Emerging trends in the gig economy

The gig economy is currently witnessing numerous emerging trends with a rise in its global popularity. Among the most important trends in this activity is the increase in the number of people who have developed an interest and are actually participating in it. A key demographic driving participation in this economy is that of the millennials.

A leading financial daily in India, Mint, quoted a global freelance marketplace company as saying that 85 per cent of freelancers in India are in their 20s and 30s, and that they chose this sector for the better work-life balance it offers, besides the chance to earn more money and be their own boss.

The Global Millennial Survey 2019, conducted by well-known consulting firm Deloitte, reveals that 84 per cent of millennials and 81 per cent of Gen Zs surveyed said they would consider joining the gig economy. However, in the case of India, the figure is higher at 94 per cent for both millennials and Gen Z.

Staying on the subject of India, a Team Lease database shows that Delhi is emerging as a more preferred location for the gig economy as the number of people who joined it in Delhi rose from 298,000 to 560,000 in a span of six months ending 31 March 2019. In comparison, this sector in Bengaluru grew from 194,400 to 252,300 for the same period.

A consumer intelligence firm has categorised four types of gig mindsets: millennial giggers, experienced ex-corporate employees, skilled craftsmen and multitasking money savers. On the other hand, we see two kinds of gig economy work emerging. One is web-based, where work can be done flexibly from anywhere. The second is location-based, where work is done in the physical world but generated via marketplace-style portals.

Gig-economy-focussed portals are catching the attention of entrepreneurs who wish to take advantage of the start-up environment and add value by creating a meeting ground between clients who want talent, but on short-term basis, and talent which wants to offer its expertise. What better marketplace than one which curates both ecosystems for greater value generation? In order for this to happen, an efficient and stringent due diligence process must examine both sides before bringing them together and also matchmake the two within precise parameters. According to Boston Consulting Group, tapping the talent and capabilities of freelancers will impose a learning curve on corporations. This sector is broadbasing beyond design and creative into other areas as well. A sizeable portion of gig projects are emerging in large corporates and professional services where hiring of gig workers with deep domain expertise is taking place. Cost-effectiveness in gig services offers a competitive edge — if for example, a company were to hire a highly-paid consultant from a consulting firm.

The gig economy has its own share of challenges for workers who participate in it, primarily because they are not full-time employees of enterprises and organisations. For instance, a routine problem that gig workers face is the default on payments by clients. Hence, gig workers regularly have to rework their pricing strategies from client to client. This sector therefore does come with inherent risks.

The good news is that progressive countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Singapore, among others, are working on rights for freelance or gig workers.

A change in mindset towards how gig workers are perceived is also emerging: to see them and treat them as internal stakeholders and to give them adequate orientation about the client company before they commence their work, for instance.

A country like India is seen to have a potential where the gig economy is estimated to become a $20-30 billion sector by 2025. With time, we can expect to see numerous trends emerge in this sector in India and around the world, which will enrich the way talent is offered and utilised, in a win-win situation.