The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forward unforeseen challenges and adversely affected the Indian economy. More than 21 million salaried Indians have lost their jobs since April 2020 and the count for blue-collared jobs in almost unimaginable. According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, the urban unemployment rate surged close to 25% in April-May 2020. However, it has reduced to below 9% for the month of August. The decline in industrial growth and varying consumer demands can be seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Though some industries have seen recoveries since July 2020, there are many others that have a long way to go. The education and hospitality industries have taken the worst hit by far. Construction, transport, and recreation have also seen a sharp decline and the future looks bleak for people in those fields. That being said, some have really come into their own and bossed the market. The food and beverage industry has managed to maintain good sales with the help of delivery partners. The online medical health industry has really been thriving and is being considered as a genuine alternative for the post-pandemic world. One other clear success during this gig economy has been the direct selling industry. This is mainly due to bit-part jobs becoming commonplace and the mode of business that the direct selling market falls under.
How Direct Selling Paved Its Own Way
The direct selling market has been quick to adapt to newer and less familiar methods of doing business in what can be called a paradigm shift from offline to online sales aided by technology. The work-from-home culture has actually been a blessing in disguise for direct sellers. With the primary focus on maintaining social norms and reducing personal contact, more and more consumers have shifted to online platforms for shopping, thus boosting sales of the direct selling companies. What is more, the Prime Minister’s push for India to become ‘Atma Nirbhar’ (self-reliant) and being ‘Vocal for Local’ while promoting ‘Make in India’ has furthered the success of direct selling companies in India.
Direct selling has been gaining a lot of traction since the turn of the century in India but 2020 has really brought it to the fore. What has made the direct selling module highly effective now and for the future is the core component of direct selling itself – the absence of obligatory investments in technology or real estate that is required for selling? Moreover, direct sellers have the advantage of not being responsible for the marketing of the products that are on sale. Their sole objective is to sell which has been possible without physical interaction. Virtual sales via online video and audio communication tools have turned out to be a gamechanger for direct sellers across India.
Direct Selling During the Pandemic
Consumers have turned to e-commerce retailers and direct online sellers for a sizeable chunk of their purchases. This has benefitted the direct selling market vastly. The rise in the number of direct sellers in India has been prominent. The key attraction to direct selling is the zero-capital investment involved and the option to freelance. Choosing your own hours for work and mode of communication have made the prospect highly appealing to people who are combating pressure from work and fear being laid off. Additionally, it is viewed as a form of entrepreneurship because It gives the direct seller the independence to be their own boss and operate at will.
Impact of Direct Selling in India
According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Association, the Indian market has seen a tremendous rise in direct selling. Over the last decade, the direct selling business model has almost doubled in size in India. According to reports, the industry was worth INR 72 billion in 2012-13 and is projected to reach INR 159 billion by 2021 based on a steady 4.8% Compounded Annual Growth Rate [Source: The Economic Times].
These figures highlight the continued success of direct selling in India. For the year 2019-20, India recorded the highest year-on-year growth rate of 12.1% and is one of the top 20 markets for direct selling across the world.
With over 5.7 million direct sellers active in the market and an average of 800 direct sellers joining the ranks, India is fast becoming a major direct selling player at a global level. Wellness and personal care products account for the bulk of the total sales figures and unlike retail markets, direct sellers can take advantage of pushing the desired products to customers via social media and internet influencers. Since direct selling banks on the traditional ‘word of mouth’ approach, influencers can bring public attention to such products. QNET India has benefitted largely from its social media prevalence, conforming well to the renewed focus on health and wellness products.
Why Direct Selling is the Future of Business in India
It is fair to say that the direct selling industry has time and again proven that it can thrive even in the most turbulent economic times. Presently, due to the coronavirus pandemic, when retail businesses have taken major blows, direct sellers have operated well and succeeded in conducting good business in a country facing economic distress. By bringing in proficient opportunists and offering almost zero investment options, the direct selling industry has revolutionised how business can be done in India. Innovative practices, adaptive measures, and increased flexibility have shone a bright light to millions in India. In the coming years, the Indian economy could profit from investing more in the direct selling market to foster business development and advance India’s growth as a global superpower.