With convenience at your fingertips, here is how the lazy economy is changing our lives.
The modern world has made it so much easier for us to indulge in laziness. Don’t want to go pick up wine for your house party? You can have it delivered to your doorstep. Don’t want to clean your oven? You can hire someone to come to your house and do it for you. Or if you are sick of eating takeout, you can now get a chef to make you a home-cooked meal in your kitchen. And yes, you can even arrange for someone to pick up your kids from the mall, stand in line to get you a doctor’s appointment or “sweep the tomb of a dead relative” with just a few taps on your phone. There are no tasks that are too menial to provide in the age of the “lazy economy”.
In essence, the lazy economy is a business model where companies create hyper-convenient products and services to minimize any/all effort on the part of the customer. Most of these businesses are online-to-offline (O2O) businesses where customers order whatever they need from their smartphones or laptops to fulfill their offline needs. Let’s make sense of the lazy economy, its growing popularity and its implications for the future of work.
What is the appeal of the lazy economy?
The lazy economy consists of all businesses that meet the following criteria:
- They offer hyper-accessible and hyper-convenient products and services. For example, if you want something urgently, e-commerce giant Amazon can deliver it within the same day in some locations worldwide. In India, if the thing you buy isn’t working properly or was simply not what you were hoping for, Amazon will send its agents to collect the item from your doorstep. In select U.S. locations, United Parcel Service (UPS) collects Amazon returns at your house, or you can just drop the return at stores like UPS storefronts, Khols and Whole Foods, to name a few.
- They solve small but frequent problems faced by customers. For instance, companies like India-based Nua and The Pink Box offer period subscription boxes, carefully packaging the number of pads and other period-care goodies you would need and delivering them monthly to you.
- They keep their charges low to encourage customers to use their services. A good example is the at-home beauty services provided by the Chinese startup Helijia, which connects customers to beauty service providers. By removing the costs of running a physical store, Helijia charges significantly less money than brick-and-motor stores for services like getting your nails done.
Why is the lazy economy so popular?
The lazy economy has gained momentum in the past couple of years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic forced people to stay inside their homes and rely on technology. So, if you used to buy your groceries in person, you would have started using delivery services like Postmates just to avoid getting infected.
Another contributing factor to the popularity of the lazy economy is our increasingly busy lives. On average, people spend 8.3 hours a day working, and another 8% of their day traveling to and from work. If you have an ideal sleep duration of 7 to 9 hours per day, you will be left with very little time to do much else besides work, eat and sleep. This creates an attitude where people want their lives to be as convenient as possible, even if they have to pay to make it happen.
Two of the countries where there is a high demand and supply of lazy businesses are China and India, which have the largest populations in the world. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, as both countries have abundant human resources, which translates into cheap labor costs. Some of the big players in the lazy economy of India are the at-home service platform Urban Company, food delivery services like Zomato and Swiggy and errand-running services like Dunzo. In China, there are the shopping platform Meituan, the online grocery market Freshippo and the errands app UU Paotui.
What does the lazy economy mean for the future of work?
The lazy economy has several benefits. It provides opportunities for people without formal education to easily find jobs. For those who have special in-demand skills, like cooking, repairing or home organizing, it is also a great opportunity to make a lot of money. As long as you have great reviews, you will always be in business. The growing desire for on-demand services might even spur entrepreneurship, creating new businesses that make people’s lives easier.
However, the jobs provided by the lazy economy are typically gigs (freelance work) and don’t come with any social protection like maternity leave or sick pay. The amount of work and the money workers receive heavily depend on reviews and customer feedback. So, while those with good reviews will always have a steady flow of business, those unable to establish a good reputation might fade into obscurity.
As more and more products and services continue to simplify people’s lives, we risk heading towards the dystopian future depicted in the film WALL-E. The Pixar film portrays a world where people end up completely dependent on work-saving technologies and become morbidly obese and incapable of even performing simple tasks. While reality mirrors this dystopia fairly well, the major difference is that, at least for now, a lot of the on-demand tasks are currently performed by real people.
Thus, while this new age of convenience may seem like a boon, it is important to be mindful of how you use these services. Be careful not to fall into the trap of forgetting that there are real people behind the app that you use, and your reviews and attention can change their lives. For government bodies and companies, it is important to create rules and regulations to safeguard the rights of those working in this sector as the popularity of the lazy economy continues to grow.
Header image courtesy of Unsplash