Babu, working as a driver for over a decade in a private firm, one fine day decided to quit his 9 to 6 job. Although the reasons were many, the last straw was when his employers did not approve a three-week leave he had applied for, as he had a family emergency to attend. For months he had been comparing the daily idling hours he spent in-waiting, to that of his friends who were productive working for a cab aggregator and earning six times more. He saw they valued their time, had the freedom to work when they wanted, with flexibility of location and timing. Today, Babu is offering his services to a rideshare company and has become a part of the growing gig workforce.
There is nothing new about the gig economy, which has been there for ages. The difference lies in the technology enablement, providing a win-win situation to both workers and businesses, by creating massive opportunities.
Gig economy paints an optimistic overall picture
Being the fifth largest country for flexi-staffing after the US, China, Brazil and Japan, India has a huge potential for the growth of gig culture.
States such as Haryana, Gujarat, Telangana are already leveraging flexi-workers. India’s working age population is 66.8% of the total 1.3 billion, which is 890 million! With a labor force participation rate of 51.8%, we have 461 million workers in India. Be it rideshare, food delivery or on-demand services delivered by plumbers, carpenters, beauticians or housekeeping staff, such jobs are on the ascent leading to a major overhaul in the labor market. Recent study shows an estimated 56% of new employment generated in India, is from the gig labor force, both blue and white collar.
Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has made companies and communities to increase their reliance on gig workers for home deliveries and commutes. Employees who suffered salary cuts or job losses have been able to grow their incomes and sustain through gig jobs. Women are now able to find the flexibility they needed by working from home on short-term projects, a part of gig culture.
Innovation and re-designing are the need of the hour
There are regional differences leading to different structures to be followed in the gig system, eg., by following the US freelancing structure, India’s gig machinery will not deliver desired outcomes. The gig model that is prevalent today is more suited to white-collar freelancers. India cannot fully emulate the gig model followed in more developed countries as we have a high supply of lower skilled labor who, with innovation in the gig model, can be included in the gig economy.
Furthermore, bridging the widening skill gap to meet the growing demand for trained workforce by adding upskilling and reskilling competencies into the gig platforms is another opportunity for innovation. This will enable gig workers to perform additional tasks and increase their earning potential. Innovation in technology to suit the workers’ aspirations as well as restructuring the workforce in the gig economy is critical for better functioning. Training, on-boarding, pay-for-outcome models are some of the areas in which innovation is required.
With internet penetration, job opportunities will rise in Tier II/III and underserved rural sectors. More traditional companies will outsource to keep up with growing competition from new-age firms. Manufacturing, Infrastructure and construction, retail, healthcare, automobile, apparel and other sectors provide opportunities to use appropriately trained blue-collar gig workforce.
Incorporating sustainability factor for smooth functioning
To save the gig economy from collapsing, the workers need to make a decent pay with all risks controlled.
Re-skilling and up-skilling of workers will enable them to easily pick up jobs across industrial domains leading to a significant increase in their incomes. Technology should be leveraged and incorporated into training and motivating them.
AI can be leveraged to map the skills, competencies, and knowledge of workers and match them with jobs that fit their capabilities and aspirations, sort of like a ‘skills passport’ that enables faster, effortless onboarding and mobilization of workers.
Without social security, workers are always at a higher risk. With the right policy push, they can gain the security and stability they need, thereby making the gig economy more stable.
Future success of the gig economy lies in the present
Roller-coaster economic conditions coupled with the pandemic situation is pushing India Inc. to embrace gig culture across job categories. The gig economy is poised to deliver a win-win situation to employers and workers.
The flexibility offered by gigs makes it easier for women to enter the workforce, making them financially independent. On-demand staffing can make it easier for startups to enter the market and remain lean while fulfilling customers’ demand. This will pave the path for more innovation and economic growth. Micro-entrepreneurship holds the key to unlock India’s economic potential and needs serious attention. It is certain technology will play a bigger role in enabling these connections and collaborations.
The gig tribe is gaining ground and poised to grow exponentially with time, leading to more efficiency, productivity, cost-effectiveness and positive socio-economic impact to the society. B2B2C gig platforms, designed to help companies transition successfully to the gig model, can lead India on its way to making this radical shift.