The Impact of COVID-19 on the Sharing Economy in India

38 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2020

Date Written: July 15, 2020


We live in an age where digital platforms have the power to shape and channel our social and economic choices. The advent of technology and growth of digital platforms has created avenues for sharing outside trusted circles and brought opportunities for the establishment of entirely new kind of marketplaces. This business activity is what the World Economic Forum describes as the shift from ‘sharing’ to the ‘sharing economy’ (WEF, 2017).

In the Indian context, ever since their introduction to the digital and physical marketplace, within a matter of a few years, sharing economy platforms like Uber, OLA, Urban Company, Swiggy, Zomato, WeWork and Airbnb have become household names in urban India.

The sharing economy – unclassified capitalism, though a truant complier of regulations, has indispensable implications for the urban informal sector. The sharing economy has been on a steady thrive since its inception – majorly due to its ingenious utilisation of otherwise dormant private assets as a stream of services.

While it may not be large enough to obliterate the informal sector, the sharing economy does improve the reputation of part-time work and thereby its wages – reflecting the high opportunity cost for unorganised sector workers in their enhanced bargaining power.

Sharing organises informality by standardising output and enabling data collection in the informal economy. Furthermore, it collaterally consolidates the given sector – both vertically and horizontally – enabling better management of its activities. The sharing economy has thus earned the distinction of democratising employment amplified by spillover effects on other markets.

Primitive sharing can be thought of as condominium and time-share arrangements that were the first to revolutionise the ability to scale and leverage assets. The precursors to the sharing economy existed in what appeared to be more local, even marginal, pockets, contributing to an assumption that these forms of doing business could not flourish on a large scale. The technological versions of the sharing economy challenge the assumption mightily creating the possibility of new types of sharing - a perfect visualisation of an Adam Smithian world ruled solely by market forces of demand and supply. By combining micro-entrepreneurship with democratic employment, it has undoubtedly overtaken traditional counterparts in obviating search cost and ensuring adequate supply. This seemingly perfect competition has the potential to redistribute resources in the economy and produce more equity in jobs and markets for a broader range of individuals typically marginalised from robust market participation.

However, the confident unicorns of sharing economy seemed to have met unpredictable fortune with the onset of the COVID-19-19 pandemic. This contagious disease has the potential to decimate the consumer demand for these platforms unless necessary measures are taken and a roadmap is charted to mitigate its impact. This report critically analyses the Impact of COVID-19-19 on the Sharing Economy in India and outline the way forward for both platforms and gig workers.

Keywords: Sharing Economy, Gig Economy, COVID-19, Gig Workers

JEL Classification: Z18, J83, J81, J78, J47, J08, K31, O33, O53

Suggested Citation

Pant, Bhaskar and Shende, Utkarsha, The Impact of COVID-19 on the Sharing Economy in India (July 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Bhaskar Pant (Contact Author)

Policy Monks ( email )

B-68, Lane No. 10
Shashi Garden, Mayur Vihar
New Delhi, 110091


Utkarsha Shende


B-68, Lane No. 10
Shashi Garden, Mayur Vihar
New Delhi, 110091

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