A student who cleans toilets to make ends meet, a dog trainer who built a business and a techie saving money to take his girlfriend out, Hyderabad’s gig economy is growing.

For G Shivshankar, the term ‘gig’ is a western term, he prefers to call it a part-time job. An MSc student studying in one of the colleges in Hyderabad, Shankar is willing to offer house cleaning services twice a week every month for a fee. It is a gig that earns him over Rs 30,000 a month so that he doesn’t have to ask his father, a cotton farmer facing agricultural losses, for money.

In Hyderabad, the gig economy is not just limited to taxi services and the food-delivery jobs – while some do it for the money and don’t think of it as a steady job, a few others are building businesses out of them.

“I haven’t told my father that I clean toilets, he will feel bad,” says Shankar, who someday hopes to land a job in one of the IT firms in Hyderabad. Shankar attends college during the day and provides home-cleaning services from noon.

“I don’t have a problem as it pays well when booked online. I make Rs 600 to Rs 1,000 for an hour’s work and on a good day, I get four bookings. I don’t intend to continue this for long, once I get a good job I won’t need this,” said Shankar. Shankar sends some of his earning to his family at home, who thinks he works part-time with a tech firm in the city.

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Economists say the gig, as an economy by itself, will grow in the years to come but is not as developed as in India as it is in West. “In the West, such services started becoming freelance in the 1980s as part of their informal economy,” said C Kutumba Rao, an economist and former chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Planning Committee.

For Pushpitha Saha, a former employee of Amazon, her gig was not the result of need, but the result of an experiment. After an injury in 2017, Pushpitha Saha quit her job with Amazon and became a full-time dog trainer. This year, she got her pet boarding home registered in the city.

“I had a ‘dog phobia’ and was scared of them until I was gifted two puppies to overcome that phobia,” said Pushpitha, who then took up a dog training course.

“I never thought I will get into it professionally. I went for the training to train my own dogs and then started training my friend’s dogs – my gig started like that – and then more people started calling me for the service,” she shared.

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The dog training and pet boarding together bring in close a lakh as revenue every month, but it was not easy getting there. “When I started out, people were not ready to pay up, they would price the service very low and some people would think that a woman can’t train a dog. There were times when I had thought of quitting. I never thought it would be my main source of income but it has grown to business now,” she added.

The gig economy in Hyderabad is diverse and now even has a few car owners who run pet-friendly taxi service, shared Pushpitha.

As for signs of the city’s growing gig economy, Kutumba Rao points towards the localities such as Hi-tech City and Gachibowli in Hyderabad where the IT crowd resides.

“There is a clear transformation in the Hyderabad’s economy. Most people employed in the IT corridor and private sector don’t have the time nor the means to hire a full-time house help, so the work gets delegated and such services are used,” explained Rao, who added that the trend has given rise to the demand for services in an informal economy, akin to the US in the 80s.

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Access to technology has also helped people looking for new opportunities where one has to learn the skill themselves.

“The kind of jobs that service aggregators like Urban Clap and others give access to don’t need skilled labour; people can learn the skill themselves and there is money in it. Earlier, doing freelance was limited to a few kinds of jobs but things have changed for the better,” said Rao.

When some do gigs to make ends meet or end up making it a steady source of income, some are in it for the fun of it, like M Gopi, a 28-year-old IT professional who drives bike taxis with Rapido app ‘whenever he feels like.’

He saves the few thousands of his weekly earnings by going for movies with friends every weekend, he also donates what remains to an NGO for children every week.

“It’s a good pass time, I like to drive and I like meeting people, so I thought why not make some money on the side. I don’t ride for Rapido always, it’s just when I want a few quick bucks to take my girlfriend out for the weekend,” said the IT professional. #KhabarLive