Moonlighting: There is no such thing as Diet Coke employment; You can’t have security through permanent employment and undeclared work either: Manish Sabharwal, Teamlease

“There is no such thing as a Diet Coke occupation; you can’t have flavor without calories. If you want to work for a big company, you have the predictability, you have the security, you have the community. If you want to freelance, you can like the flexibility, you like the uncertainty, but then don’t expect the guarantees or underwriting that a big company offers,” says Manish SabharwalDeputy Chairman,



Should undeclared work be nipped in the bud, or should we go the swiggy way, where you accept what happens but let it happen within the confines of a company?
I think employers have the right to set terms they want and employees have the right to take or not take that job. The individual employment contract has been changed to eight types of employment contracts. I agree with Wipro’s Rishad Premji that if you have signed up for full-time employment, you should accept full-time employment. Otherwise you are welcome to work as a gig worker or as a consultant or as a part-time employee.

This is about being bound by a contract. If you want to change the contract, feel free to negotiate. I know lifelong employment has been replaced by the taxi-cab relationship, but I’m not sure it’s fair to sign one contract and then expect another contract.

Full-time employment is exclusive employment and you are not welcome to seek full-time or exclusive employment. It would be really asymmetric if employers accepted that. It is already asymmetrical, workers can resign at any time, but Indian labor laws do not always let employers go workers. So it’s probably unfair to say that I want a full-time job that’s exclusive and has the security of a steady income, but I want to keep doing what I want.

Indian employers are very open to eight types of employment contracts. Employees should choose one and commit to it.

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If you have permanent employment for X hours a day to do X number of jobs and a specific job, why does that give the employer a right to your entire life and your 24 hours and your weekends and holidays? A job is not owned by a person, is it?
Yes, but there’s an exclusivity in this particular type of deal that we’ve traditionally had. You can have an open marriage. Most of us have chosen marriages or employment contracts that have some reciprocity as their theme. I don’t believe that agreeing to work for an employer is slavery. Most of these workers don’t exactly work 9 to 5 hours. Most of the time, the job spills over. We are knowledge workers. This is not the factory regime and the work is not such that factories have shifts and unions. Only 20% of the Indian workforce is unionised. So I would say no, this is not the claim that an employment contract requires exclusivity, is a type of employment contract that deserves to be enforced. If you don’t like this, there are seven other employment contracts and you should select these.

Your analogy with an open marriage is very interesting. It’s a community of convenience. between two sides and the conditions do not necessarily have to be asymmetrical. When new hires join the workforce in their early 20s, do they have the resources to decide what type of contract they get?
It’s a myth that organizations pay salaries. Customers pay salaries. Organizations and shareholders do not pay salaries. This debate is not new. It feels new, but presenteeism is a disease historians object to. They believe that today’s circumstances are so special and unique and obviously technology is enabling remote working and working from home means you can work from anywhere and obviously portfolio skills in IT are becoming more of a Trend. there’s Ronald Coase, who got the Nobel Prize for his law from Coase. When transaction costs between freelancers become too high, it is better to be within an organization.

Coase’s Law, used to argue in the 1950s and 1960s that sometimes people are better off not being in organizations because transaction costs are low. Obviously internet connection changes some of that, but I don’t think big organizations are going anywhere and I think some people who haven’t made a lifestyle choice might choose to become a freelancer, but some people like the predictability of one 9-to-5 jobs in exchange for the community in return for not having to worry about where the paycheck goes.

So I would say it’s a bit narcissistic to think that everyone in Gen Z or Gen X or Millennials is no different from us or our parents. I think it’s unfair to say everyone wants to be a freelancer or everyone wants to work gigs. Some people have a higher tolerance for uncertainty, some people value flexibility, but some people value predictability. This diversity of human motivations has existed for a long time.

Can you actually do more than one 24 hour job or do you have to be flexible as to what exactly that second gig is? Isn’t it better to have some flexibility to make sure all this quiet giving up doesn’t come in? That you make sure people are ready to return to office?
First, 5% of the workforce cannot work from home, they work with their hands and legs. Second, this job security nostalgia only applies to 10% or 15% of the Indian workforce, as 50% work in agriculture and 35% in the informal sector. So we have to recognize that this conversation is a sampling error for the Indian workforce, at least for now.

I’m really not sure if it’s right to project the wants and aspirations of some people to the entire workforce. Those who want flexibility are welcome to choose flexibility. The problem is that they choose flexibility while still seeking the benefits of security and a large organization. There is no Diet Coke employment; You can’t have the flavor without the calories. If you want to work for a big company, you have the predictability, the security, the community. You want to be freelance, you like the flexibility, you like the uncertainty, but then don’t expect the guarantees or underwriting that a big company offers.

I don’t have issues with diversity and I think honestly… it doesn’t. I’m sorry India has had the largest gig economy in the world for 50 years. 50% of our workforce is self-employed. Be careful with presenteeism.

I agree, this is about the IT sector, this is about large companies. One could argue that people who work informally have a plan A, plan B, plan C through to plan F anyway, and that’s another story. We’re talking about a specific segment of workers and employers, and within that construct, my point is that this may be a newer segment fueled by the pandemic. Do we have to start recognizing instead of saying it’s my way or the highway?
I think it would be very difficult for employers of a certain kind to be a fully open architecture. What they can do is create eight different types of employment contracts that many of them have and people can choose which area they choose themselves. I don’t think you can have both. You have to choose your life and you are welcome to choose your life.

India has created the largest democracy in the world, but it is also the most hierarchical society in the world. Companies are hierarchical. I’m just saying I welcome flexibility, I welcome freedom, just choose your bed and sleep in it, don’t try to cut and paste the best in the world. Life is about choosing the package you want, and all packages have pros and cons.

Do you think this debate will die down very quickly, or are we only seeing the beginning of it?
Ronald Coase, winner of the Nobel Prize, said that every solution creates new problems. So let’s be careful with this magical view. The debate has been going on for decades. It will be a few more decades, and people and organizations will choose the side that works best for them. Just make your decisions and live with them. People in the middle of the street are hit by trucks from both sides.

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