Indian women getting ’empowered’ with direct selling

By Sakshi Gulati, IANS,

New Delhi : India’s $740-million direct selling industry, where products are sold directly to customers rather than through retail shops, is fast emerging as a viable career option for women, empowering them to earn some decent money from home.

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“Most women are raised to believe that they have to be perfect homemakers,” said Chavi Hemanth, secretary general of the Indian Direct Selling Association (IDSA), which works to promote this segment of merchandise trade in the country.

“So their psyche becomes such that they do not wish to go beyond the four corners of the house. But direct selling comes handy, as it gives the option to work at the times they prefer and not the regular nine-to-five job,” Hemanth told IANS.

“All direct selling companies also offer opportunities at very minimal investment. They impart professional training and personal development. There is no specific educational bar — just basic literacy is enough to carve an entity of your own.”

Little wonder direct selling has emerged as a woman-friendly field, with 1.22 million becoming a part of the industry in India. The turnover, excluding that from insurance premia, is expected to cross the $1-billion mark in the next two years.

That’s also the reason why several global players in the business such as Amway, Avon, Tupperware and Oriflame have already entered India even as scores of others have set their eyes on the market here.

“It is not at all bad to sit at home and earn. This way I can spend time with my growing daughter,” said Anjali Dhingra, a post-graduate in English and a mother of an eight-year-old daughter, who became a distributor for Tupperware two years ago.

“I live in a nuclear family and cannot run away from responsibilities. I also have to support my husband and share the financial burden. So, I find this easier and profitable,” she added.

“Since Tupperware is all about products used in the kitchen, at home and the like, it was very easy for me to sell it to my relatives. Then with time, I developed more contacts sitting at home.”

Seema Sisodiya, whose husband lost his job during the slowdown last year, also has a similar story to share and considers herself lucky that she became a distributor for Amway, given the difficult circumstances she had to endure.

“On the one hand, my husband lost his job and, on the other, rising prices of essentials were sucking out our savings. At that time I also could not manage to get a job. But this distributorship of Amway has helped us earn our bread — and some butter.”

At the core of direct selling is to make entrepreneurs and give flexibility of time to work, said Hemanth. “Many women today choose to be homemakers. But they also look for some other opportunities to use their skills, time and knowledge,” she adds.

That’s why many direct selling companies mainly promote women as consultants. In Amway’s case, for example, there are as many as 550,000 active distributors, and around 62 percent of them are women.

“At Amway, one can become a business owner with low investment and also low risk. It is an equal opportunity business which anyone can start with an investment of Rs.995,” said Amway India chief executive William S. Pinckney.

According to the industry association, which recently conducted a survey on the industry along with global consultancy Ernst and Young, a 5-10 percent annual growth rate is expected over the next few years, driven by the Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities.

“India stands 11th overall among the top 25 countries worldwide in the number of sales consultants present within the direct selling network, and 23rd in terms of the revenue generated through direct selling,” said the survey.

“An increased focus on new and emerging product categories and growth in depth and breadth of distribution, along with improved productivity of the sales consultant network, will help to boost the growth of this industry,” it said.

(Sakshi Gulati can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected])