Gig economy refers to the labour market encompassing contract workers, freelancers, and workers hired for short-term engagements, platform markets (viz. ridesharing, delivery, and property rentals.

PwC research (on megatrends: My Life, Connected) indicates that the connected work market–forming the ‘Gig Economy’—will be worth almost $63bn globally by 2020. It also suggests that the gig work market—comprising of professional networking and freelancing platforms, remote working apps and cross-border web conferencing platforms—is promising enough to reach its peak, beyond its current share of 2% of the recruitment market. So, it’s presumed that the growth trajectory of this market is set to soar as the workers opting to work flexibly, part-time and on contracts is poised to elevate considerably in the coming years.

Indeed a fundamental transformation is being experienced in the way we work. Garnering the freedom of working per our own preferences, the advent of the gig economy has altered the employee and employer relationships like never before. The nascent nature of gig-work in the new world is empowering the unskilled, semi-skilled, uniquely skilled sect of the Indian working population. Following the trend of services’ offshoring, on offer is an agile working environment, providing access to international contract opportunities. Just a decade ago it seemed unthinkable that a mere mobile app could introduce a paradigm shift in the erstwhile steadfast cab industry. The home rentals arrangements for shorter period stays injected identical transformation in the international hotel industry space.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, the gig economy (independent) workers primarily fall into four key segments: i. free agents (30%—earning primary income—gigging by choice), ii. Casual earners (40%—earning supplemental income—gigging by choice), iii. Reluctants (14%—gigging to earn primary income—prefer traditional jobs), and iv. Financially strapped (16%—gigging is a necessity for supplemental income). Among the various benefits available to gig workers owing to their freelance lifestyle, enhanced work-life balance (work schedule control) ranks foremost. In today’s dynamic and innovative business environment, digital platforms initiate matching of suppliers with consumers, the suitable worker with the employer, uniting apt skills with demand, innovators with capital. As a result, entrepreneurs fetch a substantial market, influence, and scale.

Independent work is experiencing an upward trend due to the possibilities presented by the internet. The global nature of the work environment is experiencing a paradigm shift. In major economies worldwide, contract (remote) work is already replacing regular onsite work settings, mainly owing to the flexibility, sovereignty and organising freedom that is available. Workers are now resorting to technological frameworks that make available the gig economy opportunities to state the specifics of their gig working engagement: where, when, and for whom they choose to work.

This buoyant rise in the demand of specifically specialised workers in the global market (across geographies) is also attributed to the promising growth of revolutionary platform-based digital start-ups. Revolutionary new digital platforms (for e.g., Uber, Ola, Liveops, Deliveroo, TaskRabbit, Airbnb) are shaping the advent of transparent, potentially omnipresent and efficient marketplaces to unite the freelance talent with the contracting companies interested in availing their services. The digital connectedness of today’s world has led it to extend also to developing economies.

Opting for flexibility, autonomy, independence, and purpose in life, the Indian gig workers are knowledge professionals (in the domain of work requiring skilled inputs) poised to get exposed to radically shifting dynamic skill sets demanded by the employers of gig economy. According to the ‘Future of Jobs in India: A 2022 Perspective’ report by Ernst & Young, a consulting firm, the IT and BFSI sectors are set to witness a considerable shift, whereas the auto and retail sectors will continue to operate reasonably unaffected. The Ernst & Young research also points at two challenging factors for the Indian economy: i. The 17 million fresh aspirants entering into the workforce on a y-o-y basis competing for the 5.5 million jobs; ii. The speed and scale of disruptions sooner or later poised to alter the way we work and live.

Considerable awareness initiatives are also necessary to sensitise the laid-off workforce to utilise the online economy approach for leveraging their competencies. The onus lies on the enterprises to capitalise on the opportunity to reorganise and realign their workforce so as to elevate scalability, agility, and flexibility. Digital platforms match worker with the employer, skills with demand, capital with the innovator, and consumer with the supplier. This facilitates the entrepreneurial community to explore the influence and scale ahead of their size.

In the next few years, factors including the levels of foreign direct investments, technologies’ influence on offshoring decisions, the level of job opportunities for the Indian workforce in the overseas market (Ernst & Young research predicts a decline in the migration of workers to overseas markets by 25-30%), adaptability to emerging technologies by the workforce would determine the future of gig economy in India. To win talent wars in India, employers will have to pioneer workforce’s’ value alignment with the overall vision, mission, and culture of the organisation. Also, minimising instances of gig worker burnout and instilling autonomy in such a manner that it makes the gig workers feel seamlessly connected to the core teams will stand vital.