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Twitter lays off around 20, shuts down engineering in Bangalore, India

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Reports may be swirling about Twitter exploring a sale of all or a part of its company, but in the meantime, the social media platform is trimming down internationally.

Twitter is shutting down its engineering operations out of Bangalore, India, and it is laying off around 20 engineers in the process, the company confirmed to TechCrunch today.

“As part of our normal business review, we have decided to stop the global engineering work at the Bangalore development center,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We thank the impacted individuals, less than 20 persons, for their valuable contributions and are doing as much as we can to provide them a respectful exit from our company.” Earlier in the day, Indian press reported that the number would be closer to 100, which Twitter said was incorrect.

The number is a very small percentage of overall staff. The spokesperson said that overall, Twitter employs over 3,800 people internationally, and it doesn’t break them down by markets.

Twitter will continue to operate three offices in the country, in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, with only the engineering team out of Bangalore impacted by the layoffs. “Twitter remains committed to India as a strategic market for users, partners and advertisers,” the spokesperson said. India is one of Twitter’s fastest growing markets worldwide, although Twitter does not break out country-by-country revenues. “We continue to invest in key initiatives to further expand our audience, increase user engagement and drive revenue in this important market,” she added.

She also said that this is not part of a bigger downsizing move affecting other international operations.

Twitter took a big plunge into India when it acquired a startup called ZipDial in January 2015. That startup was co-founded by Valerie Wagoner, a U.S. expat who was based in India. Notably, Wagoner has taken on a wider remit as Twitter’s senior director of growth. She also quietly relocated to the head office in San Francisco some time ago. Twitter has confirmed to us that this is where Wagoner is still working.

As we explained at the time of the acquisition, ZipDial was built to address a uniquely Indian convention: people intentionally call others and hang up before they answer so that the recipient know she/he is trying to be reached, without incurring any extra calling charges. The missed call becomes an alert of sorts, and ZipDial worked with brands and others to essentially develop this into an advertising network and system to sign up for push-based notifications.

Twitter, intent on better tapping into and growing its international audience, snapped up ZipDial as part of a strategy to capture global revenues by offering more localised services, and to pick up more talent in India, well known for its strong computer science talent. Other local moves have included building a data science team in Singapore.

Twitter says that ZipDial’s original team and tech are both appearing in other markets where Twitter is active. “Over the past 18 months, we have incorporated the technology and talent of our ZipDial acquisition across our company,” a second spokesperson at the company told me.

But in the case of India, you might argue that Twitter hasn’t built on its ZipDial buy with more uniquely Indian services.

Cases in point: a lot of the newest initiatives in the country have actually been international roll outs of services created in the U.S., rather than services developed specifically for India.

They include an e-governance partnership with the Uttar Pradesh State Police to use Twitter as a customer service channel via Tweets to their official @UPPolice account; special Twitter emojis to mark Indian cultural moments like Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, and International Day of Yoga; and ad campaigns, such as Pepsi Promoted #Stickers for Indian Twitter users to “Say it with Pepsi.”

Other companies like Facebook have tapped into to international markets to offset slower user growth in more mature markets like the U.S. This seems to be what Twitter has been aiming for, too, but achieving a less strong effect.

In its last quarterly earnings, for example, Twitter reported international (non-U.S.) monthly active users of 247 million for Q2, up 4% year-over-year and up 2 million on the 245 million of Q1. That was only marginally better than 3% growth in the U.S.

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