How can a digital platform drive inclusive growth?

By

EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

5 minute read 29 Mar 2018

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The sharing economy is breaking down barriers in India. Airbnb India’s Amanpreet Bajaj, an EY alumnus, describes the transformation.

The sharing economy in India is on an exponential growth curve. A number of sharing platforms have emerged, allowing individuals to share their home, their car, their belongings or their services. They no longer have to go through an interview process, compete with other applicants, or migrate to a big city – they can become self-employed simply with internet access and a service to offer. It offers flexibility, low risk and often a low start-up cost.

This digital revolution is having a big impact on social mobility and policy makers are taking note. Organizations such as Digital India, a collaboration between the government and various technology behemoths, highlights that “building I-ways are as important as building highways.” They aim to aggressively expand the National Optical Fibre Network that will take broadband to India’s villages, schools and colleges.

The sharing economy as an economic lifeline

One of the companies riding India’s digital wave is Airbnb. Amanpreet Bajaj, EY alumnus and country manager of Airbnb India, explains that the digital age provides the possibility of transforming people’s lives in ways that would seem unthinkable a couple of decades ago:

“People are paying their mortgages because of the income that they earn from this platform. People are able to pursue their hobbies because of the money that they earn from this platform. I met up with a couple of hosts who are single women, and they're raising children, based on the money that they earn from hosting. That's really powerful when you know that people depend on this for their livelihood.”

Airbnb has also teamed up with the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA), an organization representing two million self-employed women living mostly in India’s rural areas, with the aim of encouraging them to pursue new livelihoods by sharing their homes on the Airbnb platform. The potential for growth and for lives to be transformed is huge.

In the Indian market, asset ownership is very low compared to developed countries, and that is what is expected to drive the use of shared resources. For example, Indians own 72 cars per 1,000 of population, whereas Americans own 930 per 1,000. Consequently, transportation is one of the sectors of the shared economy experiencing huge success.

Shantam, one of Bangalore’s first female auto-rickshaw drivers, praises ride-hailing app Ola as her way out of a life struggling to pay the rent. Ola is India’s most popular mobile app for transportation. When Shantam saw they were launching auto-rickshaws on their platform she decided this was her opportunity to make ends meet.

She now spends her days picking up rides and, in spite of a few people telling her to quit, the majority are pleased to get a female driver. Plus, the tips are good. “As long as I have strength I will continue to do this,” she says.

Cross-cultural connections

Amanpreet highlights that it’s not just the opportunity to be self-employed or have an improved bank balance that makes a difference in people’s lives, but the cross-cultural connections that they make:

“The fact that a lot of people don't do it for money, they just want to meet new people, is also very impactful. A lot of senior citizens in India have taken up hosting because they have extra room in their home. Their children have moved out and they really feel that by hosting and meeting new people, it has given a new meaning to their life. Now they are making new connection and new friendships. They then leverage this network for professional gains as well as for personal gains.”

Looking to the future

Increase in internet, smartphone and credit card usage in India will contribute further impetus to the sharing economy. The next wave of growth is expected to be in services such as domestic help, chores, delivery services, healthcare and education. With it will come another generation of micro-entrepreneurs, driving further economic growth and social mobility.

Summary

By breaking down barriers to entry, the digital economy is enabling those previously excluded to become active participants.

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By

EY Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization