Gig economy is a term you would have often heard of for short-term contractual work. But the three-week lockdown in India is more or less going to change the face of those who’re employed by the sector.
The gig workers are employed for income-earning activities that are not tied to a particular employer on a long term basis. You’ve mostly seen them operating in the delivery of food, clothes and medicines among others. In fact, Uber and Ola drivers are also part of this ecosystem.
But with the country set to grapple with economic challenges in the coming months, industry experts say this sector will have to recalibrate their working culture.
The change in their approach is already visible across different segments. You’ve got food delivery players like Zomato and Swiggy taking orders for grocery, Uber has partnered with online grocers to deliver their orders.
“These (people working two job profiles) will be the future and could become the standard way of doing business in the gig economy. We’ll come across new models for enterprise collaboration, which have not been seen in the past,” said Raj Saxena, Founder & CEO LogisticsNow.
This explains why even cab aggregators are deploying their staff to help with managing the increased demand for supplies across the country.
Models like these will ensure the people who’re out of jobs for various reasons, can be brought back on board.
However, Sanchit Vir Gogia, Founder and CEO, Greyhound Research, believes the gig economy was always designed in such way that it doesn't have to follow rules of regular employment, allowing them to work with multiple companies at the same time.
“That is how it works by design and purpose.”Sanchit Vir Gogia, Founder and CEO, Greyhound Research
Does this mean Uber drivers, who’re already working long hours, will now handle delivery demands and manage two jobs on the go? “The economic impact will be so huge, the gig workers, coming from dire straits, with no savings, will rely on two jobs,” Sanchit pointed out, showing a bleak future ahead.
According to the National Skill Development Corporation, around 70 million people are expected to enter the country’s labour force by 2023, including 59 million youth below 30 years. Going by the trend in the next few years, one can expect the gig economy to be a crucial part of this labour force.
Why is there a Manpower Crunch?
The likes of Big Basket claim to be operating with half of its entire staff for warehouse and delivery needs. The company has been regularly sharing posts about looking to hire more people for its network.
Grofers and even Flipkart have been faced with similar issues and they are also looking for short time hires to meet the shortfall.
Their situation has borne out of migrant labourers heading back to their villages a few days after the lockdown was announced, leaving them understaffed.
Initially, the companies didn’t feel the need for extra hiring, but with an unprecedented demand for supplies, the e-commerce companies have been caught out in these testing times.
“In the short run, the extra workforce will have to come on board. But it has become obvious the e-commerce sector didn’t anticipate the change in consumer demand, and is heavily reliant on the supply chain (which is mostly unorganised), Sanchit opines.
Once the companies were unable to tackle the challenge on the ground, they had no choice but to seek help from other verticals for the so-called new models of enterprise collaboration. And by the looks of it, we’ll be seeing more such partnerships taking shape in the years to come.