The Political & Business Daily
February 7, 2021, Odisha & Delhi
In conversation with The Political and Business Daily, Rishi Chandiok, Director (South Asia), QNET Ltd spoke about the upcoming trends in the direct selling industry, challenges experienced during the recent Covid-induced disruptions, and QNET’s new business strategies.
Print News Courtesy: The Political and Business Daily, Cuttack (Odisha); www.pbdodisha.in
1. Employment generation for the young population is the biggest problem for a populous country like India. What is the contribution that the direct selling industry is making towards generating employment opportunities?
As per the United Nations’ population prospects, every fifth young person resides in India out of the world’s total youth. The young Indian population, especially the millennials, are an important segment for our economy. However, it is also an undeniable fact that the youth face challenges in terms of availing appropriate employment opportunities. The situation is worsened from the time the Covid-19 pandemic has hit industries, leading to most sectors laying off a large number of their resources due to the declining sales.
The direct selling industry is by far the only industry that offers independent entrepreneurship opportunities. The rise in urbanisation and conscious consumerism has impacted global buying perspectives. People resonate with products and organisations that contribute towards a larger cause. This industry has contributed positively towards generating self-employment opportunities for many people in the country, especially the youth populace. According to the new report by Indian Direct Sellers Association (IDSA), the sector saw 53 lakh, new entrants in the direct selling sector, in the first six months of the current financial year. This shows the Direct Selling Industry is booming and thereby attracting many aspiring entrepreneurs. The Indian direct selling sector also engages around 3.6 million self-employed women, which is over 60% of its overall workforce in the country.
QNET has millions of Distributors, globally, who have successfully harnessed their potential through direct selling. In India, the distributors’ growth has been stable, irrespective of the lockdowns, and we anticipate this trend to continue for the rest of the year. In India, we have 500,000 registered Distributors. The ‘digital’ push is on the rise, and we are making the best use of various credible technology platforms to engage, educate and empower our workforce.
2. What’s the current market size of the direct selling industry, and where does QNET stand?
As per the latest WFDSA December 2019 report, Direct Selling is a US$180.48 Bn industry globally that provides an entrepreneurial opportunity to millions. Significantly, it allows an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to start their own business. For India, the sales figures of US$2.47bn showcases the immense potential of this industry and illustrates the Indian entrepreneurial spirit. India’s Direct Selling industry stands 15th amongst its global peers, at a remarkable growth rate of 12.1% year on year.
With a strength of around 500,000 registered distributors in India, QNET is among the Indian direct selling industry players. At QNET, we empower our distributors with a sense of ownership and enable them to succeed at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey.
3. How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact the direct selling industry?
COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested almost all sectors, and the direct selling industry is no exception. Having to strictly adhere to the prescribed social distancing norms, the persistent fear of infection, and of course, the lockdown had initially impacted the business. However, at QNET, we believe that every challenge can be turned into an opportunity, and we capitalised on the digital tools to create newer avenues to stay connected with our distributors and customers. We have transformed our meetings and events into virtual sessions and ensured communication to be consistent throughout this transition to allay any fears during these tough times. In September 2020, at a global level, the company connected with its distributors, customers, and partners through the virtual V-Convention Connect event, which witnessed the presence of around 200,000 attendees, majority of them being from India. It was a great motivation to connect and communicate with self-motivated inspiring people from across the globe.
Furthermore, the pandemic has created an urgent need for us to look inwards, procure, and consume. The government’s ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative reaffirms this trend. There is also an increased emphasis on health, wellness and building immunity. During the lockdown, women managing home and office have also led to increased demand for home and living products marketed via direct selling in India. To exemplify, the demand for our SHARP-QNET room air purifiers and KENT-QNET specialised alkaline water purifiers is on the rise.
4. The health and wellness segment has witnessed substantial growth during the ongoing pandemic situation. How is QNET taking advantage of the market demand in this segment?
Owing to the pandemic, holistic health, wellness, and immunity building products have taken centre stage. At QNET, we are witnessing an upsurge in demand for our health products and have reinforced our Nutriplus range with ImmunHealth, GutHealth, DailyHealth, and LivHealth. This category is diverse, with an array of other products, such as antioxidant teas, energy boosters, protein powder, bone, skin health supplements, and specialised superfood like monofloral honey. Over the next two and a half years, we envisage our health and wellness portfolio to grow substantially.
5. With physical distancing a new normal now, how do you strategise your distribution plans?
At QNET, we have strategically implemented the technology and data to proactively revise our organisation and ensure business continuity in the new normal. While adhering to physical distancing norms, we strategised our distribution channel virtually and continued to reach out to the customers.
We have also focused on creating a new successful business model for our distributors, including policy records, virtual sessions, new business paradigms and product promotions to form a well-recognised marketing model. Most importantly, we provide the resources to our distributors at the speed of business to be supported and digitally empowered. Our products, across health, wellness, and lifestyle segments, are available on-line through QNET’s proprietary eCommerce portal. We believe that this is an opportunity for our distributors to interface with their teams and coordinate through virtual channels. QNET has always been pragmatic and adaptive in planning realign business strategies to current and predictive business environments.
6. QNET is dealing with tangible products. What’s the USP of your products and how are those different from the products sold by your competitors?
We have the gamut of home and living products, marketed via our distributors in India. To exemplify, the demand for our SHARP-QNET air purifiers in on the rise since it holds Sharp’s patented Plasmacluster® ion technology which deactivates Coronavirus by 90% (As per research findings by SHARP Corporation, Japan). Similarly, KENT-QNET specialised alkaline water purifier is in demand. It ensures the right pH levels in your water, removes dissolved impurities, and retains essential minerals, much needed for a healthy lifestyle. As an organisation, we trust in addressing challenges and converting them into strengths.
7. Would you please tell us about the present trend and growth prospects in the direct selling industry?
Technology and digital transformation have ensured business continuity for the Direct Selling industry. This trend is set to continue in the near future. Another interesting trend is that the sector has been instrumental in employment generation for nearly 122 million Indians who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. As per reports by FICCI-KPMG, India could cross 20 million individuals engaged in direct selling by 2025. This projects that Direct Selling Industry is growing and illustrates its potential with the continued rate of growth. Initiatives like ‘Vocal for Local’ also encouraged Indians to explore the option of buying and selling locally made products via the direct selling route, which entails a low capital cost to start the business. At QNET, India, we have over 80 products in the health, wellness, and lifestyle segments, with 75% ‘Made in India’ products.