’s legendary ‘Long March’ expedition, a gruelling several-thousand-kilometre trek viewed as saving the party, at the cost of thousands of lives. We’ll see what’s left at the end, but at least we’ll be closer, more tight-knit,” the source was told.

In the article, the political headwinds and data security concerns from U.S. government agencies and lawmakers that DJI is facing are referenced, as well as the damaging reports on some of DJI’s mobile apps from French security researcher Synacktive, a company that is suspected of working with French dronemaker Parrot.

Former DJI employees who spoke with Reuters said that both the coronavirus concerns and geopolitical factors were mentioned as reasons for the layoffs and ‘Long March’ reforms.

The layoffs started in March when Wang had instructed the incoming Vice President of Marketing, Mia Chen to  ‘cut two-thirds of marketing and sales staff.’

As I mentioned in my ‘Game of Drones‘ article, DJI seems to become more China-centric, creating tension between the overseas offices and DJI’s headquarters. 15 sources confirmed this to Reuters. At least two former DJI employees from the Frankfurt office said they left because ‘the company was becoming less open to non-Chinese.’

Two senior DJI executives left earlier this year. In the U.S. that was Marion Rebello, who was DJI’s Vice President for North America and in Europe, Martin Brandenburg, its Chief Development Officer left after fallouts with DJI’s head offices. Both have been replaced with Chinese nationals.

Other DJI employees pointed out that many of the internal documents are no longer translated from Mandarin to English. One example is the ‘Vision and Values’ document that was published late last year in Mandarin only.

You can read the original article here. 

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