Cinderella's happy ending with her Prince Charming has captured the hearts of readers for generations. But what about the story of a king suddenly losing all that he possessed and becoming a beggar?
Sad? You bet.
Unfortunately, this is what has happened to many a dotcom company. Chief executive officials (CEOs) of dotcoms, which excited investment bubbles all over the place, may now be spotted lining up with the unemployed outside job centers.
"We have received resumes from more than 50 people who used to be dotcom CEOs. They lost their jobs when their websites crashed. You would have never found so many unemployed dotcom CEOs a year ago," said a Web engineer with a leading recruitment website in China.
Although no data is available on the number of cyber-CEOs that have burnt their fingers and dropped the hot potato, analysts predict a more than 20 percent increase in the number of dotcom CEOs losing their jobs on a month by month basis.
"Just look at the last four months. In that time we have seen nearly 50 cases of mergers, acquisitions and closures. It can only get worse," said Yu Menfei, a local Web market researcher.
The worst is yet to come. Wu Jichuan, minister of information industry, has said about 80 to 90 percent of China's over 12,000 websites will bite the dust sooner or later. If that prediction holds water, a large number of CEOs will end up on the job market.
The fall-out has been mainly blamed on a sluggish online economy. The ongoing nosedive in the world's tech-heavy stock exchanges has rubbed salt into the wound. "CEOs are falling victim to the capricious market," said Huang Wei, a local Net market analyst.
The stressful nature of the job has also been blamed for the number of CEOs dropping out. Overshadowed by the slump in the market, CEOs have to face the finger-pointing of venture capitals who had invested in the dotcom bubble in the hope of quick returns.
"Being a CEO is not easy. You have to think about the well-being of the company, the interests of the investors and also how to pay employees. We are working under the weight of three heavy burdens," said the CEO of a local e-business firm who asked not to be named.
He said he was thinking about leaving the job soon, because the burdens are too great to deal with.
William Shi, CEO of mycity.com, an e-business dotcom in Shanghai, agreed.
"I used to spend 14 to 18 hours a day working on the website. I never got enough sleep. It gave me high blood pressure," said Shi.
But not all CEOs left for the same reasons. Some quit the job for something better. Defections such as these are on the rise.
"Cyber China is suffering from a big shortage of talents, giving CEOs many a chance to jump ship," said Andy Cheung, a local Web analyst.
Even if CEOs do lose their jobs, they have a big edge over other talents in terms of their past working experiences, connections and the status that comes from the title CEO, even if they no longer possess this title.
"Many CEOs, as far as I know, have very good relationships with global firms," said Tao Yuan, top official of 21cn.com's Shanghai office.
But the chances of receiving the same pay and privileges as before are slim. "They may end up as only a middle-level manager and the pay may not be as good as before. It is a hard struggle to adjust to such a situation," said Yu.
For those who still have their jobs, the crash has been a wake-up call.
"I am wracking my brains for ways to make my company a success. The pressure is great," said Rick Yan, CEO of 51job.com, the largest recruitment website in Shanghai.
The question of who will be next will loom large in the minds of dotcom CEOs for a long time to come.
(China Daily 01/08/2001)