1. Opportunities for self employment in the digital age

Opportunities for self employment in the digital age

The day is not far when India too could have its own self employed millionaires born on the digital platforms

By: | Published: June 22, 2015 12:10 AM

Digital platforms in the early days provided connects between the employment providers and employment seekers.

Over the last few years, while we have seen the proliferation of startups and millions of dollars being invested to back the budding entrepreneurs who are conceiving dream enterprises on the strength of digital access, a whole new opportunity is opening up for self employment and freelancing also due to enhanced digital penetration. For those who possess unique capabilities and skills and are looking to get away from the 9 to 5 option of being part of an organisation, self employment and freelancing are attractive ways of earning their livelihood.

With digital technologies maturing and IP, confidentiality, identify management, security and payment features also becoming more robust large and small corporates are willing to consider the services of individuals who could be connected via secure digital platforms. According to a study conducted by Mckinsey Global Institute, by 2020, digital technology will enable 200 million who are inactive or employed part time to gain additional hours through freelance platforms. The study also mentions about the increase in the adoption rates of online platforms for talent access that could reduce the cost of recruiting talent and of human resources generally by as much as 7%. Freelance working and flexible resourcing would be important factors that would contribute to this cost reduction. In the wake of India gearing up for the digital age, with majority of the people being able to access the digital platform through mobile phones or other devices, corporates would benefit by beginning to plan for leveraging this platform to access talent and services in new formats. This could lead to several new opportunities for individuals to rethink their careers and capabilities and result in attractive self employment opportunities for those interested.

Businesses are now realising the possibility of flexibility in hiring specialists as and when they are required and  further it is not required for people to be in the same place to work together. Collaborative and mobile working are becoming increasingly acceptable ways of getting access to the right talent on demand and also keeping the companies trim and lean. Companies are encouraging employees to hire co-workers or additional resources online as the recruitment time for such workers is one tenth the time that is taken for onboarding regular workers. Those seeking to pursue their second careers and employment after retirement can take advantage of their network and the digital connections to identify the demand and the needs that could be addressed by them. Women who are looking for flexibility in their work hours are able to undertake assignments which suit them best and thus have an opportunity to market their home made products or market their services.

It has been found that creative domain is one of the fields which has thrown upon the boundaries of work for those possessing skills in fields such as content writing, editing of video, graphic work, game testing, translation, animation and music. Other professions with strong technical skills in domains such as such as legal, software, product and engineering design, accounting, secretarial, statutory filings also lend themselves to self employment.

Professionals can decide their pace and time of work, type of projects they wish to undertake based on their interest areas and decide their own vacation time.

India is in the midst of building a momentum for getting the youth of the country skilled to make them employable by the industry. The Skill India Mission is aiming to create skills with 500 million youth by the year 2022 and various schemes are being rolled out in this direction. However the policy makers as well as individuals who are undergoing skills training continue to face challenges concerning their employability. The direct correlation between skills and jobs is still elusive due to factors such as time of the year when the vacancies need to be filled, the opportunities available with different industries, location preferences, compensation offered and role preferences of individuals.

Being a large country, with diverse interests and complex constructs related to migration to locations where jobs are available, even with the databases despite the best of intentions, it is not an easy task to match the demand supply gap.  Creating awareness of opportunities for self employment and acquiring world class skills would go a long way in addressing this problem as the country expands its digital reach and enables the youth to build small enterprises that service local customers.

Traditional forms of self employment or entrepreneurship face limitations of customers in terms of the geographies that they can address, complexities of businesses and lack of experience may also be hurdles to find suitable opportunities. Self employment has been  often embraced by those who have acquired skills through previous experience.

Additionally, as there are associated risks of not finding customers who would assure long term income, this route is not favoured by many, specially by those who are at the start of their careers. However, with the digital age, not only are the opportunities for self employment expanding, the definition and contours of self employment are also changing which makes it a compelling reason to consider the avenues available through the digital
platform. Acquisition of customers, referrals through testimonials and satisfied customers, demonstration of capabilities, establishing proof of concept, brand building and creating new markets which can be serviced for niche customer needs without the associated overheads are relatively easier specially if the value proposition is found to be superior.

Self employment need not necessarily mean earning potential would be lesser than the traditional format of 9 to 5 working for an organisation. As per US Census Bureau 30,174  ‘non employer’ firms were listed  in 2013 as those with only the owners  and no employees with each of them managing to generate more than $1 million revenue. Many of these companies have benefitted with digital automation and hiring independent contractors keeping their costs and overhead management low.

The day is not far when India too could have its own self employed millionaires born on the digital platforms with the combination of outstanding skills and customer connect through innovative propositions through the digital platform.

The writer is CEO, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions company

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