The Covid-19 pandemic has not only changed the way we work but also has transformed how companies engage with their employees. Beyond the obvious, it has made the shift towards the on-demand, assignment-based work culture more prominent. The traditional framework of employment has evolved to include these short-term, independent collaborations between employers and individuals, otherwise known as gig work.

The concept of gig work has existed for a long time in India, across urban and rural areas, in the form of daily-wage construction labourers, farm workers and household help. Over the last decade, temporary and casual gigs have expanded across industries with the emergence of tech-enabled platforms offering on-demand services like ride-sharing, online food ordering, home services and hyperlocal deliveries.

The gig work culture is now being embraced by enterprises, which are hiring people who can offer their technical, domain-specific or creative talent as freelancers for short-term assignments. As more people and companies opt for task-based and project-specific collaborations, we are witnessing the rise of a formal gig economy. A gig economy signifies a free market where employers hire independent workers for short-term assignments to cut down fixed people costs and overcome the supply crunch in the labour and talent markets.

In India, which has half a billion-strong workforce, a massive tech-savvy young demography, affordable internet access, widespread adoption of smartphones and rapidly rising digital adoption, the number of workers engaged in the gig economy was estimated to be 7.7 million in 2020-21 by Niti Aayog, in a June 2022 report. The gig workforce in the country is projected to reach 23.5 million people by 2029-30.

The pandemic changed the preference of enterprises towards gig work culture and broadened the scope of the gig industry by bringing grey and white-collar jobs under its purview. The
number of gig workers is thus expected to have risen significantly in the past few years

Potential for Growth

There have been varying interpretations of a gig worker by research firms and media
organisations across the world. Broadly, it can be defined as an individual who is engaged in a temporary, transactional work arrangement directly or through on-demand tech platforms and is paid on the basis of time or tasks. Those who get work through digital platforms are referred to as platform gig workers, whereas non-platform gig workers are employed for short-term assignments in conventional sectors without a digital intermediary.

Given that gig platforms are gaining ground and more people are choosing to work as
freelancers, the gig workforce as a proportion of the overall workforce is increasing, ushering in a new economic revolution worldwide. With the world’s youngest population, India is leading this revolution. Awign’s data from April 2020 to December 2022 shows 55.6% of people in its gig workforce are aged between 18-25, as they are more agile and prefer flexibility in the workplace.

In the short to medium term, nearly 24 million jobs in skilled, semi-skilled and shared services roles can be delivered through gig platforms in India, projects BCG. In the long term, it estimates the gig economy has the potential to service up to 90 million jobs in the country’s non-farm economy alone, transact over USD 250 billion in the volume of work, and add up to 1.25 per cent to India’s GDP through efficiency and productivity gains.

A win-win for employers and workers

The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to transition to remote work culture and adapt to a mobile workforce. As a result, the number of companies offering remote work opportunities as well as people preferring remote work roles have gone up significantly.

This has brought a significant mindset shift, making companies and individuals open to collaborating on a short-term, transactional basis. Moreover, any business function or process can be giggified now with independent workers, which has broadened the scope of the gig market.

Digital gig platforms are tapping this shift and bridging the demand-supply gap that exists in the short-term job market by connecting employers and the workforce available for task-based roles. Some gig platforms have gone beyond the marketplace model to take care of the entire work execution through a gig workforce for enterprises.

Employers can leverage these gig platforms to efficiently engage with workers and hire for short-term jobs, while workers can access a pool of available flexible job opportunities for earning primary or secondary incomes.

The benefits of gig platforms are manifold. For workers, they offer convenience, flexibility and the potential for higher pay. They increase livelihood opportunities for low-income, low-skill workers and create a more inclusive workforce entailing students, graduates, women, blue-collar workers and retired professionals.

On the other end, enterprise-focused gig platforms enable employers to hire workers on demand, in real time, at scale and across skill levels.

Cost-cutting and consequently, cost-effective solutions, are a big focus for companies looking to enhance operational efficiency and increase profitability. Rather than onboarding someone full-time and committing to a monthly paycheck, employers can hire gig workers for a specific time, service or project, thereby reducing the fixed labour costs. Businesses can also cut down the resources they need to put into recruitment, retention, management and training of talent.

The gig work model hence allows businesses to scale up and down their operations as required and remain agile in an uncertain and competitive environment.

Reimagining the future of work

The gig economy has long been dominated by blue collar workers, but as we mentioned above, a new market has emerged of late for grey and white collar workers, with enterprises engaging with independent professionals for project based assignments such as consulting, software application development and digital marketing. This is evident from Awign’s data which shows a 13X increase in overall demand for gigificaton coming from enterprises, compared to pre pandemic levels.

Notably, gig work culture is picking up in smaller cities. Data from Awign reveals 65.4 per cent and 80.4 per cent growth in the number of gig workers in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, respectively, between FY21 and FY22.

Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in the participation of women in the gig workforce. Awign has witnessed a 187 per cent rise in women’s participation on gig platforms from FY21 to FY22. More women have been taking up gig jobs like data entry, content and data operations and proctoring, which allows them to financially support themselves and their families.

Aside from diving into the gig work trends such as rising women participation and a growing number of gig workers beyond major cities, this report explores new dimensions of the gig economy, which include:

  • Layers of the Gig Economy: Opportunities for gig workers
  • Gig Partners: Background, socio-economic status, upskilling
  • Enterprise Adoption: Gigification and benefits

The report also highlights the emerging opportunities that make ‘gig’ the future of work.

What is the Gig Economy?

The gig economy broadly refers to a free-market system that entails independent workers hired on demand by organisations for short-term work, popularly known as a gig.

Despite the extensive usage of the word ‘gig’ and ‘gig workers’, both terms are conventionally associated with low-skill work such as cab driving and hyperlocal deliveries. However, the gig economy is much bigger than just partners hired by ride-hailing, food delivery, and on-demand commerce platforms.

A gig can range from a task like delivery of goods to a management consultation project, but the common denominator is the temporary and assignment-based nature of work.

Unlike the traditional employee-employer relations defined by a specific duration and deliverables, the gig work industry gives people a diverse range of autonomous job opportunities and flexibility to choose when they want to work without any negative impact on earning potential. As enterprises look beyond hiring full time employees to meet job requirements and cut costs, relying on tech-enabled gig platforms has become a norm in the industry.

There are many facets of the gig economy that need a deeper examination to understand the social and economic benefits it presents to all stakeholders in the ecosystem. To begin with, we break down what constitutes gig work based on the type of workers, their skill level and the nature of work.

Skilled workers

Unskilled/Low skilled workers

Low-skill gig workers don’t need an educational degree and are employed in jobs that often involve fieldwork like delivery, cab driving, due diligence and construction. To complete tasks, they sometimes require a vehicle and a smartphone with internet access.

To make a sense of the diverse range of jobs the gig economy encompasses, we can segregate gigs by the nature of work:

Transforming the Indian gig landscape

The gig economy has immense potential to add economic value to employers and employees with short-term, symbiotic employer-employee relationships that have disrupted the way modern organisations work.

Technology-based gig platforms here play an instrumental role by aligning the economic incentives of employers with those of workers—they reduce employers’ fixed labour costs and increase livelihood potential for workers.

The on-demand gig models championed by tech platforms make large-scale discovery and fulfilment for labour more efficient and thus present an opportunity for enterprises to optimise profits, remove operational challenges, maintain agility and scale business at a faster speed.

For consumers, gig platforms have transformed entire lifestyles—bringing convenience and enhanced customer experience to their doorsteps.

Most importantly, the gig economy unlocks employment opportunities for workers across skill levels, enabling them to expand their income potential. It increases labour participation by giving opportunities to women and students, thereby cat alysing economic recovery and fuelling overall economic growth.

Indeed, with the ever-rising adoption of B2C platforms in the ride-sharing, home services and last-mile delivery spaces in India, the gig model is rapidly becoming a key contributor to India’s economic growth.

Along with the B2C gig platforms, the B2B work fulfilment platforms have emerged as a new hot segment with large enterprises re-evaluating the way they function. In the last few years, enterprise-focused B2B gig work execution platforms have grown multifold, facilitating large-scale discovery, gigification and fulfilment of work for organisations. Through a distributed gig workforce across markets, they provide companies with end-to-end management and execution capabilities for core business functions.

Overall, the gig work platforms, regardless of whether they target B2C or B2B markets, have brought disruption across industries, transforming the way Indians choose to live, work and get their work done.

The size of The Opportunity

Being the world’s most populous country with 1.41 billion people, India has a huge demographic dividend, of about half a billion labour force. BCG estimates that of the 500 million workers in the country, around 210 million are engaged in agriculture and allied sectors, and the remaining are associated with non-farm sectors.

In 2020-21, 7.7 million people in the country were engaged in the gig economy, constituting 2.6 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce or 1.5 per cent of the total workforce in India, as per Niti Aayog’s estimates. This gig workforce is projected to expand to 23.5 million people by 2029-30, accounting for 6.7 per cent of the non-agricultural workforce or 4.1 per cent of the overall workforce in the country.

Moreover, given the enterprises’ willingness to hire independent workers for the short term, India is likely to add nine million gig jobs by 2025, a recent Indeed survey revealed.

These findings and projections indicate an emerging gig market for grey-collar and white-collar talent in India. ASSOCHAM also projects that the gig sector would grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17 per cent to reach US$455 billion by 2024.

In the long term, India has the potential to migrate up to 90 million jobs to technology-enabled gig platforms, which means up to nine per cent of India’s GDP could potentially be delivered as gig work, BCG estimates. This translates into the gig economy leading to an incremental contribution of ~1.25 per cent to India’s GDP.

The central piece to the gig workforce growth story is the technology-enabled gig platforms. Accelerated digital adoption, increasing access to smartphones and the internet, the youngest demography in the world and a thriving tech startup ecosystem have resulted in an unprecedented growth of gig platforms in India. That, in turn, has led to the rapid rise of the gig economy in the country.

The gig economy creates an equitable, sustainable and inclusive ecosystem, which benefits all its stakeholders—consumers, enterprises and workers.

B2C platforms
These tech-enabled platforms help consumers connect with gig workers delivering on-demand task-based services provided by companies. Common examples include ride-sharing, food delivery and home services platforms.

Gig marketplaces are aggregators that connect employers with independent workers, freelancers or part-time job seekers for specific projects based
on-demand requirements.

B2B platforms
B2B platforms enable enterprises to manage and execute core business functions end-to-end by leveraging gig workers. These platforms take care of the entire lifecycle of work execution, from discovery and deployment to fulfilment and payroll management.

While the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out 81 million jobs in India in 2020 alone, it also pushed enterprises to reimagine the way they operate and leverage the gig workforce to optimise costs in uncertain economic conditions. On the other hand, there is a large and ready talent pool available in India for enterprises to gigify their work, with millions of young millennials and the Gen-Z population preferring gig roles and working independently on their own terms.

Gig marketplaces and staffing agencies have the potential to help enterprises hire independent workers and convert their fixed costs into variable expenses by cutting down recurring costs on full-time employees. However, this approach brings companies its own set of challenges:

  • Onboarding, managing and maintaining the gig workforce
  • On-job training, monitoring and measuring the productivity of the gig workers Access to appropriate tools to manage the gig workforce
  • Lack of expertise in identifying the business functions that can be gigified
  • No structure or tools for streamlining the gig work execution lifecycle and aligning projects

To bypass these challenges and fully utilise the gig workforce, startups and large enterprises have been increasingly relying on B2B gig platforms that offer end-to-end gig work execution. The exponential increase in gig jobs in the past two years highlights this trend.

Data from Awign indicates that nearly 102 million+ tasks were completed by over 83,600+ gig partners between April 2020 and December 2022. This comes to an average of 1220 tasks per gig partner.

Gaining traction in the new Bharat:
Tier 2-3 markets see a rise in gig work

The rise in gig jobs and people willing to take up those gigs isn’t restricted to bigger cities. As more enterprises and startups tap smaller cities, towns and rural areas to expand their businesses, there is an uptick in opportunities for gig workers beyond metro cities.

The city-specific data from Awign shows that gig workers across tier-1 cities have increased by 28 per cent from FY21 to FY22. In comparison, tier-2 cities saw the number of gig workers go up by 65 per cent and tier-3 cities witnessed almost 80 per cent growth in the same time period.

This has created an opportunity for unemployed or temporary workers to find new avenues of employment within their own cities, thereby reducing migration to tier 1 cities to gain access to work.

A side-by-side comparison of registered gig workers across the top five tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 cities in FY22 compared to FY21.

Tech Interplay in The Gig Economy

With nearly 700 million internet users, India has the second-largest connected population globally. The country also has the world’s second-largest online shopper base of 312 million people. Notably, 80 per cent of internet users come online using smartphones, yet the smartphone penetration in the country stands at 46 per cent currently. This suggests a massive room for growth in the number of internet users as well as online shoppers, which, going forward, would come primarily from tier-2, tier-3 and tier-4 cities. Subsequently, the conjunction of all these factors will give a huge boost to the gig economy.

As such, the pandemic has accelerated India’s digital transformation journey by up to three years. Particularly for enterprises, the rapid digital adoption has triggered business transformation—how organisations work and get their work done, engage with employees and customers, and distribute their goods and services. In a constantly evolving environment, for companies to stay competitive, agile and relevant, embracing tech tools is the key.

As we have highlighted above, tech-enabled gig platforms have already disrupted the way organisations are creating a robust workforce and agile work execution strategies. Leveraging tech-driven gig ecosystems, enterprises now have the capability to convert traditional rigid processes into agile ones wherein they hire an on-demand workforce to have quick turnaround time and get work done end-to-end. Startups were the early adopters of the gig economy as they prefer to stay nimble. Now large enterprises are also adopting the plug-and-play work execution proposition that gig platforms bring.

Delivering jobs as ‘gigs’, technology-enabled gig platforms contribute at multiple levels:

As enterprises of all sizes shift to an agile work execution model, various types of tech-enabled platforms are helping them in their business transformation journey.

Type of tech platforms

Different types of tech-powered platforms fulfil different prerequisites that empower enterprises to leverage the thriving gig economy.

Role of technology in fulfilment – Streamlining and organising a scattered workforce

Most tech-enabled gig platforms provide niche solutions, focusing on a specific aspect of the gig economy. In this regard, fulfilment platforms stand out, taking care of the entire lifecycle of gig work for enterprises. Here is a look at how fulfilment platforms use technology to provide end-to-end work execution services to companies:

  1. Project & workflow configuration

As per the work requirement of an enterprise, fulfilment platform configuration executives

create easy-to-follow workflows to gigify the project into smaller, simpler tasks that can be executed by gig workers.

  1. Skill Assessment & Training

The platform runs smart algorithms to assess the proficiency level of the available gig

workers, after which they are trained with relevant skills to efficiently execute the tasks assigned to them.

  1. Task Allocation & Optimization

The fulfilment platform’s allocation engine automatically matches gig workers to their

tasks. It involves sending work opportunities to gig workers based on their skill sets and geography.

  1. Fulfilment & Execution

During the execution of a task, gig workers are guided through the particular steps and

offered support from project managers, in case assistance is required. Once the task is completed, the platform automatically sends notification alerts.

  1. Quality assurance

To ensure that tasks meet the quality levels, checks are done by at-home gig partners,

who review if the specific client demands, timelines and service-level agreements are met.

Gig Partners: Who are they and What drives them

Gig work creates a rewarding proposition for workers across skill levels, sectors and platforms. Not only does it create a reliable source of income, but also provides multiple avenues to enhance income, access non-monetary benefits and elevate social mobility.

Over the last few years, the scope of the gig economy has expanded exponentially, which has brought a seismic shift in the gig workforce composition. This industry now encompasses a diverse pool of ready talent across different age groups, educational backgrounds, skill levels and locations.

Enhanced income potential and flexibility are the top two reasons for the increasing participation of people in India’s gig workforce. Thousands of people who lost their job during the pandemic shifted to the gig economy to earn a livelihood, whereas many joined to build an extra source of income.

Students also make up a significant chunk of people joining the gig economy, as they seek to earn while they learn, pay off educational loans or gain professional experience before they graduate.

The gig economy has attracted millions of women as well as it gives them an opportunity to work while balancing their family responsibilities. Moreover, it enables them to re-enter the workforce after a break to gain financial independence.

While different people join the gig workforce for different reasons, the key benefits that drive people to the gig economy include:

Earning a Livelihood

This is the most important and tangible motivation. There are three prominent types of workers in the gig economy: those who engage in gigs for their primary income, those who want to create additional income and those who seek to build skills or expertise through recurring work in the gig economy.

For the unemployed, the gig economy provides a plethora of earning opportunities based on their skill sets. While a relatively smaller percentage of workers rely on the gig economy as a primary income, approximately 12 per cent of workers on Awign reported the platform contributes to over 50 per cent of monthly household earnings.

The gig economy empowers people to create additional earnings. For instance, people working 10-12 hours a day and earning INR 5000-8000 a month can register on gig platforms and work part-time at flexible hours to earn extra income.

Gig work also serves as a ‘side hustle’ for additional earnings so that individuals can support their passion projects. For salaried professionals, the gig economy offers an opportunity to nurture a secondary set of skills and build expertise in their areas of interest.

At the age of 18, Arun Xavier had to drop out of college to assume financial responsibility for his family. He took up his first job at a call centre in Bengaluru which paid him a meagre salary of INR 8,000 per month for working 10 hours a day. Seeking to supplement his earnings, he joined Awign’s platform and started working four hours per day on due diligence gigs, along with his call centre job. This helped him increase his monthly income to INR 20,000, a steep 150 per cent rise in just a few months. Once he realised the earning potential through gig work, he left his salaried job and pursued multiple gigs to reach a monthly income of INR 45,000.

The earnings from Awign enabled Arun to build a comfortable life for himself and his loved ones, which raised the socio-economic status of his family. He financed his elder sister’s wedding and younger sister’s education. His mother could also afford to stop working full-time. He was able to shift to a bigger house and buy a Bajaj Pulsar bike.

After creating a sustainable source of income, he got married. When he became a father, he purchased a car with his earnings from Awign to accommodate his entire family.

Flexibility and Autonomy

The most attractive proposition of the gig economy is flexibility. Workers can choose their working hours and location of work. This allows them to have the autonomy to work anytime from anywhere, whether in hyperlocal gigs or digital roles.

The gig industry’s flexibility enables people to monetise their time by picking up gig work through an internet-enabled smartphone. This is particularly beneficial to those who are looking for earning opportunities but cannot move to bigger cities.

The ability to choose time and location can help women who prefer to work remotely while balancing their domestic responsibilities. Similarly, college students who want to support their families with additional income can choose to do gigs at their preferred time.

More importantly, the gig economy can empower people with disabilities (PwDs) as well who can opt for suitable gigs at their convenience and gain financial independence.

When 19-year-old Karishma lost her father, it forced her to start working to contribute to her household income. Her mother was a cook who earned a monthly income of INR 12,000, but that wasn’t enough to feed a family of three and take care of Karishma’s and her younger sister Manisha’s education.

Karishma began taking up content and data operations gigs through Awign’s platform along with pursuing her Bachelor of Commerce degree. Initially, she put in 20 hours a week into gigs, which earned her up to INR 18,000 a month. Within a few months, she realised she could optimise her time and started dedicating 25-30 hours per week, earning around INR 40,000 a month. The opportunity to earn while studying enabled Karishma and her family to persevere through a period of struggle. With a collective income of Rs 52,000, Karishma was able to enrol Manisha in college and buy her a new laptop.

Access to Genuine Specialised Work

As we highlighted above, the gig economy has already expanded beyond unskilled gig work to create a market which employs workers with specialised skills. A prime example is Urban Company, which utilises mid-skilled workers like carpenters, electricians and beauticians to provide home services to customers. Another example is Awign where people with appropriate expertise have access to genuine and specialised roles like invigilators and proctors.

According to Awign’s data, growing demand for invigilation and proctoring gigs has led to over 9X and 2X growth in gig partners in FY22, respectively, on the platform.

There is also rising demand for workers that can take up high-skill specialised gigs. Awign’s data shows a 240 per cent increase in demand for high-skill talent from January 2022 to December 2022. This holds particularly true for tech talent in roles such as full-stack developers, data scientists, react and java developers, mobile app developers and cloud engineers. A recent NASSCOM survey reveals that two-thirds of Indian technology enterprises hire gig workers to respond to a changing business landscape.

Transparency in Payments

Automation of work and task-based payments offered by gig platforms have made the gig economy very attractive to workers across all skill levels and age groups. Gig work payment terms are generally straightforward and are agreed upon at the beginning of the contract. They are usually quick and processed online.

An additional perk is that if gig workers go beyond their roles and do more than what they have committed, it gets recorded on the gig platforms, basis which they get paid more. This is not a common practice in traditional workplaces.

The consistency and transparency of payments on the tech gig platforms have transformed gig work into a sustainable and credible source of income for independent workers.

Continuous Upskilling Opportunities

As per Betterplace 2022 Index report, there is significant demand and supply of gig workers, but their growth often stagnates beyond a point due to the lack of industry-specific and digital skills. Tech gig platforms have risen to the occasion and are playing an instrumental role in workers’ skill development. They not only recognise and utilise workers’ prior skills but also impart new skills through in-person and virtual training programmes. By learning new skills, gig partners can maximise their earning potential.

Skill development here entails skilling, upskilling and reskilling and is centred on making people more employable, widening their scope of work and increasing their efficiency. It can involve practical training to develop real-world skills like soft skills, communication and financial literacy or specialised training for industry-specific and digital gigs. This kind of training enables gig workers to deliver more within a stipulated time frame with the help of real-time tools and certain techniques, thereby increasing their productivity.

Moreover, gig workers can build additional skills on top of their existing skill sets with upskilling. This includes transferable skills as well, which can qualify workers for more and better-paying gigs across industries and amplify their earning potential, resulting in vertical mobility.

For instance, a low-skill gig worker like a last-mile executive can learn language, communication and sales to take up telecalling gigs. Similarly, delivery gig workers can double their income by getting trained in background verification or auditing gigs.

With skill development, workers can acquire multiple skills and cross-utilise a gig platform to work on multiple projects. At Awign, about 30 per cent of gig workers work across verticals. Workers with cross-functional skills can generate more output for the client and thus prove to be more productive. Skill development also ensures more uniform standards in the quality of service.

An increasing number of gig platforms are sharpening their focus on skill development. For instance, Awign’s initiative for upskilling, reskilling and multiskilling, Awign University, offers curated courses and content to gig workers to help them expand their skill sets. Another example is Urban Company, which has partnered with the National Skill Development Council to skill thousands of freshers with vocational training to become salon workers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and appliance repair technicians.

Some of the key benefits of skill development include:

  • Helps gig workers stay abreast of the latest work requirements and makes them future-ready.
  • Solves for lack of relevant skills in the gig market that can address the growing or changing business demands.
  • Gives a sense of direction to gig workers to grow in the gig economy and enables them to navigate opportunities beyond certain blue or grey-collared roles.
  • Allows gig workers to take up multiple gigs in different roles to increase their income potential.
  • Helps workers grow vertically in their own line of work by increasing their efficiency.

Social Inclusion: Women in the Gig Workforce

The gig economy has catalysed social inclusion by raising women’s participation in the workforce. An increasing number of women, especially those who are homemakers, are preferring gig roles as it offers them flexible work avenues in terms of time, location and type of job and allows them to return to the workforce after taking time off to fulfil their familial responsibilities. Flexibility is an inherent characteristic of gig work that enables women to balance their work with household responsibilities. According to Awign’s data women’s registration as gig workers is increasing every year.

Awign has seen almost 3X growth in registrations from women gig partners in FY22 compared to FY21. Women now make up almost 30 per cent of the Awign gig workforce.

Enabling Upward Mobility for Gig Workers

While on-demand work is not a new concept in India, tech-led gig platforms have organised and formalised the gig work ecosystem, creating and streamlining new opportunities for independent workers.

The gig economy has essentially lowered the entry barrier to the jobs market for millions of people, giving them access to gain employment opportunities as per their skills. This is particularly beneficial for people from low-income groups who can now build a sustainable source of income, amplify earnings and uplift their social status by working in the gig industry.

According to Awign data, nearly 20 per cent of the gig partners on the platform come from low-income groups, which constitute India’s bottom 60 per cent population. Overall, about 79 per cent of the total workers on the platform have reported improvement in the quality of their life.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Tarush Mehta, a 32-year-old commerce graduate was laid off. The sudden loss of income of INR 35,000 per month left his family of three in distress. He had to shift to a smaller house to cut expenses on rent. Tarush decided to join Awign, where he started doing business development gigs. In the first month, he spent six hours every day on the platform which revived his income stream. Later he took up telecalling gigs as well to augment his income and was able to earn up to INR 55,000 per month.

Given the flexibility of gigs, Tarush urged his wife Mitali to join the platform. Subsequently, Mitali began working on proctoring gigs from home while taking care of their four-year-old daughter. Within eight months, the family income grew to INR 80,000 per month. With this boost in income, they shifted to a 2BHK house and purchased a new car. Tarush and Mitali were also able to save money for their daughter’s future.

Deconstructing Gig worker profile

To better understand the demography which constitutes the gig workforce in India, we have profiled gig workers based on factors like age, geography, education and employment, and nature of work.

Age-based segmentation

One of the major reasons the gig economy is thriving in India is its 350 million plus youth, who are agile and eager to earn with flexibility. As per Awign data, almost 55.6 per cent of the gig workforce falls under the age group of 18-25. While youth participation in the gig economy has been growing steadily, other age groups have also witnessed a jump between April 2020 and December 2022.

Geographical Segmentation

Prior to Covid-19, most of the gig work was hyperlocal in nature and was mainly concentrated in the major cities. Many gig workers would migrate to bigger cities seeking suitable jobs to earn a livelihood.

During the pandemic, a series of events changed the dynamics of the gig economy. First, a lot of people moved back to their hometowns. Second, the country went through rapid digital adoption. Lastly, startups and enterprises, backed by their investors who were bullish about the digital transformation happening in the country, expanded deeper into tier-2, tier-3 and tier-4 cities.

This created more hyperlocal opportunities in smaller cities. Digital gigs also increased exponentially as working from home became the new norm. As a result, the country witnessed a steep rise in the participation of people from semi-urban and rural areas in the gig work industry. Many people now choose to stay in their native cities for work rather than move to bigger cities. Data from Awign indicates that there are now more gig workers from tier-2 and tier-3 cities compared to tier-1 cities.

Employment & Education-led Segmentation

The scope of gig work has broadened to include a wide range of jobs across skills and educational levels. While basic communication skills are necessary for all gigs, a strong educational background might not be required for all. For instance, background verification or last-mile delivery does not require any education, whereas jobs like telecalling and proctoring would require high-school education and a college degree, respectively. For more skilled jobs like coding or accounting, which require domain knowledge, a higher and more specific set of educational qualifications are required. As per research studies, most gig workers have educational levels ranging between secondary school and graduation.

Nature of work

The nature of the job the gig workers take up depends on their skill level and experience across various fields and roles. The usual jobs on gig platforms range from last-mile operations, due diligence and invigilation to sales and marketing, business development, IT development and data science.

Data from Awign suggests that digital gigs such as telecalling and content and data operations and hyperlocal gigs like business development, invigilation and auditing have emerged as top gigs in demand on the platform in FY2022.

Growth drivers for gig work in future

The gig economy has an addressable market of almost $1.5 trillion globally, which is larger than many economies in the world. In India, the addressable market is over $2 billion per year.

The opportunity is huge in the country as an increasing number of enterprises seek to gigify their business and over 40 million workers have a scope of shifting from fixed to outcome-driven pay.

As we have highlighted already, enterprises are preferring to gigify their core business functions to variabilize fixed expenses due to rising investment risks, the huge cost of retaining talent, and inefficiencies in large-scale training and management. As a result, enterprises are hiring a mobile gig workforce for jobs that are spread beyond major cities in India.

This shift in work culture has created a gigantic opportunity for India’s talent pool. India, which has become the world’s most populous country in 2023 with 1.4 billion people, recorded an unemployment rate of 8.3 per cent in December 2022. This indicates a massive unutilised manpower which if converted into a gig workforce can significantly contribute to India’s GDP. Tech-enabled gig platforms will play a pivotal role in making that happen.

To understand how the gig economy will unravel in the future, we have to look at the challenges that originally led to its emergence.

Challenges that Led to the Rise of the Gig Economy

  • Fixed Expenditure on Resources

Since the last few years, enterprises have been switching to cost-effective models to enhance profitability and move towards sustainable business models. Increasing employee costs is one of the main expenses that have offset gains for most companies. This is evident from the margins of BSE-500 companies that have remained flat for the past 10 years.

Businesses spend massive resources on hiring, training and retention of employees, but investing in the fixed salaries of in-house resources potentially carries investment risk. Deploying a gig workforce for job execution cuts down fixed costs for enterprises and enhances their agility and productivity.

As per a Forbes report, globally, 43 per cent of companies with gig workers saved 20 per cent in labour costs in 2018. The cost of human capital has gone up significantly since then, which makes it imperative for enterprises to adopt gig work as a way to slash operating expenses.

  • Need for Better and More Flexible Talent

Innovation and agility are critical to enterprises to stay relevant amid the rapidly changing consumer and workforce behaviour as well as to survive economic downturns. To remain dynamic and flexible, companies have realised that the gig workforce is an easy, on-demand and plug-and-play solution which can help them scale up and down as per business needs.

A flexible talent pool has thus become a priority for enterprises, which is boosting gig work adoption across industries.

  • Large Scale Management & Deployment

From enterprises seeking to expand deeper into the country or venture into international markets, there is a stronger demand for a workforce that has the expertise and ability to fulfil operational needs. This necessitates the recruitment of talent across skill levels on a large scale, along with training, deployment and management of the workforce.

However, real-time monitoring of outcomes generated by the workforce is a cumbersome task for any company without appropriate technological tools.

This has created a preference for on-demand work fulfilment platforms which manage the entire spectrum of work execution, along with the lifecycle of the gig workforce, for enterprises.

Today, gig platforms are standardising various aspects of the gig economy, but there’s still a lot of groundwork required in the ecosystem to make it more organised.

How are Gig Platforms Bettering Workforce and Enterprise Collaborations?

  • Unifying the Gig Workforce and Enterprises

Gig platforms enable enterprises to connect with the right gig partners who have desired skills and can execute required tasks for them.

While most gig platforms allow companies to take care of the specific aspect of gig work like hiring or onboarding talent, there are platforms that ensure management of the entire lifecycle of gig partners including discovery, onboarding, deployment, work fulfilment, management and payrolling. These work fulfilment platforms ensure enterprises don’t need to rely on regional staffing agencies and allocate additional budgets for the recruitment of resources.

Mobilising distributed gig workforce across geographies empowers companies to scale rapidly and establish their presence in new markets.

  • Outcome-Based Payments

In the traditional employment framework, enterprises bear significant investment risk on employees as outcomes are not guaranteed. In contrast, enterprise-focused gig platforms usually operate on a pay-per-outcome model which enables higher productivity for enterprises. It eliminates the risk of unpredictable and unguaranteed outcomes associated with full-time employees.

  • Increasing Transparency in Engagements

Gig platforms offer enterprises complete transparency in their engagement with gig workers. These platforms onboard gig workers after a thorough assessment that determines and guarantees their credibility. Additionally, gig platforms enable real-time tracking, increased workforce visibility and continuous monitoring to ensure quality outcomes.

  • Various Gig Avenues

By exponentially expanding the scope of gigification of work, gig platforms have created a new avenue for enterprises to get their work done. Today, an enterprise can take care of multiple business functions through gig workers. For example, an FMCG company can leverage a gig workforce for warehouse auditing, mystery audits, business development and background verification of workers, among other things, across various geographies.

  • Organising the Gig Economy

The gig economy has enormous potential for growth in the near future, provided there is a conducive ecosystem enabling and catalysing its growth. Gig platforms play the role of that enabler and accelerator for the gig economy. They organise and formalise the fragmented gig industry by onboarding workers on their platforms and matching them with suitable opportunities from enterprises.

The way forward: Gigification of work

India has the potential to give rise to one of the largest gig economies in the world. According to one industry estimate, the country may create 350 million gig jobs by 2025, which will make it a $355 billion industry.

These projections rely on the emerging gig market for grey-collar and white-collar talent in India. A 2020 Aon and NASSCOM survey of 145 companies across industries found almost 50 per cent of firms hired gig workers, while 16 per cent of companies intended to increase the number of gig workers in the next two to five years.

As the enterprise-focused gig work model gains momentum, the stakeholders in the industry are opening up to the concept of ‘gigification’. ‘Gigification’ refers to the process of breaking down critical work into smaller tasks, thus eliminating the challenge of talent utilization through an on-demand workforce.

In the last few years, gigification has revolutionised how work is done and workforce is utilised by enterprises. It has allowed them to simplify core business functions such as customer support, sales and business development, reimagine business operations and become more agile.

Prior to the pandemic, most enterprises were leveraging the gig economy for hyperlocal services such as auditing, due diligence, and last-mile delivery. However, organisations are now looking for gig workers to fulfil roles in areas like business development, field sales, digital promotion and brand promotion.

Enterprises opting for a gig workforce to reap the benefits of flexibility, cost saving and talent availability will be instrumental in driving the gig economy in the country.

Delving deeper, we looked at which companies are most likely to go for gig workers.

Enterprise Demand by Vertical

The rapidly rising number of enterprises embracing gig work culture signifies the massive scope of growth for the gig economy going forward.

The gig jobs that will be in demand in future are the ones which are the next in line to be giggified by enterprises and ready to be executed by gig workers. According to Awign projections, these include:

According to BCG estimates, in the near term, 24 million jobs are likely to migrate to technology-based gig platforms. Moreover, the power to unlock the potential of the gig economy lies with the technology sector. As per NASSCOM, some of the top technology areas gigable in the future include Software Development, Digital Marketing, AI/ML, Content Management, Product Development, Cloud Computing and Data Analytics.

Furthermore, Awign has identified sectors beyond technology that can be giggified going forward.

New industries and the future of the gig

One of the key factors making gig work more prevalent and more entrenched in India is the increasing number of new avenues of gigification across various emerging industries.

Awign’s data indicates that the hiring demand for gig workers has been rising at a rapid pace in the post-pandemic employment market, with digital gigs recording the most demand.

The demand for gig workers has particularly grown across newer industries such as quick commerce, healthtech, fintech and e-commerce between FY21 and FY22 as follows:

It’s evident in numbers that tech-enabled segments have seen a significant jump in demand for gig workers, owing to accelerated digitisation in India Inc. This demand is set to see a further upward trajectory with deeper adoption of gigification going forward. Moreover, as the next half a billion people come online in the country, the gig industry will grow multifold, becoming one of the key contributors to the Indian economy.




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