The role freelancers play in the growth of a sector

February 13, 2008 at 8:44 am 6 comments

We have been discussing on different fora the role and importance of freelancers. That is why when I saw this at the NASSCOM conference in Mumbai, I thought it would add an interesting perspective to the discussions.

says Kiruba Shankar

I was recently talking with Rene Trescases, the founder of Scriptlance, one of the better known project bidding sites and he told me an interesting fact. India has the highest number of tech freelancers in the World…. more than US, UK, Australia put together.

Sure, we all know about the domination the big Indian IT companies (Infosys, TCS, Wipro etc) have in the global marketplace. But not many realize that there’s a very vibrant and successful freelance market and that we dominate this space as well.

The freelance world is a different world by itself. This is how it works. Many small businesses worldwide, who typically can’t afford the rates charged by bigger companies, are on the lookout for individuals or small companies who charge less. They post their requirements on sites like, or It could be anything from a complex e-commerce shopping site to a logo design. Freelance Programmer from around the world then quote their rates for a particular project.

The business owner then gets to choose the freelance programmer based on their rates, testimonials from other clients and their previous projects. And this is the area that India dominates and how!

Forget the fact that the net value of the projects aren’t big. Forget the fact that the main reason why the Indian freelancers get the projects is because they quote very competitive rates. The important thing is the entrepreneurial drive in them.

Most people start off moonlighting. After coming back from their full time job, they work on projects in the evening. It’s a healthy extra income. Some people talk about this as unethical which is why you never to get hear of many who moonlight. Some argue that what they do during their free-time is their prerogative. Whatever be the stand, there’s no denying the fact that freelancing forms the seed for entrepreneurship.

I have known many instances where people have quit full time work in software companies to pursue their own operations. Most start off with just a single computer with broadband connection in their bedroom.

I have also seen such people grow. They eventually get more clients than they can handle on their own. To meet the demand, they expand their set up and hire more people. And therein lies the power of Entrepreneurship…the power to generate jobs.

When I spoke with Kanwal Rekhi , who many call the Father of Entrepreneurship, during the TiE Entrepreneurial Summit, I asked him why focus on entrepreneurship? He said, if India has to be successful and strong, then it should encourage wealth generation. And that’s possible by creating more jobs. And who generates more jobs? Well, its the entrepreneurs, he says.

Entry filed under: Posts.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sohail the Freelancer  |  February 14, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    Its nice to see you blog about freelancers. Feels like someone important is giving us importance!

  • 2. Jawwad  |  February 15, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Sohail we have all been there. I have done my bit at elance for about a quarter. You have always been an important part of the technology scene

  • 3. Vic  |  February 17, 2008 at 7:44 am

    @Jawwad: I met Subroto Bagchi (Mindtree) at Nasscom, who spoke about the need to free up entrepreneurship in India – appropriately enough (for this blog), the context was “The Blue Screen of Death”. He felt the core message, about addressing the fear of failure, was ‘too early’ for India, which does not have an entrepreneurial history.

    Naturally, I disagreed, feeling that in fact the entire subcontinent is imbued with a wonderful entrepreneurial spirit, that there are millions of small enterprises, but they have no recognition at big industry conclaves such as are represented by the Nasscom meet. I think the new, new thing in the so-called ‘Web 2.0’ wave is the extension of pervasive and ubiquitous global markets and marketing to and for such enterprises, going well beyond freelance programming.

    Bagchi says that entrepreneurship is about creating employment in units of hundreds, therefore such enterprises rightly fall below the radar scanner.

    There lies the rub, as Willie said.

  • 4. Jehan  |  February 17, 2008 at 8:42 am

    @Sohail, it’s nice to have you comment on my blog. To me it is important that my mind is open to all possibilities – and how can that happen if I am unable to interact with the brightest in this country. Freelancer is not a bad word you know. Like Jawwad, I too freelanced for a couple of years because it gave me the flexibility that I needed at that time in my life.

    @Vic, large organizations find it very difficult to innovate, it is the small organization, the entrepreneur in the garage who comes up with the most unique of ideas that capture the imagination of the world. Entrepreneurship, to my mind, is not about building large organizations, it is about having a “free” mind that wants to create and do something different instead of fitting into a fixed space that has been created by someone else.

  • 5. Vic  |  February 17, 2008 at 10:44 am

    @jehan: Another interesting interaction at Nasscom was at the talk by James Champy, consulting head of Perot Systems, and acclaimed business author (Reengineering the Corporation), who felt that it is definitely possible for very large organisations (including, naturally, Perot) to constantly evolve, to do things differently.

  • 6. Andreas  |  March 11, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    I’m outsourcing since several years mostly to India and have had and have very bad experiences. If you are on a limited budget, can not really look them over their shoulder and can’t give them detailed instructions like to a 3 year old, I do not recommend to outsource, in most cases you will only lose money. 3 months projects become easily 12 months (if finished at all), at first very responsive people become unresponsive over time, etc..


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