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Building a Gig Economy for Rural India

As technological advances and innovations continue to emerge, nearly every aspect of the world’s functions has changed dramatically, including the way we work.

Previously, mention of the word “gig” conjured up images of performers or part-time workers. However, today, gig work has become a mere side hustle and has become the primary source of income for many.

As reported by ASSOCHAM, the domestic live music business is on track to reach $45 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 17% by 2024. It is now emerging as a different and common option across all industries. According to another study by BCG and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, India’s gig economy is expected to create nearly 2.4 crore jobs over the next 3-4 years and could reach a colossal 9 crore jobs in 8 to 10 years. This monumental increase will result in a total transaction value in the gig economy valued at $250 billion, contributing to a 1.25% increase in India’s GDP.

However, with gig labor in the city providing myriad employment opportunities and substantial monetary compensation, farmers from rural areas began to migrate in large numbers in search of a steady source of income. Given the growing population and food demand, this will have serious repercussions on agricultural production. The need of the hour is to generate additional income for those involved in agriculture and to build a rural on-demand economy to ensure our food system does not collapse.

green shoots

For centuries, agriculture and the farming ecosystem have followed centuries-old conventional farming techniques and tools. Unfortunately, this is one of the few sectors that has been relatively slow in adopting technology. Agri-tech is here to change that and revolutionize the way farming is done. The rise of agri-tech platforms has been a boon to the entire industry as it gradually integrates technology into its operations resulting in improved livelihoods, agricultural production and efficiency.

By leveraging the power of AI, ML, IoT, remote sensing and other new technologies, agri-tech platforms enable the sector to take a science-based and sustainable approach to agriculture at large scale. Moreover, by creating multiple blue-collar jobs in the agricultural sector, agri-tech players enable the creation of a gig-based ecosystem in the Indian hinterland.

Need for a rural gig ecosystem

Reversing the migration of rural talent to urban areas is crucial to ensuring India’s food security and making it the food basket of the world. Agri-tech companies can help bridge the gap. Most of them are trying to transform India’s agricultural sector through cutting-edge tools and techniques such as service market, agriculture as a service, traceability, supply chain transparency and agriculture smart and sustainable.

These platforms are training the next generation of farmers and, in turn, giving rise to an agriculture-based gig-economy work model for rural youth. The prolific increase in smartphone penetration in rural India has acted as a catalyst to help rural youth overcome their vulnerabilities and helped them embrace these new and changing livelihoods.

By leveraging the smartphone revolution and e-learning modules, these young people are trained and upskilled on the latest technologies, certified and integrated into gig economy platforms to enter such a workforce. Once trained, they are ready to start offering services to farmers, retailers, aggregators, traders – the whole ecosystem around agriculture. They help farmers get their farms online and help them with crop reviews, booking machinery, verifying product authenticity, and more. Some of them train to become operators who operate these machines. Such a workforce is regularly trained in new agricultural practices and, in turn, educates and enables farmers to embrace digital and provide agricultural input services at the ground level.

Empowerment of women in agriculture

Women have long been one of the main contributors to the sustenance, growth and development of the agricultural sector. Nevertheless, they remain the invisible labor force – the invisible and unsung agricultural heroes, although they do most of the heavy work in the fields, mainly due to social barriers that fuel gender inequality. Agri-tech platforms go the extra mile to strengthen gender inclusion. Their tech-based platforms attract more women to the rural economy by educating them about technology, digitalization and money management and empowering them to join the workforce.

Summary

The journey to rural India’s gig economy may have just begun, but it has already created ripples in the agricultural segment. It generates more employment opportunities, educates and empowers women in agriculture and fosters a robust agrarian ecosystem. It is only a matter of time before this growing workforce will forever transform Indian agriculture.

(The author is the chief operating officer and business manager of Nurture.farm)

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