There are more than a million startups in the world today, across different sectors and growth stages. But only a few handpicked startups leap towards success to be labelled as a ‘unicorn’. These are the most valuable startups around us, valued at over $1 billion, with the potential to forever change the markets they operate in. While startups of this potential have been rare for a decade now, India has been churning unicorns rapidly to become the world’s second-largest startup ecosystem. As of August 2022, the Indian startup ecosystem is home to 105 unicorns with a total valuation of more than $341 billion.
With market sentiments favourably inclined towards startups, the country is expected to birth 250 unicorns by 2025. Today, hundreds of unicorns, soonicorns and startups with massive potential are fast becoming the champions of India Inc's growth story. These startups are not only developing innovative solutions and technologies and bolstering entrepreneurship but also generating large-scale employment.
But what do all successful startups have in common?
Becoming a vastly embraced startup isn’t easy, and each enterprise has a unique growth story. Today’s unicorns are shaping and redefining the sectors they operate in—by developing transformative consumer-centric products and services. They are disruptive innovators who are often the first to market their ideas. They are tech-driven, adaptable, and agile to simplify things for consumers by introducing constant innovations. Any successful startup today understands the need to expand or remodel its product and services based on market turbulence and consumer behaviour. They jump onto a new opportunity when they see it. If you look at the 100+ unicorns and most-valuable startups in India, you can observe that agility is one of the most critical and common attributes.
However, it takes a dynamic and result-oriented workforce to thrive in the competitive market. Considering startups must remain agile as per consumer behaviour and market trends, these enterprises must have the ability to easily scale their workforce up or down to ensure operational efficiencies. Even if you onboard a gig workforce, how can a startup manage the workforce, training, and incremental costs without the right tech tools?
This is where the gig economy comes into the picture in the growth story of the unicorns and other startups. An efficient and speedy go-to-market solution, the gig economy allows enterprises to offload core business functions on-demand while removing hurdles of high fixed costs, long recruitment cycles, and other compliances. It also offers agility to enterprises, making it easy to scale up or down to meet business requirements. The tech stack of enterprise-focused gig platforms is highly configurable, helping enterprises with easier and faster course correction. Often, the success of a startup also depends on its time to market (TTM). Gig platforms today provide the ability to significantly reduce TTM and TAT to secure a competitive win for the enterprise. Startups usually operate with a lens of opportunity seeking, which enables them to recognize the potential of the gig economy and leverage it for their gains.
Second, comes scalability. Today, all startups look for scalable systems and partners to enable their journeys. An example: for cloud tech, you have AWS; for Finance you have QuickBooks, and for excellent execution, new-age gig work platforms win the race. When an enterprise wants to scale its business, it would observe the dilemma of Build vs Buy vs Integrate. Would you rather spend months of time and resources to build a team and product, or spend big monies to acquire the capabilities, or would you partner with a work fulfilment platform to create operational efficiencies while you focus on your product? The plug-and-play proposition of a gig platform can prove to be much more cost and time-efficient than other channels.
There is always one question any startup founder has, “Should I focus on scale, quality or speed?” Gig platforms offer all of them together. The on-demand gig model allows enterprises to gather a need-specific workforce across any geographies of preference to solve business challenges. Access to a pan-India workforce enables enterprises to scale geographically, penetrate newer markets, and fulfil work at a large scale within a short period.
The use case for gig jobs in blue-collar jobs in India is widely known. But the demand for gig workers in grey-collar and white-collar jobs such as customer onboarding, due diligence, tele-calling, sales and marketing, and business development, along with tech roles, has strongly risen. Any work can be 'gigified' and broken down into smaller tasks to manage timely and high-quality execution.
Moreover, with the current focus of stakeholders in the startup ecosystem to build a sustainable and profitable business which accounts for operational efficiencies, the use of on-demand work fulfilment platforms presents an immense opportunity for startups. The on-demand gig model enables startups and other enterprises to reduce fixed expenses, including upfront risks and incremental costs for recruitment and training of employees. It thereby variables the enterprise workforce while directly mapping costs to delivered outcomes. This helps startups optimise their PnLs, especially benefitting in a turbulent market scenario.
To summarise, Indian startups hold a lot of potential and responsibility to build sustainable business solutions. As the entire ecosystem unites over sustainability, operational efficiency must become the priority for any startup, with a focus on quality, impact, customer delight, and profitability. With the nation increasingly realising the potential carried by startups, the gig economy will undoubtedly help them thrive by enabling them to make quick decisions and see faster results cost-effectively.
The writer is co-founder and CEO of Awign.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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