Fair warning: Beware of air-conditioners falling out of the sky. (Representational image: Ahmad Odeh via Unsplash)
Searching for the definition/origin of the term “moonlighting” for this article, I found the following:
1. working at a secondary job
2. (in 19th-century Ireland) the carrying out of cattle-maiming, murders, etc., during the night in protest against the land-tenure system
The second definition is obviously a hot potato, even for Funnycontrol where we can talk about anything else till the cows come home.
So it’s safe to presume that when Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji fired 300 moonlighters in the company, he meant moonlighting in the former sense of the word.
One must commend Premji for being a man who actually executes his vision. For he was in the news for criticizing the practice earlier. He had made it very clear; “If you are still on Tinder & Bumble while being in a relationship with me, you are chitting and you’re a chitter. Even if your Tinder is LinkedIn and your Bumble is Github.”
As a Standup comedian I was once hosting a startup awards show and happened to mispronounce his name as Rashid instead of Rishad on live television. I continued, unaware of my mistake with a confidence that only the ignorant can have. I was only informed of my snafu after the event was over. Mercifully, he was not the chairman of Wipro at that time and even more mercifully I was not an employee at Wipro moonlighting as a standup comedian.
Imagine his shock at finding one of his employees brazenly doubling up as a comedic host at an event (it was ironically in Bengaluru)… and mispronouncing his name!
The whole debate, of course, started when food delivery platform Swiggy said last month that it now has an “industry-first” Moonlighting Policy, under which staff can take up external projects “based on internal approvals”.
“Be it volunteering with an NGO, working as a dance instructor, or content creation for social media, Swiggy firmly believes that working on such projects outside of one’s full-time employment can significantly contribute to both professional and personal development of an individual.”
However this memo seems to have been accidentally dispatched to delivery executives of other delivery startups as well. Yesterday I waited for over 2 hours for my food delivery to arrive from one such aggregator. After many many follow-ups, when I was half-mad with hunger and despair, he finally landed up and gave me the food package. As I went to quickly close the door so he would not see me devour the food like a circus bear, he bent low to pick out something from his bag. “Aha,” I thought, “some balm for my anguished soul. Perhaps, a dessert as compensation.” But he pulled only out a visiting card that said “A/c repair”, and said I could get in touch as he was also moonlighting as an AC repairman. That was the reason for the delay.
After briefly contemplating dropping my AC on him on his way out and then contemplating the legal hassles, I chose to write this article instead.
To be fair, Mr Premji (Rishad) clarified: “Playing in a band over the weekend is different from secretly working for rivals”, timing his announcement on Thursday just before the weekend came up. But what if the startup you were secretly moonlighting for pivots to becoming a full-time band instead? Could an employee then get away on a technicality? In Bangalore anything is possible in the startup world if a VC fund demands it, except finding a cab and then not getting submerged in it.
A group of employees that calls itself the Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES) has said Wipro’s move is unethical. Perhaps they were inspired by the Marvel Series MoonKnight where Grant, an ordinary British Museum employee by day moonlights as a ruthless assassin with an American accent in the night. They can call themselves the Moon NITES as changing accents and their name from Ganesh to Gary at night to suit clients is nothing new…
There’s at least one IT major that’s fine with moonlighting, though only in principle so far. Tech Mahindra’s C.P. Gurnani said at a function last month: “If someone is meeting the efficiency and productivity norms, and wants to make some extra money… I have no problem. I would like to make it a policy. So if you want to do it, cheers to that, but be open about it.”
Inpsired by CP, I told my girlfriend about my presence on dating apps and said: “Cheers, I just wanted to be open about it”… After narrowly dodging the AC she tried to drop on my head I am now moonlighting as single for life and open to any suitable openings you may have/wail sadly at the moon.