Here is what the Indian film industry can learn from gig economy firms like Zomato and Urban Company

Here is what the Indian film industry can learn from gig economy firms like Zomato and Urban Company
  • Even though the ‘gig economy workforce’ is a new concept, the film industry has been working with such a model for decades.
  • The Indian film industry employed over 2.5 lakh people in 2017 alone.
  • Despite the unionisation of the Indian film industry that protects the rights of freelancers, there are a lot of issues left to be dealt with.
Gig workforce is the hottest new trend that has emerged with the rise of the digital economy leading to the advent of companies like Zomato, Swiggy and Urban Company. Widely overlooked, but the concept of hiring contractual employees has been around for decades, if not centuries.

That’s right. The Indian film industry has been one of the biggest employers of gig economy workers since its beginning. The Indian film industry employed over 2.5 lakh people in 2017 alone.

Business Insider hosted Academy Award winner and Indian film producer Guneet Monga and Urban Company’s cofounder Varun Khaitan in its Future of Work event — held on September 16 and 17 — to throw more light on the topic.

Monga said that the film industry in general has been employing several freelancers for decades, whether it is light boys, dancers, junior artists, art directors, cinematographers and more. The term gig workers has come up with the advent of the digital economy.

“It can seem unstructured, but it actually works very well in the freelance business there… There is a union in this segment and that brings about a structure. But there are also some major challenges that come with it,” she added.


She elaborated that the many freelancers have spoken about how difficult it is to get into the union or how expensive it is. Besides this, the segment does not get health benefits, does not come under labour codes and more, even though the payments are fixed due to the existence of a union.

Watch More: What film producer Guneet Monga talks about unionisation in Indian film industry and what challenges it presents

Khaitan, on the other hand, elaborated how Urban Company, an at-home services startup, has managed to overcome such challenges in the beauty and home segment. He noted that a salon or a service shop would employ 10-15 professionals and were essentially the “middlemen”, therefore a professional’s income would be capped.

Urban Company has not only offered a more flexible working environment, but also increased their take home income and offered them health benefits. Khaitan also noted that allowing these service professionals to get in touch with customers directly has provided them with more respect and business prepositions as well.

“There is actually a very high price point here [Indian film industry] even to become a part of the Union. And then there is a supply of enough and more people are constantly getting inducted, but there is definitely a bottleneck on how unions function. They do protect them [freelancers] in terms of providing for jobs, but the kind of structures that you [Urban Company] are talking about is still, I feel, not in the best shape here right now. And this has just been our industry that has been thriving on freelance,” Monga added.

She elaborated that while the Indian film industry has been striving for freelancers, it's not with a vision of bringing people together or offering insurance or health benefits or looking into labour laws.

Watch More: What Urban Company’s Varun Khaitan had to say on the current conditions of freelancers in Indian film industry

Khaitan, sharing his experience, said “There are middlemen who claim to be good representatives and good samaritans of the workers, but are actually not. They are in some sense the heart of the problem, because a few things that just came up in this chat show there is no sense of balance between supply and demand in what is happening across the trade in the film industry and what that leads to is there is no sense of actual monthly earnings. So everyone just fights for what I can make on this job and it leads to an unheadly spiral.”

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