The Emerging Nature of Work in Platform Economy Companies in Bengaluru, India: The Case of Uber and Ola Cab Drivers

Aditi Surie, Jyothi Koduganti

Abstract


This paper investigates the work experiences, perceptions of security and risk of platform economy drivers in Bengaluru, India from a sociological perspective. The article presents these experiences and perceptions through rich ethnographic detail from in-depth, qualitative interviews with forty-five platform economy drivers driving on Uber or Ola cabs platforms. Drivers’ narratives are used to bring out compelling shifts in informal economy employment experiences in Indian cities. These shifts are used to examine the diversity of lived experiences present in the Indian urban informal economy and to distinguish Indian platform economy drivers from their global counterparts. The conceptual tool of temporality is employed in reading through drivers’ perceptions of risk, security and their management of these. The central finding of this article is that platform economy companies have given drivers a stable, mid-term period of time to accumulate wealth, which in turn has allowed them to stabilize and take short-term decisions by making large investments in their work, and to bear the risks of flexible working conditions in the short-term with more confidence.