The evolution of work and the digital nomad
Rather than working for the same company over many years, millennials prefer working for multiple companies at the same time. And they also want to focus on only the type of work they are interested in. This ongoing transition in work culture, triggered by distributed labour solutions like Uber, has completely transformed the way resources are recruited and the way businesses are run. According to recent research, by 2020, more than 40 per cent of the US workforce will be made up of contingent or freelance workers. This evolution is triggering a paradigm shift in the Indian work culture as well. A whopping 38 per cent of professionals on Freelancer.com are Indians and the numbers are similarly high in many other communities.
The startup ecosystem has made work not only exciting but also gives a win-win situation for both enterprises and employees. The new system has helped optimise utility, while reducing cost of resources with direct impact on business efficiency, agility and flexibility. The as-a-service or sharing economy model is expanding rapidly in both the virtual and physical worlds. While platforms like Uber and TaskRabbit are transforming delivery of physical services, there are companies like UpWork and SquadRun that are trying to transform how work is digitally managed across communities of freelancers.
The current generation of digital nomads prefer to work from anywhere—be it at a café or from the comforts of their own homes. Technologies like cloud and sophisticated algorithms for work management have helped the growth of these distributed labour platforms, providing lucrative earning opportunities for participants. Available on mobile phones through apps, they have massive utility for the over 150 million smartphone users in India today; a number expected to quadruple over the next few years. One big (read: biggest) window of opportunity that companies could look at tapping is the proliferation of smartphones and faster Internet across the country. With over 40 per cent of Indians having access to smartphones within the next couple of years, we could be amongst the largest mobile-based freelance workforce globally. This has provided the opportunity to regular people across the country to indirectly work for a MNC based out of Tier-I city, with just a minor investment in a data pack.
The distributed labour model provides several advantages. For enterprises, it offers a flexible, on-demand workforce that scales faster than traditional models, helps minimise labour costs while expanding the available talent pool. All this while retaining the visibility and control that they need. Freelancers benefit from the ability to work when they want, where they want and for whoever they want, and by earning additional income utilising their available productive time. The wider exposure also helps develop a better set of skills.
With the rapid proliferation of startups in India and their focus on agility and core competencies, this revolution is here to stay. Like any new business model, distributed labour communities in an increasingly as-a-service economy are also undergoing their share of experimentation and exploration. Governments are looking at what rules and regulations should govern these ‘marketplaces’ and whether stricter parameters should be used to determine nature of employment. Platforms are investing heavily on systems and checks to ensure capability and intent of workers, which are important enough to make or break platforms. These could include capability and intent checks, or rectification of loopholes in service delivery, something that Uber and Lyft are working heavily on.
With increasing enterprise imperatives around flexibility in cost and operating models, there is massive opportunity for leverage of these freelance platforms by companies looking to engage the workforce of the future.
Apurv Agarwal is the founder of Squadrun. SquadRun helps businesses outsource operational work to a distributed mobile workforce. Our workforce could moderate/tag/categorise user-generated reviews and images, call up restaurants to update listings, make customer feedback calls etc.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)