Remember the friendly salesman at your doorstep selling you something at a price significantly cheaper than that at the retail shops. Or your colleague at work who circulated catalogues at lunch time with product details of international cosmetic brands at competitive prices. This precisely is what Direct Selling is, and yes, it can affect India's masses.
The word 'masses' somehow excludes bigger cities and subtly implies those in smaller towns and rural interiors. The uninformed cynic might ask if these 'masses' have the purchasing power to benefit from Direct Selling. When giants like Coca Cola, Reliance Telecom and L.G acknowledge that rural areas are accounting for sizeable chunks of their sales, you know the answer is a resounding Yes!
With Direct Selling, distributors sell and encourage their buyers to join the network to avail of this lucrative economic opportunity where one gets a commission that's based on the worth of the product sold. The result of this constant cash flow serves to strengthen the rural economy and break away from traditional income-earning methods like farming. Direct Selling companies do not just sell cosmetics; the scope has now broadened to include high- quality but low-cost products like spices, stationery, sanitary napkins, garments, agricultural additives, aphrodisiacs, weight loss supplements, home care and much more. Money-back offers which are actually practiced dispel any doubt of such companies being fly-by-night operators.
Also it is poignant to note that Direct Selling is a relationship- based enterprise where one starts off by trying to sell a product to friends, neighbors or acquaintances, most often after trying it oneself. No one would put their reputation at stake by deliberately selling off substandard products to first-time users especially if they are one's own colleagues or relatives. Products sold at retail shops do not necessarily come with this sort of goodwill and assurance.
While most of India's interiors witness a majority of women in the role of house makers, Direct Selling allows them a chance to actually add to the family income which was previously the mans responsibility. A trickle-down effect of this would be sending the kids to school. Rural literacy has always been a cause for concern, and while it's easy to draw up statistics and analyze, one must note that poverty is the real culprit here. Any additional income that encourages education can have far-reaching effects which go way beyond the here-and-now of one's banal existence. Education and knowledge is empowering and allows rural youth to think out-of-the-box and start their own enterprises.
Another point to note is mass migration to larger cities whose infrastructure is simply not equipped to take any more blue-collar migrants. It is disheartening that both educated and illiterate youth from smaller towns see scarce chances of success at home and migrate to fend for themselves and their families. Here again Direct Selling could help curb this trend. One does not necessarily need to leave behind one's harmonious existence to make end's meet in a polluted, populous, hostile and cut-throat environment.
Also socio-economic issues and crimes like those of the displaced forest tribals may superficially appear to come from political, religious and state-centric ideologies but the truth is that they stem primarily from poverty. Besides, India's class and caste system seems to have effectively boxed up the marginalized and strapped them down with no way out. The vicious circle of poverty and illiteracy glares right back into our faces
With worrisome reports revealing that the Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing economy's growth rate plummeted from 5.2% in 2005-06 to a disturbing -0.2% growth in 2009-2010 because of poor monsoons and close to non-existent irrigation facilities, the need for alternative income sources is inevitable. Direct Selling enables the marginalized to break free from traditional retail purchases whose rates are hiked thanks to obscene advertising budgets and the greedy middlemen. Low quality products past their expiry dates are rampantly sold in villages owing to ignorance and helplessness. This can and will stop provided the government sets up precise and comprehensive regulations that allow Direct Selling companies to operate successfully and transparently.
India's healthcare system is not one to be proud especially because of insufficient licensed medical practitioners, a general apathy and lack of information of basic health. With many Direct Selling companies dealing in health products like nutritional supplements, aloe vera, grape juice, green tea, muesli, vitamins, proteins and soya , the rural folk now stand to learn a lot more about nutrition than they ever did. Representatives of companies dealing in medical insurance and finance conduct comprehensive trainings whereby villagers learn a lot about savings, wise investments, financial and health security. All of this amounts to nothing less than actual Adult Education drives (which coincidentally do not attract too many because of lack of time or inclination) It may appear overly-ambitious and premature to claim that the overall health of India's masses can improve because of Direct Selling health-related products & services. But then as the saying goes, it's these tiny drops that fill an ocean, and a start somewhere is better than none at all.
Direct Selling can empower people with a choice to earn how much they want with independence and flexibility. This additional income allows one to pursue a hobby which previously was impossible due to financial constraints. Womenfolk (and men too) are specially trained and equipped with starter kits by company representatives to gain more knowledge about the product and its benefits. They are also trained in how to convince buyers to become distributors and how to motivate them thereafter. Along comes a chance to meet other women, exchange ideas and boost their own feeling of self-worth. Award functions are organized where distributors are publicly felicitated for a good performance. Friend and networks created in the process can be useful in other spheres of life too. A woman who is good at a craft could impart this skill to another woman who could teach her to read or write in exchange. This is one example but the scope is limitless.
To conclude, it is safe to say that Direct Selling is not just about money. It is about living a quality existence that does not solely revolve around meeting life's basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Every Indian whether rural or urban, deserves a chance to self-actualize and move beyond being a mere money-producing or a baby-producing machine. This possibility is not some Utopian dream.
It is already happening. And India's masses are finally waking up to it.