Let’s talk about the multiplier effect that India’s gig economy has. What kind of potential do you see for it to grow on in the next two to three years?
Gig economy is a very large definition. First of all it is not a new thing. It has been there for years, or even decades. What we used to call freelance, now we’re calling gig.
The fundamental difference is about the easing out of the whole process of supply and demand. I mean, you always needed someone to help fix your air conditioner. Today, instead of looking through your contacts, you have a much easier way to access the entire platform system.
That ease is the big difference. There are now ways to ensure that you can access supply much more easily, you have an assurance of quality, you have an assurance of credibility of the person who is coming into your house. The ease has been significantly increased with technology and that I think will always make a big difference.
It is a question of what kind of workforce will do more of gig going forward. I think when we talk of gig today in India, we are largely talking of one kind of workforce. We have not really gone up the value chain in terms of looking at gig for middle management, senior management, pure white collar jobs, etc. There, gig has still some time to come.
How do you envisage a regulatory framework coming into place for these platform-based companies?
The labour code changes have already been approved and it is just a question of when they get implemented. That will itself push security code etc, will itself have an implication on this. It is not a question of if, it is a question of when it will happen.
There is a bigger issue. The more regulation you bring into the segment, the more employers have to pay for hiring gigs. Therefore it is a fine balance. The increase in costs that you have by increasing regulation will make some parts of the gig economy less attractive from an employment perspective.
As soon as you bring in similar insurance benefits for gig workers as you would give to an employee, the cost benefit comes down marginally. If you want to give PF benefits, the cost benefit comes down even further, and so on and so forth.
Regulation is important because fundamentally the biggest challenge in India has always been to ensure that the person gets paid for the activity that the person performs. Payment cycles can be could be very unsustainable in informal sectors. For things to happen in a structured manner, regulation is important, but only as long as it doesn’t drastically raise the cost of ownership of cost of managing gigs for companies. That is where the fine balance lies.