Here’s All You Need to Know Before Joining India’s Gig Economy

Before quitting your full-time cushy job and going the ‘gig’ way, here’s a ready reckoner you should keep handy.

Published06 Nov 2019, 07:59 PM IST
4 min read

Recently a wellness chain hired a management consultant for confidential work. The consultant had access to strategic documents pertaining to the company, which they helped rework. Once the project was completed, the consultant used some of that information for another client – which turned out to be a competitor of the said wellness brand.

Obviously the first client was not very happy and filed a complaint against the consultant. The matter went to court and finally an out-of-court settlement was agreed upon.

Does the case sound familiar? If you were in the place of the consultant or the wellness chain, what would you do?

As the gig economy is becoming more deep-rooted, especially for white-collared (knowledge) workers, many such instances are coming to the fore.

A 2017 EY study on the “Future of Jobs in India” found that 24 percent of the world’s gig workers come from India. However, like with any profession, going gig is no mean feat. It takes a lot of hard work and persistence. The reasons for going gig can vary –from following your passion, to a life event, or a career dead-end.

We spoke to full-time gig workers and companies to understand what the ground realities on both sides were, and as gigs become a full time career option, how regulation could protect the interests of both parties.

Ground Realities You Must Face Before Going Gig

Are You Ready to Gig It?

The biggest difference between going gig and having a functional role with a steady income is that, as a full-time gig worker, you have to become an entrepreneur. You have to understand financials, networking and the human psyche a lot deeper. That mind-set is very difficult to cultivate, especially when you are conditioned to a single functional role. If that does not come naturally to you, established gig workers suggest the following:

  1. Network and be out there
  2. Develop partnership
  3. Change your attitude – don’t be stuck on past laurels

According to Deepanshu Sharma, a management coach from Bengaluru who went gig since 2016, “Going gig is like the first day of the rest of your life. You have to learn all the tricks afresh!”

The Urge of Going Back to a Full-Time Job

A lot depends on the situation that drove you to going gig. If it was due to passion, you have planned for it better (financially), however, if it was a compulsion, you may not have ample ‘patient-capital’. It is then that the urge of going back to a full-time job is at its peak. It may also result from not getting the quality or consistency of gigs you expect. Many gig workers tell us that 1 in 10 gigs pitched for come through.

People who have been in that situation, suggest the following:

  1. Be positive and use that time to upskill/ learn a completely new skill
  2. Build credibility and get certifications in your field, so your specialisation is taken seriously
  3. Gulp your ego! It is okay to intern with someone for your new role. Going gig is all about learning new skills.

“In my eight months of experimenting with gig work, I have realised how helpful people are. It helps to have many connections,” confides Bengaluru-based journalist Feroze Jamal who went gig for a little short of a year, and is now in a full-time content role.

The Art and Craft of Negotiation

Unfortunately, in India, there is no regulation that standardises rates paid out to gig workers. It becomes incumbent then, for the gig worker, to learn to negotiate. Imagine, the irony of this situation – you get paid very differently for the same deliverables when undertaken for a startup, an MNC or a client in the US!

Experienced gig workers share some tips on negotiation that they have learned over the years:

  1. Initially, you have to learn to gauge a prospective client and how much they can pay. In the early days, you do lose projects because of price. Find your sweet spot – based on the nature and stage of the client (a base retainer is a good start, then devise a retainer/ project-based approach and a price range).
  2. Learn to set clear expectations, have written contracts with client success milestones clearly listed out
  3. Negotiation is a demonstration of value. There is merit in investing in ‘optics’. Go to meetings with a team, work out of a co-working space, and have a professional email ID.

“Being a woman, yes, it is more challenging. There is an underlying perception that we are all aware of. Many do not express it verbally, but you can perceive it. Over time, you do overcome it,” said Maansi Gupta, a New Delhi-based sales and marketing consultant who has gone gig for the past 20 months.

What are Companies Looking For?

“Gig workers come with a lot of expertise, and that saves time,” says Nischay AG, Director Supply Chain at ‘Bounce’, the self-drive bike rental startup. ‘Bounce’ has worked with several white-collared gig workers including a senior director of R&D for a project. The only challenge the company faces is when the gig worker is based overseas or in another city.

Coordination becomes a challenge, as does rapport-building with the team.

The company is open to hiring gig workers for roles like government relations, senior leadership roles, as they move to new geographies, product, tech R&D and communication roles.

The advantages of taking the gig-route for companies are:

  1. Access to a highly-specialised workforce
  2. No hassles of notice period/ on-boarding or training
  3. Timeline and milestone-based efficient work

Regulatory Aspects for Both Parties to be Wary Of

The ground reality is that for a full-time employee there are statutory benefits like provident fund, gratuity and bonus (for a particular salary slab), whereas for a gig worker none of these hold true. There are no regulations to protect freelancers today, and the most important document for them is the contract they sign.

Today, 90 percent of these contracts are drawn in the company’s favour. Freelancers have to read through the contract very carefully before signing.

Some parameters that have to be well-balanced and included in the contract are:

  1. A non-compete clause
  2. IP and who owns it
  3. Time period of the contract
  4. Deliverables
  5. Payment (specify if it includes an advance or not and timelines of payment)

(Inputs from Ashima Obhan, Partner Obhan & Associates.)

(Nisha Ramchandani writes on the Future of Jobs and has written for Quartz and This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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