One estimate suggests that there are nearly 180 global Gig work promoting platform companies with a net worth reaching $4.5 trillion!
Pandemic-induced remote work has shaken the long-held skepticism regarding a gig workforce’s efficiency and dependability. During these times, as physical proximity related entry barriers have vanished, people with more specialist skills, such as consultants, independent researchers, bloggers, creative designers, digital marketers, etc. have shun apprehensions and joined the Gig economy.
In India, the figures on Gig employment range around 15 million, making India the second largest Gig market globally. Actual figures may differ slightly due to ambiguity around what comprises Gig work. A “Gig Economy” can be thought of to be a free and global talent market where companies and workers set short-term and on-demand professional relationships, or “gigs” that are flexible and skill-based tasks or projects. One key thing to note in this definition is that the worker is not required to be “independent” or freelancing only. Increasingly so, people with full-time jobs are taking on Gig roles in areas of secondary skills or specialist interests, as industry acceptance for such roles rises.
Speaking of Gig work becoming more specialized, in late 2020, Aon and NASSCOM conducted a comprehensive survey and in-depth interviews with top 60 of 100 Indian Tech companies, across large, medium and small segments. India’s Tech sector is one of the most highly skilled globally, and hence, the findings from this outreach are significant and encouraging.
Gig adoption across the Indian Tech sector stands at nearly 60%!
Nearly 60% of the Tech sector companies already invest in Gig workforce, and 97% of these firms plan to either continue to hire at current levels or increase the level of Gig hiring.
Apart from the Professional Services sector, Tech is the only other sector where companies have more than 20% employees as Gig hires – a good 12% of such companies.
This is significant since in Professional Services, Gig jobs are marked by front-end, customer-facing delivery or contact roles. In Tech, across IT Services, BPM, Engineering R&D and Software Products segments, this trend has been observed. It suggests that Tech firms are placing bigger bets on giving out more skilled job roles to Gig workers.
Within the Tech industry, IT Services sub-sector leads the way at a strong 73% participation!
Even in the Tech industry, trends are varying. While a broad base of IT Services companies, nearly 3-in-4 has Gig employees, it is the Software Products sub-sector where the intensity, i.e., percent of Gig hires to total headcount, is greater. This is obvious given the modular nature of software development. The lowest adoption is in the ER&D sub-sector due to the highly collaborative nature of innovation and R&D activities involved.
In the pandemic’s wake, top Indian IT services companies boldly tried Gig models, and they indicate their commitment to boost this model further –
- TCS calls it their talent-cloud model. TCS started with trying out Gig models on internal projects for 3-6 months. CHRO Milind Lakkad suggested that the benefits could be phenomenal as he indicated that there are no shores anymore, therefore, he said that “The expert will do the job and it doesn’t matter where the expert is.”
- Infosys EVP and Head HR, Richard Lobo, expects newer technologies to be more amenable to Gig roles. More Gig jobs are likely to emerge in the domains of AI, data analytics, product engineering, cloud computing and areas that focus on the intersection of people and technology, such as UI/UX design and consumer behaviour analysis.
- Wipro acquired TopCoder in 2016, a platform marketplace with 1.5 million freelancing coders – software engineers, data scientists, and systems designers – all highly skilled job roles. TopCoder registered 60% month-on-month growth in registrations since March 2020, start of the lockdown.
Mid-tier IT services companies have also witnessed a workforce mix change during the pandemic. Cyient plans to invest in Gig workers for specialist tasks, such as hiring a software architect for a full year on a flexible per-hour pricing model. Cyient is further planning to build in IP protection norms before on-boarding such employees, a good preparatory move for smoother scale-up. Hexaware also indicated adding more Gig roles in specialized areas in business process services.
Growing specialist focus in Gig roles is showing results in firm bottom-line, cultural diversification, and stronger employee affinity due to more flexible yet enriching work experiences
Globally, and in India too, firms who have experimented well with Gig employment are bullish on near-term and long-term workplace benefits –
- Richer experience at optimal cost (lower fixed people cost), suitable for plug-n-play software development/ API programming, cloud programming roles where quick coding is needed for fast prototyping
- Greater women participation with lower cost of acquisition/retention – A comparison done in Israel indicated that women comprised 33% of the total Gig workforce in West Israel, vis-à-vis, only 19% of the traditional full-time workforce.
- More employable population in the formal economy with higher discretionary incomes – Even in uber-advanced economies, such as Singapore, a government study indicates rise in credit card sales in correlation with rise in Gig workers.
- Faster upward mobility in median incomes of the more recent Gig hires suggests that not only are the base salary levels higher due to experience, but also the ripple effect of specialized skills is seen in quick growth for such employees, thus countering any negative aspects around being a non-traditional workforce.
- Early entry into workforce as even pre-final/final year students of professional degrees can experience the Gig economy via more frequent internships, thus helping define their choice of career and growth focus at an early stage.
While the industry continues to expand its Gig employee base, a lot more can be achieved with greater government participation
As much of the growth of Gig work is dependent upon robust information and communication technology (ICT), GoI’s ongoing and forward-looking policies in telecom, 5G, network security standards, and personal and company data protection, and a favourable outlook towards distributed ledger technology (DLT) or blockchain for smart contracts and digital skills records, will go a long way in lowering the logistical cost, psychological resistance, and any societal backlash to India’s Gig workforce and economy.
An estimate suggests that by 2025, there are likely to be 350 million Gig jobs, and this will be a $355 billion business sector – possibilities are abundant and this model can become a great skilling-through-jobs model for India!
To explore more on Gig economy trends in India, refer here –
India’s Gig workforce is on the ascent – December 2020
TCS pilots gig-type working models in pandemic’s wake – November 2020
Welcome to India’s emerging white-collar gig economy – September 2020
Opinion: India’s gig economy needs affirmative policy push – January 2020