MUMBAI: The coronavirus pandemic may have put a pause on hiring in the IT sector, but the software gig economy is buzzing, where freelance developers on crowdsourced platforms such as Topcoder, GitHub and HackerEarth work on specific tasks for a fee.
These platforms, where clients find independent developers to ideate quickly and work on multiple projects, have gained as customers seek more agile work forces, with their requirements changing at short notice.
Top Indian IT companies have already indicated that hiring will remain muted in the first and second quarters of this financial year, while contract hiring might rise as firms try to reduce long-term cost commitments.
Topcoder, a community of 1.6 million freelance software developers, reported higher community activity, order bookings and overall fulfilment since the pandemic struck.
“Specifically, we saw a 180% rise in our active members on the platform and our fulfilment rate on crowdsourcing projects increased from 96% to 98% in this period. This period has also been a boost for our Talent-as-a-Service (TaaS) business where we are witnessing a lot of demand for full-time, temporary staffing of skills from customers," said Michael P Morris, global head of crowdsourcing at Wipro Ltd, which acquired Topcoder in 2016.
New order bookings have doubled month-on-month since the pandemic, Morris said, adding Topcoder’s current portfolio consists of mission-critical and timely projects, compared to its traditional portfolio of innovative and experimental programmes.
“We are seeing the movement to an on-demand enterprise. Agility can work for the company and for the talent as it creates a diversity of opportunities, which is here to stay," he said.
Gartner Inc analysts told Mint that IT vendors will have the scope to build on projects that help clients optimise costs better using solutions such as crowd-sourcing and shared services. So, more enterprise-level niche projects requiring quick turnaround are being diverted to the developer gig economy.
HackerEarth, which helps hire and evaluate developers for specific skills, has been holding hackathons to help enterprises address software requirements during the lockdown.
“They (enterprises) are doing this to gather ideas and prototypes in a scenario when hiring is slow. A lot of these solutions are targeted towards specific software solutions that will be required during the lockdown/pandemic, which need to be addressed immediately," said Alfred Alexander, vice president-marketing at HackerEarth.
Companies are also reaching out to engage their employees in hackathons and churn innovative solutions for more real-world problems that can be implemented at scale in technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Maneesh Sharma, country manager of GitHub India, a platform for open source developer community acquired by Microsoft Corp, said given that work is anyway distributed remotely in the current situation, it makes sense for firms to collaborate more with the community.
"We have seen an increased usage of Github during the past 3-4 months with more developers using a larger range of development tools, which means that they are working on more projects at enterprise scale. This is happening beyond enterprises in the startup ecosystem as well," said Sharma.