Abandoning their cubicles, settling for their couches | india | Hindustan Times
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Abandoning their cubicles, settling for their couches

Professionals are quitting regular jobs to work from home. Radhika Raj writes.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2012 20:12 IST
Radhika Raj

Abhishek Sil, 32, stretches lazily as his alarm goes off at 8 am, gets to his feet and ambles to the kitchen. He loves to cook, so he starts the day by helping his maid make breakfast for himself and feeding his six-month-old daughter Anahita.

After a leisurely meal, he sweeps Anahita onto his shoulders and heads to work - in the next room. "Normally, I would have been stuck in traffic at a Chembur junction right now, cursing under my breath," he says, laughing.

In March 2010, the web developer quit his high-pressure job at a digital media company to "reclaim" his life. "I was happy to sacrifice my hefty paycheque in exchange for a little peace and personal time," he says. "As it turned out, my laptop and I are now making more than I ever did at my day job - and I have the pleasure of looking after my daughter while my wife is at work."

Sil may be alone in his home office, but in similar homes across urban India - especially in metros such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune, where IT infrastructure and smartphone services are dependable and accessible - freelancing has taken off.

Young professionals facing burnout from their long commutes and endless workdays, exhausted by the constant pressure of meeting targets and deadlines while trying to find time for their loved ones or hobbies and interests, are choosing to step out of the rat race and go it alone, quitting their jobs and turning to the internet and social networking sites to find freelance projects that they can enjoy and complete at their own pace.

"Internet connectivity and social networks have helped people connect with clients around the world and find work easily," says Mahesh Murthy, managing director of venture capitalist firm Seedfund. "Young professionals are also more open to such work patterns and potential risks these days, thanks to a changing work-life attitude. And, of course, technology has made money transfers smoother, meaning that freelancers don't have to worry so much about the mechanics of getting paid."

Helping this growing number of freelancers find work are online professional networks such as LinkedIn, dedicated platforms such as elance.com and job search engines such as Naukri and Monster.

A search for Indian freelancers on global job portal elance, for instance, throws up about 65,100 results from a total of more than 10 lakh freelancers registered worldwide.

And "artificial offices" such as Jaaga - a 'creative common ground' in Bangalore - and public space The Hub in Mumbai are seeing scores of freelancers turn up to claim a free workspace for the day or sign up for weekly and monthly schemes.

"One of the biggest grouses freelancers have is the loneliness of working by yourself," says Freeman Murray, co-founder of Jaaga: Creative Common Ground, an initiative that provides co-working space to freelancers, start-ups and ethical hackers. "To counter this, some groups have started organising meets or creating artificial offices, like we have, where you get a creative social environment similar to a company."

Such spaces also offer freelancers a venue to bounce ideas off each other or just chat during breaks. Most importantly, these spaces provide technical support in the form of wi-fi connectivity, printers and scanners, for monthly fees as low as Rs 2,500.

Since Jaaga opened two years ago, the takers for its workspaces have nearly doubled, to 40 per month. In Mumbai, The Hub has a total of 15 takers for its monthly and weekly packages at any given time, up from two when it launched in 2009.

Back at his Thane home, Sil is taking a break to play with his daughter. The loneliness and lethargy of working alone are definitely downsides, he admits. But at least he no longer has to deal with the exhaustion of a 10-hour workday and a four-hour commute to Lower Parel.

"The trigger for me was when I was diagnosed with high blood sugar levels and told to exercise every day," he says. "Where was I going to find the time to exercise?"

Determined to find a solution, Sil saved up for a year, quit his job and decided to freelance temporarily, till he could find a job closer to home. In a few months, as word spread between happy clients, Sil was being offered so many projects from across India and abroad that he was earning up to Rs 1 lakh a month - up from Rs 70,000 at Hungama.

"It was much easier than I thought it would be," he says. "I sometimes feel guilty to have it so easy when everybody I know is still toiling away."