Gig work takes off as skilled workers, employers sign up


MUMBAI : Gig work in India is poised for a boom as individuals from more diverse backgrounds are leveraging their skills to earn more and opting for a convenient and flexible working schedule.

Rising demand has also prompted recruitment firms and gig platforms to expand their teams and add verticals focussing on specific gigs.

Gig work in e-commerce ballooned during the pandemic and gained further momentum during the recent holiday season. Freelancers are also finding favour with other sectors, such as telecom following the 5G rollout, software development, and so-called ‘mystery audits’ for spot quality checks at retail outlets and hotels.

“The gig workforce registered on TaskMo was about 250,000 in 2021, and now it is 500,000. We expect it to increase by 40% next year. Demand for mystery audits in retail and hospitality to work in logistics and startups led to this growth,” Guruprasad Srinivasan, group chief executive at recruitment firm Quess Corp, said. TaskMo is a gig marketplace backed by Quess Corp.

Though there is no strict delineation between gig and temp workers, gig refers to short-duration work, and temp workers are hired for several months at a stretch. Temp staffing is relatively more organized as well, and when hired via staffing firms, they have access to employee benefits such as insurance cover.

“Gig economy will help organizations focus on their core propositions and any other non-core propositions that are repeatable in nature can get outsourced to gig platforms—from factory jobs to selling complicated financial products,” said Vidyarthi Baddireddy, founder of PickMyWorks, a platform connecting the gig workers to e-commerce firms. In 2022, the firm’s gig worker base grew from 50,000 to 500,000, and is expected to touch two million by the end of 2023.

The big shift to gigs began during the pandemic-led lockdowns, when workers who lost their jobs or those who wanted extra money, added to income sources by picking up gig work for a few hours. The demand soared during the festive season when companies hired a record 400,000 gig and temp workers to cater to festive shopping demand.

The other reason for rising demand is that the nature of jobs has evolved from just logistics and delivery partners to more skilled work in software development and information technology projects.

Staffing firm TeamLease Services has built separate teams to focus on the needs of the gig workers and is working with clients on benefits and upskilling programmes to address high attrition.

“Entry and supervisory roles in startups are outsourced to gig workers. The telecom sector with the 5G rollouts will lead to another spurt in demand for gig manpower,” Sumit Sabharwal, chief executive, TeamLease HRtech, said.

The staffing firm said India has 7.7 million gig workers, which is expected to expand to 23.5 million by 2029-30. While 47% of gig work is in medium-skilled jobs, 22% is for high-skilled and 31% is required for low-skilled jobs. A gig worker earns 18,000-25,000 per month, depending on the location and industry. “From April 2020 to September 2022, IT firms hired over 120,000 people,” said Sabharwal. Infosys is the first among IT service companies to recognize the need for a gig workforce, and is ready to let them work for external jobs and projects.

The push to retain gig workers has increased business for KarmaLife, which provides financial liquidity to blue-collared gig manpower.

“Alomost 90% of our clients employ gig workforce and there has been a 40x uptick in early salary disbursements,” said Rohit Rathi, co-founder, KarmaLife.

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