Mumbai-based air-conditioner service person Wasim Ansari used to earn close to Rs 14,000 per month during the peak summer season in March-June.
But amidst the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Ansari was laid off in April by the platform he was employed with. Three months later, he found a job as a food-delivery person.
“Initially, I had gone back to my native place in Uttar Pradesh. But it was not possible to survive without a proper income since my family is into farming. Hence, I came back to Mumbai in June. My food-delivery job is very hectic but the pay is good,” he said.
With sectors like beauty, home cleaning/repair and travel/tourism still reeling under the impact of lockdown, workers there are now shifting to sectors like e-commerce and food delivery to look for gig roles. Gigs are short-term job roles that are offered based on seasonal demand.
55,000 gig roles on offer
Industry sources said that close to 55,000 jobs are on offer on a gig basis due to the expectation of demand surge from the upcoming festive season. Blue-collared workers who had lost their jobs are viewing this as an opportunity to get back into employment.
So far, while 10 million blue-collared workers are said to have lost their jobs, hiring firms estimate that 30-35 percent of them have moved to gig roles.
Sahil Sharma, CEO & Co-Founder of GigIndia, said that several individuals are also looking for these gig roles in their native towns.
“Loss of jobs and reverse migration are two factors that are leading to a prevalence of gig roles. In fact, we have seen traditional companies which have never hired on gig roles before opting for it,” he added.
In the last 3 months (May-July), Sharma said that GigIndia has been able to provide employment opportunities to over 2,000 gig workers.
Which are the firms offering gig roles?
Companies like Ola, Uber, Swiggy, Zomato, Flipkart and Amazon are among the large players which offer gig roles.
Big plans for hiring have already been announced by some of the firms. E-commerce firm Flipkart said that it will help generate over 70,000 direct and several thousand indirect seasonal jobs in the country ahead of the festive season and its Big Billion Days (BBD) sale.
The Bengaluru-based company said while direct job opportunities will be created across Flipkart's supply chain, including roles like delivery executives, pickers, packers and sorters, there will also be additional indirect jobs created at Flipkart's seller partner locations and kiranas.
Similarly, tech-enabled logistics provider Ecom Express said that it will be creating more than 30,000 seasonal employment through September and October across its fulfilment centres, hubs, sortation centres and delivery centres.
These seasonal positions have been created across the country with 3/4th of the hiring beyond metros as well as cities, including Ahmedabad, Surat, Vijayawada, Chandigarh, Indore, Patna, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bhopal and Jaipur.
Saurabh Deep Singla, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer, Ecom Express, said that the company anticipates some of the hires to move into permanent roles after the festive season.
Which are the popular roles?
The topmost role remains delivery personnel. This is followed by logistics roles like sorting goods, packing and labelling. Drivers of large trucks are also popular.
At Ecom Express, for instance, the majority of hires will be delivery personnel, hub and sorting centre associates and workforce for warehousing activities.
GigIndia's Sharma explained that among the gig roles, there is a demand for flexible logistics and delivery.
Will gigs continue even post-pandemic?
Kolkata's Prajapati Naskar, who lost his job in May as a canteen staff in a consulting firm, had applied to almost 10 companies using online job portals. But he landed no job till July-end.
“I decided to not wait for permanent job roles and have taken up a gig position of packaging at an online shopping firm. This makes more sense because I not only earn Rs 3,000 more but also stand a chance to be absorbed as a full-time staff," he added.
While gig jobs are contractually supposed to be short-term, several companies either extend the contract after every 3-6 months or absorb these workers into a permanent position.
Delhi-based human resource consultant Vinayak GuhaRoy said that the fear of losing jobs again has forced several workers in hospitality, tourism, construction and home services to look elsewhere.
"Close to 10 million migrant workers had gone back home once the lockdown was announced in March. Even now, only 60-65 percent have come back to cities. Drivers, housekeeping staff in factories, and electricians have been hit hard. Business revival will be very slow in traditional sectors, so gigs will be a good option for the next 2-3 years," he added.
GigIndia's Sharma also concurs. He said that unlike a permanent job role, gig workers are not bound to one company and work for multiple firms and earn more. Hence, he added that gig roles are here to stay.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data showed that 91 million daily wage earner jobs were lost in April just after the lockdown was announced. This loss accounted for 91 million of the 121 million jobs lost during the month.
While by August, it recovered, close to 10 million of these job roles are still in deficit. This means that nobody has been hired and these roles will be classified as total jobs lost.