Jobs Across the Web
Jobs Across the Web
Although India’s IT services industry is pulling out of its post-2008 slump, there are new challenges. From cloud computing and automation to data security and US visa problems, the industry is facing fresh headwinds. But under the radar a new model of outsourcing has been growing — so small that it may not even figure in India’s IT-BPO services export that totaled $100 billion in 2012. If encouraged, the success of pioneering freelance contractors on the Web could inspire others in small-town India and open avenues of work without them leaving their homes.
Online portals linking a job seeker with a global employer is the latest iteration of an evolution of e-commerce involving products. The year 1995 saw the launch of Amazon and eBay, followed by the likes of PayPal and Alibaba, paving the way for a global e-commerce. Within the space of mere years, tens of thousands of manufacturers, service providers and suppliers were connected with business customers across the world. India developed its own outsourcing giants Infosys, TCS and Wipro. The next phase of the IT revolution had to wait until the convergence of high-speed Internet, falling prices and sophisticated mobile platforms allowed individuals to knock on the door of the global marketplace. Millions of small businesses have ‘gone digital’ in search of their own productivity growth.
Over the past decade, online companies such as oDesk, Guru and Freelancer have surged onto the IT scene, enabling small business customers to connect with contractors seeking freelance work. Their mode of operation is simple: individuals — from Web and graphic designers, software engineers, copywriters, market researchers, data analysts, social media marketers, translators — register with companies and offer their skills. In essence, virtually any work that can be completed remotely. After reaching agreement on the hours required to complete the task, the employer deposits the agreed amount which is remitted to the online contractor — minus commission — once the job is satisfactorily completed. How that particular contractor is rated by his or her customers offers a benchmark for future potential recruiters — or employers.
We are clearly in the early years of this new mode of global employment exchange, but it has been growing at a phenomenal rate. The estimated value of global part-time work was $422 billion in 2013. This number is particularly impressive when one considers that freelancers offering their services typically do so for prices starting at just $4 an hour. One interesting feature is that contractors are often located in places where no multinationals would go. The profile of a software engineer from a small town in India shows him charging $22.22 an hour — making $10 just by trouble-shooting for a client. A writer from Chittagong who says “I put your ideas into words”, in a few months, seems to have earned more than she would have as a language teacher.
The part-time nature of such jobs and the relatively small amounts involved in each transaction should not be ignored: they offer earning potential for the unemployed and open new avenues of opportunity without the associated financial and emotional costs of migrating to a big city. Anecdotal data on Web portals employing qualified engineers and designers from small town India show they have earned tens of thousands of dollars and, judging by reviews of their work, left their remote employers very satisfied.
Such job portals are growing fast. Freelancer has over 10 million users, oDesk posted 1.5 million jobs in 2012 and Guru boasts 900,000 ‘gurus’ for hire. Fortunately for enterprising job seekers in low-income countries, Web-based jobs open a market where there are none of the restrictions that corporate outsourcing faces. All they need to do is get trained and then get online.