Pinduoduo, a Chinese online retailer, has a ‘hyper-aggressive’ culture with extremely long working hours, surpassing the ‘996’ schedule, according to analysts.

Pinduoduo, a Chinese online retailer, has a 'hyper-aggressive' culture with extremely long working hours, surpassing the '996' schedule, according to analysts.

Temu’s Intense Workplace Culture: A Winning Strategy or Cause for Concern?


Temu, the US-based company launched by China’s PDD Holdings, is making waves in the e-commerce world with its emphasis on low prices and lightning deals. However, it seems that Temu’s success might be rooted in more than just its competitive pricing strategies. A recent report by Bernstein analysts reveals that Temu shares more than just a connection with its sister company, Pinduoduo—it also shares a similar intense workplace culture.

Pinduoduo, known for pushing the boundaries of the infamous “996” work culture, may have influenced Temu’s operational approach. The 996 culture encourages employees to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week, putting significant strain on work-life balance. However, according to Bernstein analysts, Pinduoduo’s culture takes it even further, resembling more of a “9127” work schedule—a humorous reference to working from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m., seven days a week. This extreme approach raises concerns about employee well-being and job satisfaction. The company’s high turnover rate further suggests a less-than-ideal work environment.

Despite the potential shortcomings of its workplace culture, Temu’s performance has exceeded expectations. Bernstein analysts estimate that Temu’s gross merchandise value will reach an impressive $13 billion this year, double what was forecasted at the beginning of the year. The analysts attribute this success to Temu’s lean organizational structure and the presence of Pinduoduo’s top talent. While the workplace culture itself may not win any awards, the combination of agility and talent positions Temu as a formidable global player in the years to come.

The aggressive work culture endorsed by Pinduoduo and potentially adopted by Temu is not without controversy. The “996” work culture has garnered criticism within China and internationally, as it places tremendous strain on employees’ mental and physical well-being. However, Temu’s connection with Pinduoduo’s intense work culture is undeniable, despite the “9127” reference being lighthearted.

In 2021, the deaths of two Pinduoduo employees sparked international attention. One employee died by suicide, while another collapsed after walking home from work after midnight. These tragedies prompted local officials in Shanghai to undertake an investigation into Pinduoduo’s working conditions. While these incidents cannot solely be attributed to the company’s work culture, they serve as a reminder of the potential consequences of an excessively demanding environment.

Pinduoduo, founded in China in 2015, revolutionized the e-commerce landscape with its group purchase model. This approach incentivizes buyers by offering discounts when multiple parties place orders together. Temu, on the other hand, focuses on rock-bottom prices, often drawing comparisons to the popular retailer Shein. While Shein currently holds higher buyer awareness, Temu has exhibited strong buyer retention rates.

Unlike its competitors, Temu channels a significant proportion of its investment toward creating mind share in everyday value, rather than relying heavily on influencer marketing. This strategy has garnered positive feedback from merchants who applaud Temu’s execution.

Temu’s affiliation with Pinduoduo and its intense work culture raises important considerations for both the company and its employees. While the long hours and demanding schedules might contribute to short-term success, the sustainability and long-term effects on employees should not be overlooked. As Temu continues to make significant strides in the e-commerce industry, it will be essential to strike a balance between maintaining a competitive edge and ensuring the well-being of its workforce.

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