More tech workers in India are moonlighting — despite their bosses' disapproval

More tech workers in India are moonlighting — despite their bosses' disapproval

Abhishek is a software developer at an Indian IT company. He works five days per week.

He returns to the office after 8 hours and works for four to five more hours. He's not doing overtime, he moonlights or takes on additional jobs in addition to his regular job.

After work, the 30-year-old creates mobile apps and websites for clients that he finds online on platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr.

He told CNBC Make It that his ultimate goal was to find contacts who would pay him more than a full-time position. In a few years, he hoped to be able to switch completely from full time employment to freelancing.

Software developers aren't paid in proportion to their work. Many of us wouldn't moonlight if they felt fairly paid.

His bosses don't know about his plans and he hasn't told them that he moonlights.

Randstad India reports that Abhishek's not the only one. Over the last three years, the IT sector in India has seen a 25-30% increase in the number of moonlighting employees.

In a CNBC video interview, Viswanath P, managing director and chief executive officer of Randstad India said that the market was shifting from being employer-driven to talent-driven.

What it means is talent can now choose the kind of work, the company they wish to work for and the way they spend their time.

The money is the root cause.

According to Indeed India, there are many reasons why IT professionals moonlight.

Sashi Kumar is the head of sales for Indeed India. She said that the reasons for this are the low salaries, rising inflation and job insecurity due to the pandemic.

Abhishek is a full-time employee with eight years' experience who earns about $4,000 per month. He earns the equivalent amount moonlighting, and spends half as much time at his primary job.


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HackerRank, a program company that produces 2020 reports, found that Indian developers earn an average of $38,000 per year compared with Americans who earn nearly three times as much.

"The money is the root cause, software developers do not get paid in proportion to the work they do. "I think many of us wouldn't moonlight if they felt fairly paid," he said.

Viswanath said that moonlighting is also more common since remote work has become the norm, especially during the pandemic.

In an office, the employer has a greater ability to monitor employees. In a home office, you may be logging in to multiple computers.

Moonlighting, for Kumar, is another workplace trend that has gained momentum in the last few years because of the changing meaning of work.

He added that "these movements reflect a change in mindset among young professionals, who no longer view going above and beyond as being beneficial at work."

These movements are a reflection of a new mindset among young professionals, who no longer view going above and beyond in the workplace as beneficial.

This shift has led to trends that focus on flexibility, work-life balance and a break from the traditional 9-5 system.

Randstad 2023 research shows that employees' desire to moonlight is not likely to diminish any time soon.

Nine out of 10 workers agreed that employers are "much more appealing" if they allow their employees to work additional jobs.

Randstad said that the desire for women to work a second time is higher (92%) than it is among men (89%), indicating a gender pay gap.

Employers disagree

Employers disagree on this point: moonlighting is against the loyalty that a company wants to instill in its employees. Some cases could be unethical.

Local reports claim that Wipro, a giant in the IT services industry, fired 300 workers last year because they were allegedly working for "rival companies." In a tweet, its chairman called out the practice: "This is cheating - plain and simple."

Although moonlighting and side hustles are not new in India, they present "unique challenges" due to the prevailing norms, policies, and company practices, according to Indeed's Kumar.


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He added that unlike in other countries where side hustles are more acceptable, Indian companies have strict contracts or policies which discourage their employees from working anywhere else.

Moonlighting can be perceived as a conflict with the company's interests and lead to employee disengagement, loss of productivity, or breaches of confidentiality.

Viswanath said that employers' concerns, particularly in the IT industry, are well-founded. He said that the IT sector was very data-driven and involved a great deal of intellectual property.

Viswanath said that the perception of employers towards moonlighting is largely a result of their mentality and the lack trust between the employer and employee.

Many companies have included exclusivity clauses into their contracts to prevent employees from pursuing a side hustle, whether it is in a completely different industry or a simple hobby.

Recent survey by Indeed found that nearly half of employers are against moonlighting because they believe it has a negative effect on "revenues, operating margins, and productivity".

Abhishek said that he consistently meets deadlines and delivers deliverables in his core role, despite taking on multiple side projects.

He added, "I've agreed to work with my employer for eight hours per day. Beyond that, I can do any personal work without any problems."

The Middle Ground

India is struggling with a talent shortage, specifically in skilled labor. A recent report by job portal TeamLease states that over two million AI, blockchain, and cyber security jobs are not expected to be filled in 2023.

The report also stated that India will require 30 million digitally-skilled professionals by 2026.

Viswanath said, "Talent today is scarce and... if you want the best talent you have to do what talent wants."

"The second job used to be a necessity for employees. Now it is a desire." When it becomes a desire, employers must make accommodations to ensure both parties are treated equally.


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Ideal policies should be balanced and "clear" in terms of what employees can or cannot accomplish, as well as the number of hours per week required for the main job.

Viswanath continued, "There should be a policy that outlines the procedures to follow if you decide to take on a second position. We may need to learn more to ensure there is no conflict."

Moonlighting may be slowly becoming more acceptable in Indian IT companies. According to a local news report, Infosys, one of India's biggest IT service companies, now allows its employees to do "gig work" if they get the manager's consent.

This is a complete 180-degree turn from the previous position of the company, which warned against dual occupation.

This requires a great deal of discipline. Your employers will be reassured that your moonlighting won't conflict with your main employment.