India’s Agile Talent Market Grows as More Professionals Seek Project-Based Work

India’s Agile Talent Market Grows as More Professionals Seek Project-Based Work

Short-term assignments are becoming more popular among skilled professionals in India, the Economic Times reported this week, with an emerging “white-collar gig economy” in IT implementation, marketing, design, and other fields reflecting these professionals’ desire for more flexibility and control over their careers:

It’s early days, but as more Indians opt for new work arrangements, interest is growing across age and experience brackets. Leading the charge are young employees with five-plus years of experience, confident in their abilities to do well even without the cushion of a permanent job, and mid-career people who have built up a nest egg and now want more flexibility and a work-life balance. …

Three months ago, EY launched GigNow, a tech platform that connects people seeking short-term employment options or flexibility with EY in India. Sandeep Kohli, national director for HR at EY, told ET that over 70 such jobs are on offer on the platform and almost 700 people have applied. Initially, it started with consulting and now it has added finance and HR gigs. The next step is to launch a GigNow for women.

While Indian professional culture has historically put a premium on strong ties between employees and their employers, times are changing. Indian Millennials, like young professionals around the world, are putting greater emphasis on autonomy and work-life balance. Greater flexibility is also seen as a key tool for encouraging Indian women to remain in the workforce after having children. To that end, Indian entrepreneurs are establishing online recruiting platforms and coworking spaces specifically geared toward connecting women with flexible work or facilitating the launch of their own businesses.

“Gig” platforms for professional services are becoming more common in other countries as well, such as Catalant (formerly HourlyNerd), which connects companies with independent expert consultants and boutique firms for project-based work. LinkedIn launched a freelance hiring platform, ProFinder, in 2016, when Upwork was already offering companies pre-screened pools of freelance talent. Also in 2016, PwC’s Talent Exchange began letting freelancers apply to work for the accounting firm on a project basis. At the time, PwC said freelancers could eventually make up 10 percent of its consulting workforce in the US. A survey by Upwork and the Freelancers Union last year estimated that freelancers made up 36 percent of the American workforce and projected that they could compose a majority of the US workforce by 2027.

At the same time, India is seeing an upsurge in startup activity, Ananya Bhattacharya noted at Quartz last month, driven in part by large numbers of Indian expatriate professionals returning to the country rather than deal with an increasingly restrictive H-1B visa process in the US. The country’s startup scene, already one of the largest in the world, is growing rapidly, with thousands of new ventures being founded each year. Between the burgeoning startup economy and the advent of flexible talent markets, the career opportunities for a young professional in India today look very different than they would have even a decade ago.