Yesterday I was reading some newspapers and magazines online when I came across an Associated Press article about the response of companies in China to the global downturn, especially with regards to bonuses and Chinese New Year parties. It was an interesting read, and I was surprised to see among others a comparison of Tudou.com (where I am a board member) and Daimler China (my former employer in China, before I became an entrepreneur) in the article. However, when I read what had been written about Tudou I had the feeling some comments were taken out of their context.
The article quotes a Tudou spokeswoman saying that “Tudou will fly employees to Shanghai for an annual gathering”. It also implies that bonuses, gifts and parties are the same as usual at Tudou. Both statements are not correct actually: what the Tudou employee probably did not know is that the annual gathering she is referring to was a national sales training that Tudou organizes once a year. This was planned to coincide with the annual party, but the party was certainly not the reason to gather the sales staff in Shanghai.
With regards to the statement about gifts and other expenses, Tudou has always been very serious about cost control (which has indeed not changed in comparison to last year) and there is certainly no culture of lavishly spending. Tudou has a fun culture, but not a culture that costs a lot of money. Most people who have been to the Tudou office remember the colorful graffiti on the walls. But one of the reasons to cover the walls in graffiti was in fact that the company did not have much money for an office refurbishment and we therefore decided on a low budget (but fun) solution.
I assume the employee was proud to work for Tudou and in her eagerness to answer the journalist she may have not realized how she sounded, but it gave the wrong impression of how Tudou is handling the effects of the economic downturn. The company indeed had a great Chinese New Year party (I was there as well), but although the food and atmosphere were fantastic I know that our total budget was relatively low. You don’t need a lot of money to organize a fun annual party in China and now I come to think of it, it’s actually a compliment for the organizers that people seem to think it was an expensive one!