Friday, June 2, 2023

Rise of the New Age Women Entrepreneur: KAVITA SUGANDH

Tell us about your journey from a small-time job to that entrepreneurship

I was from an average middle-class family in Raipur, Chattisgarh and studied in Nagpur. My father encouraged me to start earning from a very early age. Hence, I have been working since the age of 14. I started earning by setting up a plant nursery while I was still studying in school.

After my graduation, I joined Hutchison Max (Now Vodafone). Later I joined Aditya Birla Insurance and finally Kotak Mahindra Bank. Since I come from a traditional business family I was never comfortable with working for someone else and always knew I wanted to do something on my own. However, I never had enough capital to get started.

Around 2006, I quit my job and started an HR consultancy business, which was my first major stride at entrepreneurship.  I was the CEO, administrator, clerk and the only employee since I couldn’t afford to hire people. Eventually, with hard work and determination, I was able to grow the business and establish multiple offices. This experience taught me that running a business wasn’t easy. I was very hands-on and my company was centred on me. Hence, I couldn’t even afford to fall sick or go on vacation since. Moreover, all the profits seemed to only appear on paper and never in the bank!

Two years later, I discovered direct selling through QNET and since then my journey as an entrepreneur has completely transformed.

So how did you come across Direct Selling and why were you attracted to it?

By 2008, I had already worked for 8 years with some of the top brand names in India. Then one day, QNET came into our lives through a family friend. I was initially reluctant since I was still focused on making my HR consultancy business a success. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot, though not wholeheartedly.

It took me about a year before I realized the power of the direct selling business to impact sustainable change. I had gone for one of QNET’s international conventions. There I had the opportunity to attend their training programs, interact with other distributors from around the world, and explore the various products. I came back home from the convention and closed down my HR business. From that day onwards, I decided to give QNET my 100 per cent.

I had to work very hard for four long years before experiencing any form of success with QNET. By 2012, I decided to move to Dubai to expand our business internationally. For the next one year I was constantly traveling between India and Dubai. By 2014 the team in India became self-reliant. So, I didn’t have to oversee things regularly. Thus I was able to properly shift to Dubai and focus on the international business.

How many years did it take before you felt you were achieving some level of success in your QNet business?

I still don’t consider myself successful. There is so much more to achieve! For me, this is a never-ending journey. A journey that I wish would never end, because I am enjoying every minute of the ride.

I have never shied away from hard work, but as an entrepreneur with QNET I have learnt about hard work at a whole new level. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but a get-rich-sure business, provided you are putting our heart and soul into it.  For the first 18 months, I did not make any money. I faced a lot of setbacks and rejections. That made me angry but it also fuelled my hunger to do better. When I earned my first commission cheque after 18 months of hard work and effort, the wait was totally worth it!

One of the challenges many of the women in this business face is lack of family support or pressures of family commitments that prevent them from focusing properly on networking. What is your advice for them?

I think families will keep opposing anything they aren’t comfortable with simply because they don’t understand it. They need to see your determination, craze and passion to achieve something. They must be able to test your seriousness about your goals.

In the natural order of things, the world will try to shake anything that can be shaken. But once they understand that no amount of shaking can uproot you, they stop trying.

Maintaining communication with your family is very important. Making them a part of your dreams helps in a big way.  Most of the time, the challenge lies in the lack of communication. We talk about our dreams with the whole world, but forget to do so with our own families!

If you are determined and your family member — be it spouse or parents or in-laws– are able to see that determination, they will support you. In many cases I find that lack of family support is simply an excuse for many people and is never the actual reason for them not trying.

What kept you motivated and driven to stay on the path?

MONEY and SUCCESS.  I like to have a lot of both!

I don’t think I need any sort of external motivation to stay on the path. Every time I received a rejection, I was motivated to try again. Every time I was faced with a challenge, I found myself working with double energy to overcome it. This journey would be very boring without challenges. I love this game. It always keeps me on my toes.

How big is your team now?

I have a team of nearly 25,000 distributors who are actively involved in the direct selling business under me. We also have 1.75 lakh customers who regularly purchase products of QNET.

How was your life when you were working a regular job, and how does it compare to now?

I used to earn modest monthly salary in Kotak Mahindra Bank – my last job. But even then I could barely cover my monthly expenses and I couldn’t even think about saving for the future. Now, QNET’s direct selling business has shown us the power of entrepreneurship and the potential to grow a successful business through hard work and dedication. Now, I can live the life of my dreams. I can provide the best that life could offer to my loved ones, and beyond that, I can help others to create better lives too. I can tell you that there is no greater privilege than that.

What is the secret to succeeding as an entrepreneur?

There is no substitute to hard work. I used to work 18-20 hours a day, all 7 days a week when we started out. In the last 3-4 years, I have been unwell only once and was in the hospital for a week. Even then, I used to work from the hospital helping and guiding my team members remotely.

Has it been difficult being a woman in this business?

I think men find it far more difficult. Women usually have all the traits needed to be successful in direct selling. In my opinion, we women are the only reason for our own failures. If we want to be successful and walk hand in hand with men, then why do we need a man to make us realise our own potential? We don’t need a special women’s day to talk about everything that’s good about being a woman. Success doesn’t see gender. It comes to those who put their blood and sweat into and are deserving of it.

What were the challenges that you faced as part of your entrepreneurial journey? Did you ever want to give up when times were hard?

I believe that when you go all out to achieve your dreams, you will be faced with challenges. You cannot achieve success without failure. I am glad that I faced so many challenges and experienced failures, because that’s what helped me grow as a person.

My biggest challenge was coming out of my shell. I am inherently shy and a loner by nature. This has often been perceived as arrogance. I had to make the effort to change this and take initiative to approach people and talk to them. For this, I will always be grateful to my mentors. They helped and guided me to who I am today.

I have never thought of quitting or giving up. I AM NOT A QUITTER.  I never was.  In fact, each challenge has only made me stronger. I think people who quit either have other choices or they are simply ok with not succeeding. I have been clear with myself that success is my only choice.

Your advice to the young generation of women who aspire to be entrepreneurs.

In India, even today in many places young women or girl children are dissuaded from taking up a career or being ambitious. In my opinion we celebrate Woman’s Day because we don’t consider women as equal to men. I tell the women in my team that their success is entirely up to them. They need to believe they can be successful and be willing to put in the work needed for it.

As a society we should never let a women feel that she is not capable or not suitable to do something. We need to create an environment where women should be encouraged to follow their dreams, and make their own choices.

Question: What about settling down and planning a family.

Everyone has to make a choice and I made mine. I have a family of nearly two lakh people consisting of my QNET team members. We are like a family and I take care of my team, train them, and take pride in their success.

What is the one important thing that you have discovered about yourself in all these years with QNET?

I am very, very competitive. I hate being left behind. I keep pushing myself harder every single day to achieve my goals. I am super aggressive when it comes to achieving my targets. I can’t live without targets. Whether it is a business target or any other target in life. I need to know what I will get when I reach the finish line. QNET has brought out and honed that competitive spirit in me.

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