ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Before the Gig Economy

Tracing the Transformations in Delhi’s Taxi Industry

Studying Delhi’s radio taxi industry, this paper traces the transitional process of traditional taxi services in the capital to radio taxi services and finally to the current app-based taxi aggregators. The radio taxi companies ruptured old kinship ties and informal relations with a combination of technology, surveillance, and finance—a process app-based taxi aggregators have further refined. There is also an account of the labour struggles in the industry that preceded the advent of the platform economy.


The author wishes to thank Lela Rekhviashvili and Wojciech Kębłowski for their comments and suggestions on the earlier draft of the paper. The author also wishes to thank the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig (IFL) and the Eastern Europe-Global Area for a short-term fellowship.

It is now generally agreed that the information and communication technology (ICT) is fundamentally reshaping the future of work (Cherry 2016). The penetration of ICTs in the form variously referred to as crowdwork, the platform economy—or the gig economy, whether web- or location-based—is now pervasive. It has a presence in almost all spheres of work, ranging from driving cabs to delivering food and performing mundane tasks like data entry. Often, one company and its various subsidies provide an app- or web-based platform for different kinds of work. For example, Uber in India not only acts as an app-based taxi aggregator but is also in the business of food delivery, giving tough competition to specialised food delivery aggregators such as Swiggy or Zomato.

It has also been acknowledged that ICT and aggregators are providing a service, bringing the producer of a commodity in touch with its consumers—a process that has always existed since at least the putting-out system (Finkin 2016). In a recent report on digital work, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has pointed out that the “platforms resembles (sic) many long-standing work arrangements, merely with a digital tool serving as an intermediary” (ILO 2018: XV). However, the ­report also clearly states that there are

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Updated On : 20th Mar, 2022
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