As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps millions of Americans home, Hong Kong-based Lalamove believes it can seize the growing demand for delivery services in the country. It makes its debut in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, a major hub for distribution and logistics in the U.S. In days the service will launch in Chicago and Houston.
The startup was one of the first in Hong Kong to hit the $1 billion unicorn valuation mark alongside its archrival GoGoVan. Its business is multifold and highly localized, but essentially it works as an Uber for businesses and individuals that need to move goods within the city.
In China, where it’s known as Huolala (货拉拉), it primarily serves as a broker between shippers who need to send cargo and a network of truck drivers. In Southeast Asia, the business functions similarly with the addition of food delivery for restaurants, a crowded and cash-burning space. In the U.S., its fleet of sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks are available 24/7, allowing it to target customers spanning catering, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and construction, with fees starting at $8.90.
“Delivery is essential, especially during the pandemic. But many local businesses don’t have or cannot afford in-house fleets, so we’re excited to work with businesses in the Dallas Fort-Worth area to provide same-day, on-demand delivery services to their customers,” said Blake Larson, international managing director at Lalamove and formerly co-founder of Rocket Internet’s Asia-focused e-hailing startup Easy Taxi.
Like GoGoVan, Lalamove was founded by a Hong Kong entrepreneur who was educated in the U.S. Both companies have scored fundings from heavyweight institutions from China and elsewhere.
Lalamove’s investors included Hillhouse Capital, Sequoia Capital China and Xiaomi founder’s Shunwei Capital. Through a merger with China’s 58 Suyun, GoGoVan counts Tencent, Alibaba, KKR and New Horizon Capital amongst its backers.
The Hong Kong startup’s global expansion comes at a time when TikTok stumbles in the U.S. due to its links to China. In the logistics startup’s case, a Chinese team operates the Chinese division Huolala, while separate international teams manage the overseas segments of Lalamove, TechCrunch understands. The core of TikTok’s challenge in the U.S. is the video app’s dependence on its Chinese parent ByteDance’s technological capabilities.
To date, Lalamove has verified and onboarded more than 500 partner drivers in Dallas Fort-Worth, with plans to add another 500 in the area by the end of this year. It’s also hiring for its regional operational office at a time when the U.S. is struck by widespread virus-induced layoffs, furloughs and slowdown in hiring.
Lalamove claims it has to date matched more than 7 million users with a pool of over 700,000 delivery partners in 22 markets around the world.
The prospect of truly zero contact delivery seems closer — and more important — than ever with the pandemic changing how we think of last mile logistics. Autonomous delivery executives from FedEx, Postmates, and Refraction AI joined us to talk about the emerging field at TechCrunch Mobility 2020.
FedEx VP of Advanced Technology and Innovation Rebecca Yeung explained why the logistics giant felt that it was time to double down on its experiments in the area of autonomy.
“COVID brought the term ‘contactless’ — before that not many people are talking about contactless; Now it’s almost a preferred way of us delivering,” she said. “So we see, from government to consumers, open mindedness about, maybe in the future you would have everything delivered to you through autonomous means, and that’s the preferred way.”
“If you looked up Postmates robots on Twitter or Instagram, people are always kind of questioning, what is this? What is it doing? Everything changed overnight with COVID, where people would see the robot and immediately understand, oh, this is for contactless delivery,” said Postmates VP of special projects Ali Kashani. “Everything suddenly made sense.”
He also explained how the seeming constraints of a robotic platform specific to food delivery made the engineering process, if not easier, at least naturally bounded by the data they’d collected.
“It’s kind of one of the advantages of being so close to the market, we can use data from our platform to drive certain decisions, because you don’t want to over-engineer you also don’t want to under-engineer,” Kashani said. “We actually developed simulations that would put robots in any location in the country on some date in the past. It would tell us, how many deliveries did this robot do? How many hours was it outside? How many miles did it travel? And it would use that information to decide exactly what kind of battery life do we need? Does it need to carry drinks? How many drink holders should it have to cover 99% of deliveries?”
Matthew Johnson-Roberson, co-founder and CTO of Refraction AI, noted that the pandemic has raised interest and demand, but also highlighted where things need to move forward in different ways.
“Obviously no one wants a global pandemic, but it has certainly energized this industry and put more attention on it,” he said. “Everybody is excited, oh, we’re going to have contactless delivery, it’s going to be great. But I think there are some real challenges that need to be addressed as an industry to get there. One of them is social acceptance, the other’s regulation. That’s starting to change because of COVID. I’m hopeful that this is an inflection point, and that we really do see more serious investment in this, but also widespread deployment, so it’s not a tech demo that you get to see once in one place, but it actually begins to take over some sizable bit of the market.”
Yeung also emphasized the need for the infrastructure that supports these autonomous platforms: “Thinking about the future, commercial launch, you need the dynamic routing, you need the dispatch system, you need the user interface, you need a tracking interface. We see great synergy for us to leverage for all sorts of autonomous applications.”
In discussing the danger of replacing human workers with robots, Yeung and Kashani were sanguine, suggesting like others in the robotics industry that there would be a shift in labor but it won’t kill any jobs. Johnson-Roberson disagreed.
“I think we are going to be replacing jobs, and we need to face that head on,” he said. “I think it’s important that we reckon with that, that a lot of these decisions, they have a long history of not thinking through what hte human consequences will be. So I’m an advocate for saying, look, we’re replacing jobs. Let’s think as a society: How do we address that? How do we deal with it? I think that we could live in a future with more just, fairer jobs with health insurance, more benefits. But I don’t think it is going to look how it looks today.”
A few weeks ago, I bought a used paperback mystery for $3 via a small online bookseller. Intrigued that the book came with free shipping, I dug in a bit and was shocked to see that my little impulse purchase traveled through seven different distribution hubs across five states before it got to me. It was loaded and unloaded onto trucks in Indiana, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada and finally California and handled by an unknown number of logistics workers along the way, many of them in the middle of the night.
The logistics of getting the book to me, and the human toll it takes, are mind boggling, but we have become somewhat inured to them.
COVID-19 lockdowns have put a spotlight on the importance and complexity of supply chain dynamics. In a world shaped by the pandemic, our reliance on e-commerce for everything from PPE to toilet paper to hard-boiled paperback mysteries has exploded. A recent report from Adobe found that total online spending is up 77% year-over-year, accelerating growth by “four to six years.” That growth has a very real human cost, and one that we don’t think about or act on enough as a society.
While people recognize the contributions of frontline workers they can see like doctors and nurses, postal carriers and grocery store workers, there’s an entire hidden infrastructure of logistics workers that keeps the online economy humming. These workers are also on the frontlines, but they are behind the scenes. Most earn minimum wage and work long, grueling, high-stress shifts without strong protections in the event they get sick or injured. The fact is that many corporations haven’t made protections for those workers a priority. That was true before COVID-19, but the pandemic gave the issue a renewed urgency, prompting workers from Amazon, Walmart, Target and FedEx, among others, to organize walkouts. And with unprecedented levels of unemployment, more and more people are going to find jobs in the logistics sector.
This Labor Day, it’s time to think about how corporations can better support and protect this vital but often forgotten segment of the workforce.
Better safety in the warehouse
Imagine there’s a package handler at a major manufacturer named Jack who spends his shifts heaving heavy boxes onto a conveyor belt. It’s an arduous movement that Jack will repeat a few thousand times before he punches out. As a 10-year veteran on the job, Jack has performed this singular task on this same warehouse floor more times than he can count. On this particular night, he’s tired after staying up late playing with his kids, and he slips a disk in his back. Unfortunately, Jack’s plight is all too often a reality for millions of workers today.
Injuries can be devastating for workers, both physically and financially. Taking time off work can not only result in lost wages, but also drive people into debt due to health-related expenses, creating health-poverty traps that are difficult to climb out of. Worker injuries are also costly for employers. A study from Liberty Mutual, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance, found that serious, nonfatal injuries cost $84.04 million a week in the transportation and warehousing industry. It is in corporations’ best interest to prioritize workplace safety.
One challenge is that traditional approaches to workplace safety are slow, inaccurate and costly. Without practical interventions, organizations spend an estimated $2,000+ per worker annually on injury prevention. Within manufacturing and logistics industries, it costs an additional $2,000+ annually for workers’ compensation per full-time employee. Currently, there is no standard solution to preventing workplace injuries while lowering costs, leaving workers like Jack without adequate protections. Fortunately, digital platforms and tools that leverage technological innovation, including sensors and wearables, are advancing new ways to prevent workplace accidents and injuries.
Take for example StrongArm, one of Flourish’s portfolio companies. StrongArm has built a technology platform that integrates a new generation of industrial wearables, big data analytics and smart algorithms. It is designed to modernize industry dynamics for workers, employers and workers’ compensation insurers. The company’s GDPR-compliant wearable hardware devices and data platform called FUSE deliver real-time injury prevention feedback and collect data to support precise interventions for overall injury reduction and has reduced injury rates by more than 40% year-over-year for its clients.
StrongArm has also helped keep workers safe during the pandemic by launching a new suite of capabilities on its FUSE platform, including CDC communication, proximity alerts (i.e., notifications to workers within six feet of one another), and exposure analysis (understanding who has interacted with whom, at what time, and for what duration, exposing any potential contact transfer with accuracy). These enhanced capabilities can get workers back to work faster, earning vitally needed income while reducing COVID-19 risk by 95%.
Fetch Robotics is another company using technological innovation and digital platforms to promote worker safety. Fetch makes an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR) that can transport materials within warehouses, factories and distribution centers while also gathering environmental data. This can relieve the burden of heavy lifting from human workers and ensure that conditions, like heat, remain safe in work environments. In June 2020, the company announced that it was launching a disinfecting AMR that can decontaminate spaces larger than 100,000 square feet in 1.5 hours, helping workers stay safe and get back to work quicker amid the spread of the virus.
Employers should do more
In its report titled, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Tech Innovation,” Lux Research found that the outbreak of COVID-19 will likely push corporations with major manufacturing and logistics operations to assess the potential of robotics. More companies will explore how they can automate processes, particularly those that are repeatable and predictable. Findings like these inevitably lead to questions about how increased automation will impact workers — the eternal “will robots take all the jobs?” question. However, we are still a long way away from a world where human workers are obsolete (just ask Elon Musk).
Robots are still not good at picking up small or oddly shaped objects, for instance. For the foreseeable future, corporations will depend on logistics workers and have a responsibility to protect the safety of those workers. It’s not enough to plaster the required OSHA sign on the factory or warehouse floor. Corporations need to do more. Fortunately in this case, the right thing to do is the good thing to do. By embracing technological innovation, promoting worker safety is a win-win.
Earlier this month, La Famiglia, a Berlin-based VC firm that invests in seed-stage European B2B tech startups, disclosed that it raised a second fund totaling €50 million, up from its debut fund of €35 million in 2017.
The firm writes first checks of up to €1.5 million in European startups that use technology to address a significant need within an industry. It’s backed 37 startups to date (including Forto, Arculus and Graphy) and seeks to position itself based on its industry network, many of whom are LPs.
La Famiglia’s investors include the Mittal, Pictet, Oetker, Hymer and Swarovski families, industry leaders Voith and Franke, as well as the families behind conglomerates such as Hapag-Lloyd, Solvay, Adidas and Valentino. In addition, the likes of Niklas Zennström (Skype, Atomico), Zoopla’s Alex Chesterman and Personio’s Hanno Renner are also LPs.
Meanwhile, the firm describes itself as “female-led,” with founding partner Dr. Jeannette zu Fürstenberg and partner Judith Dada at the helm.
With the ink only just dry on the new fund, I put questions to the pair to get more detail on La Famiglia’s investment thesis and what it looks for in founders. We also discussed how the firm taps its “old economy” network, the future of industry 4.0 and what La Famiglia is doing — if anything — to ensure it backs diverse founders.
TechCrunch: You describe La Famiglia as B2B-focused, writing first checks of up to €1.5 million in European startups using technology to address a significant need within an industry. In particular, you cite verticals such as logistics and supply chain, the industrial space, and insurance, while also referencing sustainability and the future of work.
Can you elaborate a bit more on the fund’s remit and what you look for in founders and startups at such an early stage?
Jeannette zu Fürstenberg: Our ambition is to capture the fundamental shift in value creation across the largest sectors of our European economy, which are either being disrupted or enabled by digital technologies. We believe that opportunities in fields such as manufacturing or logistics will be shaped by a deep process understanding of these industries, which is the key differentiator in creating successful outcomes and a strength that European entrepreneurs can leverage.
We look for visionary founders who see a new future, where others only see fragments, with grit to push through adversity and a creative force to shape the world into being.
Judith Dada: Picking up a lot of signals from various expert sources in our network informs the opportunity landscape we see and allows us to invest with a strong sense of market timing. Next to verticals like insurance or industrial manufacturing, we also invest into companies tackling more horizontal opportunities, such as sustainability in its vast importance across industries, as well as new ways that our work is being transformed, for workers of all types. We look for opportunities across a spectrum of technological trends, but are particularly focused on the application potential of ML and AI.
Over the past two years, the global supply chain has been hit with two major upheavals: the United States-China trade war and, more cataclysmically, COVID-19.
When Reefknot Investments launched its $50 million fund for logistics and supply chain startups last September, the industry was already dealing with the effects of the tariff war, says managing director Marc Dragon. Then a few months later, the COVID-19 crisis began in China before spreading to the rest of the world, disrupting the supply chain on an unprecedented scale.
Almost all industries have been impacted, from food, consumer goods and medical supplies to hardware.
Reefknot, a joint venture between Temasek, Singapore’s sovereign fund, and global logistics company Kuehne + Nagel, focuses on early-stage tech companies that use AI to solve some of the supply chain’s most pressing issues, including risk forecasting, financing and tracking goods around the world.
In March, around the time the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 crisis a pandemic, Reefknot surveyed nine shippers about the challenges they face. While there are other macroeconomic factors at play, including Brexit and the oil price war, the survey’s main focus was on the combined effect of COVID-19 and the U.S.-China trade war on the supply chain and logistics industry.
According to the study, the main things shippers want is the ability to dynamically manage supply chain risks and operations and optimize cash flow between corporate buyers and their suppliers, who often struggle with working capital.
Many of the current solutions used in the supply chain involve a lot of manual tasks, including spreadsheets to predict demand, phone calls to confirm capacity on planes and ships and checking goods to make sure orders were fulfilled properly.
In a statement, the company said Rault will oversee Gojek’s engineering teams in Southeast Asia and India and report to co-chief executive officer Kevin Aluwi.
Rault has a long history of leading engineering teams at large tech companies, as well as his own startups.
Before joining Gojek, Rault worked at Betawave, a virtual reality studio he founded in 2016. During his stint at Amazon, Rault was one of the founders of Prime Air, the company’s drone delivery program. At Microsoft, he was the principal architect of Bing, the company’s search engine. Rault’s other experience include founding Kikker Interactive, a wireless solutions provider that was acquired by Microsoft in 2008.
Rault’s appointment comes at a critical time for Gojek as it faces competition from rival Grab and deals with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Gojek said it was laying off 430 employees, or about 9% of its workforce, and closing GoLife, its lifestyle services division, to focus on its core payments, transportation and food delivery businesses as part of its long-term response to the pandemic.
Founded in 2010 as a motorcycle ride-hailing company, Gojek has since transformed itself into a “super app” that offers online payments and a roster of on-demand services, including transportation, ecommerce deliveries and logistics. Gojek recently added Facebook and PayPal to a list of high-profile investors, including Google and Tencent.
Gojek disclosed in March that it is valued at $10 billion and now has over 170 million users, but it faces fierce rivalry from Grab, another Southeast Asian on-demand ride-hailing and logistics platform that is also building an online financial services business. With a valuation of $14 billion, Grab is the larger company. Earlier this year, reports emerged that the two were discussing a merger, which Gojek denied and Grab declined to comment on.
In statement, Rault said, “It is a time like no other to be at Gojek. The company is entering a critical phase as it moves from startup to maturation and it’s special to be a part of that. Building systems and processes for a business of Gojek’s scale and complexity is a challenge one rarely enjoys in their career and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
FedEx has flirted with robotic technologies before, most notably in the case of Roxo. The delivery robot made its debut in New York City last year, only to get the boot from Mayor Bill de Blasio. These days, however, the prospect of increased automation seems all the more pressing, as COVID-19 has left many reconsidering the human element of the supply chain.
The logistics giant reached out to TechCrunch this week to note that it has been using robots in another matter for a few months now. In May, FedEx installed a quartet of robotic arms from Yaskawa America and Plus One, with the express intent of helping sort the massive numbers of parcels that pass through its Memphis facility.
For reasons that should be clear to anyone who follows the category, human workers still play a key role in the process. The company says several members of its Small Package Sort System team — who previously did the sorting themselves — are operating as supervisors for the new robotic employees.
FedEx says it was actively exploring these technologies prior to COVID-10. “While COVID has not directly played a role in accelerating the tech adoption,” the company tells TechCrunch, “it has exponentially increased the amount of e-commerce packages traveling through the Memphis hub, so COVID has validated the need for this technology and its support for our team members working at the Memphis hub.”
The industry has, after all, been moving in this direction for some time. Amazon, which has made massive investments in and acquisitions of several robotics firms, is probably the best existing model for how humans and robotics can work side by side to process massive volumes of parcels. UPS, too, has looked increasingly toward automation. Last year it announced a goal of processing 80% of packages through automated facilities. With a massive ongoing health crisis like COVID-19 posing a risk to workers and customers alike, additional automation seems like a no-brainer for many such outfits.
To date, FedEx says it has not made any investment in robotics companies.
E-commerce giant Flipkart is planning to launch a hyperlocal service that would enable customers to buy items from local stores and have those delivered to them in an hour and a half or less. Yatra, an online travel and hotel ticketing service, is exploring a new business line altogether: Supplying office accessories.
Flipkart and Yatra are not the only firms eyeing new business categories. Dozens of firms in the country have branched out by launching new services in recent weeks, in part to offset the disruption the COVID-19 epidemic has caused to their core offerings.
Swiggy and Zomato, the nation’s largest food delivery startups, began delivering alcohol in select parts of the country last month. The move came weeks after the two firms, both of which are seeing fewer orders and had to let go hundreds of employees, started accepting orders for grocery items in a move that challenged existing online market leaders BigBasket and Grofers.
Udaan, a business-to-business marketplace, recently started to accept bulk orders from some housing societies and is exploring more opportunities in the business-to-commerce space, the startup told TechCrunch.
These shifts came shortly after New Delhi announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The lockdown meant that all public places including movie theaters, shopping malls, schools, and public transport were suspended.
Instead of temporarily halting their businesses altogether, as many have done in other markets, scores of startups in India have explored ways to make the most out of the current unfortunate spell.
“This pandemic has given an opportunity to the Indian tech startup ecosystem to have a harder look at the unit-economics of their businesses and become more capital efficient in the shorter and longer-term,” Puneet Kumar, a growth investor in Indian startup ecosystem, told TechCrunch in an interview.
Of the few things most Indian state governments have agreed should remain open include grocery shops, and online delivery services for grocery and food.
People buy groceries at a supermarket during the first day of the 21-day government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Bangalore on March 25, 2020. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Meesho’s attempt is still in the pilot stage, said Vidit Aatrey, the Facebook-backed startup’s co-founder and chief executive. “We started grocery during the lockdown to give some income opportunities to our sellers and so far it has shown good response. So we are continuing the pilot even after lockdown has lifted,” he said.
Another such giant, BookMyShow, which sells movie tickets, has in recent weeks rushed to support online events, helping comedians and other artists sell tickets online. The Mumbai-headquartered firm plans to make further inroads around this business idea in the coming days.
For some startups, the pandemic has resulted in accelerating the launch of their product cycles. CRED, a Bangalore-based startup that is attempting to help Indians improve their financial behavior by paying their credit card bill on time, launched an instant credit line and apartment rental services.
Kunal Shah, the founder and chief executive of CRED, said the startup “fast-tracked the launch” of these two products as they could prove immensely useful in the current environment.
For a handful of startups, the pandemic has meant accelerated growth. Unacademy, a Facebook-backed online learning startup, has seen its user base and subscribers count surge in recent months and told TechCrunch that it is in the process of more than doubling the number of exam preparation courses it offers on its platform in the next two months.
Since March, the number of users who access the online learning service each day has surged to 700,000. “We have also seen a 200% increase in viewers per week for the free live classes offered on the platform. Additionally there has been a 50% increase in paid subscribers and over 50% increase in average watchtime per day among our subscribers,” a spokesperson said.
As with online learning firms, firms operating on-demand video streaming services have also seen a significant rise in the number of users they serve. Zee5, which has amassed over 80 million users, told TechCrunch last week that in a month it will introduce a new category in its app that would curate short-form videos produced and submitted by users. The firm said the feature would look very similar to TikTok.
The pandemic “has also accelerated the adoption of online services in India across all demographics. Many who would not have considered buying goods and services online are starting to adopt the online platforms for basic necessities at a faster pace,” said venture capitalist Kumar.
“As far as expansion into adjacent categories is concerned, some of this was a natural progression and startups were slowly moving in that direction anyway. The pandemic has forced people to get there faster.”
Roosh, a Mumbai-based game developing firm founded by several industry veterans, launched a new app ahead of schedule that allows social influencers to promote games on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, Deepak Ail, co-founder and chief executive of Roosh, told TechCrunch.
And NowFloats, a Mumbai-based SaaS startup that helps businesses and individuals build an online presence without any web developing skills, is on-boarding doctors to help people consult with medical professionals.
Startups are not the only businesses that have scrambled to eye new categories. Established firms such as Carnival Group, which is India’s third-largest multiplex theatre chain, said it is foraying into cloud kitchen business.
Amazon, which competes with Walmart’s Flipkart in India, has also secured approval from West Bengal to deliver alcohol in the nation’s fourth most populated state. The e-commerce giant is also exploring ways to work with mom and pop stores that dot tens of thousands of cities and towns of India.
Last week, the American giant launched “Smart Stores” that allows shoppers to walk to a participating physical store, scan a QR code, and pick and purchase items through the Amazon app. The firm, which is supplying these mom and pop stores with software and QR code, said more than 10,000 shops are participating in the Smart Stores program.
Geek+, a Beijing-based startup that makes warehouse fulfillment robots similar to those of Amazon’s Kiva, said Thursday that it has closed over $200 million in a Series C funding round.
That bumps total capital raised by the 5-year-old company to date to nearly $390 million. The new round, completed in two parts, was separately led by GGV Capital and D1 Capital Partners in the summer of 2019, and V Fund earlier this year. Other participants included Warburg Pincus, Redview Capital and Vertex Ventures.
The company said it will continue to develop robotics solutions tailored to logistics, ramp up its robot-as-a-service monetization model, and expand partnerships.
Geek+ represents a rank of Chinese robotics solution providers that are increasingly appealing to clients around the world. The startup itself boasts over 10,000 robots deployed worldwide, serving 300 customers and projects in over 20 countries.
Just last month, Geek+ announced a partnership with Conveyco, an order fulfillment and distribution center system integrator operating in North America, to distribute its autonomous mobile robots (ARMs) across the continent. Leading this part of its business is Mark Messina, the startup’s chief operating officer for the Americas who previously worked at Amazon, where he oversaw mechanical engineering for the Kiva robotics system.
Geek+’s ambitious move overseas came amid continuous pressure from the Trump administration to boycott Chinese tech players. Back home, Geek+ has worked closely with retail giants such as Alibaba and Suning to replace human pickers in warehouses.
In a blog post, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gave an overview of the company’s plan to return its workforce to some semblance of normalcy—or at least a new normal.
Google will begin opening some of its office buildings in various cities starting on July 6, allowing a small amount of its employees who need a physical workspace “the opportunity to return on a limited, rotating basis.” The idea is to rotate employees in for a day every few weeks to keep facilities at only around 10 percent occupancy.
If all goes well in its initial efforts, Google will scale that 10 percent up to 30 percent around September “which would mean most people who want to come in could do so on a limited basis, while still prioritizing those who need to come in” according to Pichai.
In contrast with bold shifts to all-remote work from companies like Facebook and Twitter, Google’s top executive eschewed sweeping statements about the future of its workforce in favor of encouraging employees who are interested in relocating to speak with their managers and to review guidelines around taxes and health coverage.
Pichai predicted that Googlers will have “more flexibility and choice” in how they work, while still waxing nostalgic about the company’s iconic office complexes, long a symbol of what makes work in the tech sector distinct from more traditional jobs.
“Our campuses are designed to enable collaboration and community—in fact, some of our greatest innovations were the result of chance encounters in the office—and it’s clear this is something many of us don’t want to lose,” Pichai wrote.
“At the same time, we are very familiar with distributed work as we have many offices around the world and open-minded about the lessons we’ll learn through this period.”
Pichai still expects that the majority of Google’s workforce will be mostly working from home through 2020. To help Googlers adapt to the different needs of a home office, the company will allocate $1,000 in expenses to help employees buy furniture and home office equipment.
As a portion of employees do return to the office, Pichai warned that the company’s physical spaces will “will look and feel different than when you left” as Google implements necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.