What Does India's 'Gig Economy' Look Like? The Gig Economy, or the freelance movement, is founded on the premise that knowledge is now global and more accessible than ever before

By Rohit Kulkarni

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Of the million things the internet has changed, it has made a permanent mark on the relationship between corporates and employees. Ever since mobile technology made the Internet truly ubiquitous, behavioral people began tapping into knowledge from around the world, learning on the go and picking up new skills that had previously been unavailable to them. Now, anyone with a good head on their shoulders and some technological savvy can find a way to monetize these skills online. This revolution has given birth to a new age of entrepreneurial zest, which has laid the foundation for the "Gig Economy'.

The On-Demand Economy

The Gig Economy, or the freelance movement, is founded on the premise that knowledge is now global and more accessible than ever before. Companies are more frequently tapping niche talent and working with individual freelancers who have a better understanding of the latest technology. Today, this on-demand economy is sprouting behavioral trends and shifting market dynamics.

An example would help here. I was talking to a startup founder recently. While he has a small team working on core areas of the business, he is using platforms like Up work and Freelancer.com to get fresh insight into the company. The results have been so phenomenal; he now invites people from various schools of thought to inspire the existing full-time staff. In essence, he has democratized ideas and innovation for his business.

The Growth Story

India is estimated to have around 1.5 crore freelancers and contributes to 40% of the global freelancing business.This is despite just a little more than a quarter of the population having access to the internet. In a country that is diverse, rich in culture, and embracing the new technology-driven economy, there are myriad opportunities for pursuing a career of one's choice.

I've been fascinated by the growth story that's happening here. When we reach out to tier-2 markets, we realize that India's most inspiring stories are in her villages and towns. Whether it's the 60-year old woman who sells her clay pottery across continents to the United States or the 19-year old who designs apps for startups in Australia, entrepreneurship is everywhere. It's incredible how the internet has leveled the playing field for people sitting thousands of kilometers away. At Payoneer, we've witnessed this transformation; the surge of cross-border payments on our platform reveals how Indians are adding to their skill set and sourcing work.

India's Opportunity

This economy has allowed Indians to explore opportunities across the world. Indians are now being sourced by some of the world's 350 million businesses through various platforms, using their expertise to execute tasks that could not be matched by the local workforce in the buyer's country.Finding extra work, sometimes leading to give up full-time jobs, has never been easier. India is expected to be one of the leading gig economies, as reports estimate the global market to be valued at $335 billion by 2025.

The Gig Economy is on the path of a rapid explosion, echoing the desire of the population for independence and the ability to work on their own terms. Of course, with this new opportunity comes a host of problems like payments, regulation, and taxation. To overcome these hurdles, new technology, and financial services providers are stepping in to simplify access to the global economy for businesses of all sizes, ranging from retail behemoths like Amazon to the merchants of India's tier 2 cities. As we move forward, the industry, freelancing community and regulators will need to work together to ensure a global, successful future for all.

Rohit Kulkarni

Vice-president, Payoneer India

Rohit Kulkarni heads India operations for Payoneer. Rohit has over 18 years of experience in the payment, e-commerce, the internet, consumer products and services, and financial services industry. As Payoneer India’s Country Manager, he leads efforts to empower professionals across all industries by connecting businesses and professionals with Payoneer’s innovative cross-border payments platform. Prior to joining Payoneer, Rohit worked with Amazon India, where he led seller marketing and new business initiatives. At Amazon.in, he led the business to launch Amazon.in in the Books and Movies categories. In previous positions, Rohit led sales and business development for Yahoo Small Business, managed sales and product management at GE Money, and was a member of the start-up team at Sodexho Pass in India.  Rohit has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Pune.

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