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While the term "gig economy" has been around a long time, it has gained traction in India only since around 2014 when Indian gig economy companies that hire a part-time workforce, such as Swiggy and Zomato (food delivery), Dunzo (delivery services), and EzyDrive (hiring car drivers for a few hours), started taking off. Coincidentally, Uber and Ola also entered the market around the same time, and have been a driving force in the boom of the gig economy.
Just how big is the gig economy in India? According to this article, “Delhi added 560,600 people to its gig economy in the six months to 31 March , an 88% jump from 298,000 people in first half of FY19.” (By FY19 the article refers to the period Oct 2018 – Mar 2019). These gig economy jobs are for delivery boys and drivers. Migration from villages and towns to cities has skyrocketed thanks to the new opportunities that the gig economy has brought for unskilled workers, according to the same article.
The growth of the gig economy for skilled workers may be slower than that for unskilled workers, but it is also showing a healthy upswing. HR firm Noble House has come out with a report that concludes that there is a definite uptick in people freelancing and doing part-time work, and in fact the best years for gig economy workers are yet to come. The report also says that companies will increasingly leverage the gig economy for business growth - indeed, many already are doing so.
About half of the firms surveyed by Noble House said that they had hired gig workers to supplement their existing skill sets while a few of the firms surveyed said they hired gig workers to save on costs. A third of the firms surveyed expect to see gig workers making up even as much as 20% of their workforce, while up to 28% of the firms surveyed said it could make up as much of 40% of their workforce. The approximate duration of gig hires worked between a few weeks and up to three months, sometimes more.
While this is encouraging news for all those who want to explore flexi-hours, it is particularly good news for the thousands of women who have had to or made the choice to stay home after marriage or having children and are now looking at getting back to work. From personal experience I know that part-time professional jobs when I had my first child in the late 1990s were practically unheard of. It’s about time that situation changed!
Globally, deep learning, blockchain, robotics, ethical hacking, bitcoin and software development are the areas that are expected to account for most skilled gig economy jobs. Like I mentioned in my earlier blog, what is critical in this new paradigm, especially for women wanting to get back into the workforce, is re-skilling to gain industry-specific expertise. In the IT sector, it could also be about learning the adjacencies that are seeing more demand nowadays.
It goes without saying that the gig economy has downsides. Getting regular work, gaining support and integrating within the organization, tracking performance, and winning trust are just some of the hurdles that gig economy workers have to face.
Nevertheless, if the report is to be believed, the gig economy is not just here to stay, it’s going to be the way of the future.