Empowered Entrepreneurs: How direct selling is helping women find their passion for business
As a successful obstetric physiotherapist based in Jaipur, Sudhi Soni has had years of experience in balancing her professional and personal life. But behind her successful medical practice, was a dream to financially and emotionally empower women.
The doctor felt that she should follow her passion for travelling and beauty, while having meaningful interactions with people. Sudhi started her entrepreneurial journey by joining Amway India in 2010 as a direct seller and is now guiding women on health issues, beauty, nutrition and financial flexibility.
Sudhi is among the hundreds of women in India who are steadily turning to direct selling to become entrepreneurs and drive the kind of impact they’ve always wanted to. According to a study, businesses owned by women entrepreneurs in India are likely to witness 90 percent growth in the next five years in India.
Given how direct selling enables women to own a business and run it by their own rules, the industry is drawing more and more women every year. Expected to hit a valuation of Rs 645 billion by 2025, the direct selling industry has been a key driver for skill development, women empowerment, technology percolation and the growth of the SME sector of the country, besides fueling economic growth.
“People have been connecting with me online to learn more about what I am doing and seek recommendations on buying products. I can now showcase what I love, get more leads while building my community,” says Sudhi.
Bengaluru resident Minati Panda has always been passionate about fitness and aspired to be an entrepreneur. While she was working for a leading corporate, she realized that work pressure and the demanding work schedule led her to skip meals and her daily diet was not able to meet her nutritional requirements which started taking a toll on her health. In her quest to look for the right brand of nutritional supplements, she came across Amway, through its flagship brand Nutrilite. Not only was it a brand that helped her better her health, but it also opened an avenue for her to realize her entrepreneurial dream.
“The nature of products at Amway and the opportunity to turn my passion into a entrepreneurial venture ignited that spark in me to join the Amway business while living my passion for fitness”, says Minati, who is also a marathon runner and is building a community of fitness enthusiasts who are motivating each other to live better, healthier lives.
In 2018, Minati, along with her husband Samarjit, also a fitness enthusiast, launched 'Reshape Nation' — vibrant digital community of fitness-savvy people. Through the community, Minati and Samarjit aim to influence, impact and service people into living healthier lives. Reshape Nation has over 7,000 followers on Instagram and more than 1 lakh followers on Facebook.
Minati’s passion for fitness and her journey is yet another tale of how passion and grit can lead one to drive impact with a small step.
Like Sudhi and Minnati, thousands of women today are successfully turning their passion into prosperity and building a community of followers with shared interests. To this context, companies like Amway have been making strides in empowering more women to explore new opportunities and unleash their entrepreneurial drive by following their passion for healthy living, fitness, beauty and cooking.
Blazing a trail in women empowerment
An entrepreneurial opportunity like direct selling enables women to balance their professional and personal lives, while contributing to the household income. One of the many reasons that is leading more women to take the entrepreneurial plunge is that it allows them to have a flexible schedule. Unlike other jobs, having flexible working hours lets women have more control over their day.
Plus, a steady source of income empowers them to become more confident and secure a bright future for themselves and their families. They don't need a specific degree or education to become a successful direct seller. They can easily stay at home and run a business, as opposed to a regular job.
As they excel, these women entrepreneurs are also building communities of empowered women by generating income opportunities for others. What sets entrepreneurship apart from other career options is that it gives you a window to channelise a passion that you'd just dismissed as a hobby.
So, be it your interest in fitness or the ability of rustling delectable dishes or go trekking in hill stations to chase the thrill of an adventure, chances are each of these passions could lead you to a path of financial independence. The money women can bring in by turning entrepreneurs can be an alternate source of income and help them plan their families' future in a better manner.
Moreover, you don't even need any specific educational qualification to become an entrepreneur. All you need is a good understanding about the product and some decent demonstrating skills and you are good to go. In fact, as the COVID-19 pandemic forces people to stay home, there has been a rise in demand for gig workers who could leverage digital solutions to get the jobs done remotely.
As the gig economy benefited from the crisis, platforms like Amway have enabled hundreds of gig workers — many of them women — to launch their own businesses and earn handsomely. Currently, over 60 percent of Amway’s direct sellers are women. With a business model that encourages a diverse set of passions, Amway ensures that its distributors learn the ropes of the business with industry-led guidance and upskilling opportunities. With an array of offline and online training programmes, it enables them to learn new skills in fields like best business practices, social commerce and product training, among others. Amway’s online and offline training programmes help its distributors hone their skills in fields like best business practices, social commerce, selling, using business tools and product training. Till now, Amway has conducted more than 25,000 online training programmes across the country and expanded its reach to over 20 lakh direct sellers and their consumers.
Bridging rural-urban divide with women empowerment
In 2017, Amway India launched its Livelihood Initiative in four districts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to train underprivileged women in entrepreneurship skills, healthcare, hygiene and, the basics of running a business. By 2019, the programme was able to benefit over 200 women and was implemented in New Delhi and Himachal Pradesh as well.
And, the company’s efforts are already showing results. Take the example of 18-year-old Jyoti Singh, who moved to New Delhi along with her elder brother who was looking for a job. As her family struggled to make ends meet, she joined the beauty course offered under Amway’s Livelihood Enhancement programme at a learning centre of an NGO. She picked up new skills and was soon earning with the small gigs she got. She hopes to open a beauty salon in the future and set an example for other girls who wish to follow their dreams.
Jyoti’s story of self-reliance is among the many successes that are paving the way for more women to become financially flexible with direct selling both in rural and urban areas of the country.
Given how women in India are behind important household decisions that range from education to healthcare, they have the potential to steer their careers into new directions with passion and drive. To that end, entrepreneurship can be a suitable option where they could harness their skills and help in creating an ecosystem that can support the growth journeys of more women in the future.