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ByteDance is restructuring TikTok India team, transfers country head


New Delhi/Mumbai: ByteDance Inc., which did not get any immediate relief from the Bombay High Court last week
over the freezing of its bank accounts in India, has been restructuring its TikTok team in the country.

Most employees in functions such as sales and marketing have left. Staffers working in the technology team and TikTok’s India head Nikhil Gandhi have been moved under the cluster that handles Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Turkey regions, people familiar with the matter said.

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Gandhi has been made the head of Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and South Asia.

The restructuring is in line with the impending initial public offering (IPO) of TikTok Global in October this year. The share sale would allow retained employees to redeem their employee stock ownership plans, or ESOPs.

ByteDance did not respond to an email seeking comment till the time of publishing this story.

“Gandhi and some employees that work with the technology department have been moved to the GCC, Turkey and MENA region. Those who are being transferred have also been given a few ESOPs,” one of the people said. “All the marketing and salespeople that were part of the India team have either moved out or have been asked to go,” the person said.

All employees that have been given ESOPs are waiting for the IPO in October, another person familiar with the matter said.

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In mid-March, India’s tax authorities ordered HSBC and Citibank in Mumbai to freeze bank accounts of ByteDance India, Reuters reported, adding that the Chinese technology firm has challenged that in the Bombay High Court. ByteDance
has said that the freeze on its bank accounts in a probe of possible tax evasion amounts to “harassment” and has been done “illegally”.

The court declined to grant ByteDance immediate relief last Wednesday.

The tax investigation revolves around potential tax evasion related to online advertising and other financial dealings between ByteDance India and its parent entity in Singapore, TikTok Pte Ltd.

The company told the court it has a workforce of 1,335, including outsourced personnel, but people familiar with the matter said only a few employees remain specifically for TikTok India. The number of employees transferred under the MENA, GCC and Turkey region would be around 100-150, they added.

ET could not independently verify the exact employee numbers.

In September last year, ByteDance Inc. announced that TikTok Global, a company that was launched to enable the short-video sharing app to continue with its operations in the United States,
plans to launch an IPO. “TikTok Global will also launch a listing plan to further enhance its corporate governance structure and transparency,” ByteDance had said.

The IPO of Kuaishou, a rival to TikTok in China, raised $5.32 billion as the short-video company started trading in Hong Kong in February.



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