-Jai Kumar A and Hasan Ahmed

The white-collared gig economy empowers both skilled professionals seeking flexibility and businesses seeking specialized talent. Success hinges on platforms effectively matching worker skills to company needs for streamlined, trustworthy transactions.

Scenario 1:

Raghav, a 32-year-old creative media artist, derives most of his income from the white-collared gig economy. He loves that his job is not a traditional 9-to-5 job and that his days are filled with a diverse range of projects, each fueling his creative spirit and enabling him to hone a different artistic skill.

This morning, Raghav woke up to a notification on his favourite online freelance platform. A local coffee shop chain is seeking a video artist to create a series of short, visually captivating social media ads. The project aligns perfectly with Raghav’s recent foray into stop-motion animation, and the offer fits his skills and needs. He drafts a quick proposal and embellishes it with a few samples from his portfolio. As he is sitting down for lunch, he receives another notification that he has secured the gig.

Later that afternoon, he connects via video chat with a marketing agency that needs a conceptual artist to brainstorm visuals for a new eco-friendly clothing line targeting millennials. Raghav loves the challenge of translating abstract ideas into compelling imagery, and the agency’s commitment to sustainability resonates with his values. After a lively brainstorming session, Raghav lands the project and begins sketching the initial concepts.

By the end of the week, Raghav’s schedule refl ects the dynamic nature of the white-collared gig economy. He’s juggling video editing and sketching concepts in parallel for two clients and projects. Although it is demanding and sometimes a fi nancial roller coaster, Raghav loves what he does because it allows him to constantly learn, explore his artistic range, and build a diverse professional network. More importantly, he loves the fact that he is building his career on his terms.

Scenario 2:

Green Growers is a cool little organic farm outside Hyderabad. It is all about fresh, healthy food. Aisha, their marketing whiz, and her teammate are swamped. They urgently need blog posts—catchy social media stuff—to get people excited about organic mangoes. But there’s not enough time because the season has already started!

Aisha goes to a freelancer platform to find a writer and starts looking for someone who could turn her produce into a viral sensation. Bingo! She finds Jacob. His work for other organic companies is right on point – fun, informative and not too “preachy”. Sarah messages him with the details to see if he’s interested. Jacob loves the idea of working with a local farm. He sends a fair proposal, and they hop on a quick video chat to ensure they are on the same page. Aisha feels good and onboards him to help her with marketing organic mangoes. Now Jacob is a part of their small team!

Welcome to the future of work!

To most of us, the gig economy typically implies the blue-collared gig economy and conjures up images of food delivery or ride-hailing services. However, the gig economy extends far beyond them. Independent professionals have long offered short-term project work in the less visible white-collared gig economy. In fact, the white-collar gig precedes the recent blue-collar gig boom and has been quietly powering diverse services for Indian companies for over a decade. Companies often tap into this established talent pool for specialised skills and flexible projectbased work.

Digital platforms that connect skilled professionals with freelance projects to organisations have significantly altered India’s work landscape. For professionals, the days of inflexible jobs may be waning and potentially replaced by flexible and autonomous jobs. And this is not isolated to tech jobs. For organisations, it allows them to tap into a global talent pool on an ‘as-needed’ basis, reducing fixed labour costs and increasing flexibility. White-collared gig platforms appear to be ubiquitous across a range of functions and, if well implemented, have the potential to usher in more agile and flexible organisations. Buckle up —the future of work might be here!

Therefore, it is no surprise that professions spanning a range of functions are jumping on the bandwagon. Software developers, cybersecurity professionals, and IT consultants form a significant part of the activity in the white-collared gig economy. Creative professionals such as graphic designers, writers, and digital marketers often offer their services on these platforms, too, because it allows them to pick work that excites them, and businesses get access to a large pool of fresh ideas and skills. Lawyers also offer legal services on these platforms. They are available on hire to draft contracts and provide other routine legal services.

So why do these “markets” exist, and who participates?

For professionals, gig platforms can help them balance work and life. They allow them to set their hours and work around family or other commitments. It is a way to make a living without sacrificing things that matter. Hence, it is no surprise that millennials and Gen-Z love the white-collared gig economy; they get to work on different kinds of projects and have more control over their schedule. Women especially appreciate the flexibility the gig lifestyle offers, letting them balance work and family life. An often-overlooked segment of professionals who participate in the white-collared gig economy are those over 50 who turn to gig work to extend their careers. They are attracted by the potential to do meaningful work flexibly, allowing them to utilise their vast experience and knowledge while also pursuing other interests in life.

Startups, small and large businesses participate in the white-collared gig economy because it allows them to stay lean and more efficient. Hiring freelancers for specific jobs without the cost of full-time employees enables them to keep their operating costs low even while providing high-quality products and services. Even for organisations that rely on temporary workers, digital gig platforms minimise search costs by significantly reducing the costs and effort to find temporary workers. Also, in dynamic settings prone to frequent technological changes, the white-collared gig economy’s flexibility helps them stay nimble and adapt quickly to the everchanging market. Non-profits with tight budgets find gig platforms convenient for several routine activities that would otherwise require full-time staff. In sum, the white-collared gig economy can significantly contribute to both growth and profitability of businesses.

The white-collared gig economy also has its share of challenges. For professionals, flexibility is also tightly coupled with the unpredictability of income and a lack of benefits that full-time employers typically provide, such as health insurance or retirement plans. Due to these reasons, the white-collared gig economy can also increase financial stress and be detrimental to long-term well-being. Despite the flexibility, the lack of professional identity may also further exacerbate stress and the well-being of professionals.

Digital platforms that connect skilled professionals...have significantly altered India’s work landscape.

For organisations, gig platforms may entail risking sensitive data, which will likely infl uence their competitive advantage. Moreover, fi tting freelancers into their existing teams may not be seamless and could pose cultural challenges. Organisations may also face higher transaction costs associated with writing separate contracts and managing many individual freelancers instead of just working with a few employees or vendors. Finally, writing contracts, especially for creative work, the quality of which may not be easy to determine before contracting, may also be a signifi cant challenge. While organisations might hesitate to pay professionals until the assigned task is complete, freelancers may desire an upfront payment to commit organisations to the task. For these reasons, the white-collared gig economy may still be a work in progress. Clear contracting, precise communication, commitment mechanisms, and ways to build trust between professionals and organisations will be the key to success in the future.

For professionals, flexibility is also tightly coupled with the unpredictability of income and a lack of benefits...

Platform features such as reviews, rating systems, and escrow services to withhold payments will likely be needed for digital white-collared gig economy platforms to succeed.

Digital white-collar gig platforms hold the potential to revolutionise high-skilled work. These platforms could change the way professionals find projects, build careers, and connect with companies. However, their success hinges on one key factor: can they make it easier and cheaper for workers and businesses to find the right fit?


Jai Kumar A

Jai Kumar A

Senior Manager, Research Initiatives & Projects, SRITNE, ISB

Hasan Ahmed

Hasan Ahmed

Co-Founder & CEO, GigVistas