currently comprises of over 45 percent of the 150 million people in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.
Most of these youth are educated, generally tech-savvy, quick to adapt to new trends, eager to put in the effort and have an entrepreneurial mindset - factors that are a prerequisite for sustainable success in the direct selling business.
For starters, direct selling is an international business concept and is defined as ‘the sale of a consumer product or service, person-to-person, away from a fixed retail location’. This model of sales is more than 100 years old and originated initially in the USA.
Today, there are nearly 117 million people involved in it. According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Association (WFDSA) 2018 annual report, direct selling generated US$190 billion with nearly half of the sales recorded in emerging markets.
Suffice it to say, Africa accounts for less than 1% of the total WFDSA sales but experts posit that the East African market offers potential growth opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs and even to those with a regular job and keen to earn supplementary income through direct selling.
In a region where formal employment requirements are becoming increasing competitive and full-time jobs equally scarce, direct selling offers an alternative to traditional employment for those wanting supplementary household income or whose circumstances don’t allow employment.
Speaking recently at a media briefing, Biram Fall, QNET’s Regional General Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa said the company has helped empower thousands of people in Africa, mainly youth, during the last decade.
“We are seeing a growing acceptance for Direct Selling, and with a population of over 200 million in East Africa, this model is a life-changer for many,” he added.
The company offers a wide range of health, wellness and lifestyle products through its proprietary e-commerce platform to millions of customers in over 100 countries, enabling people to lead better lives, and provides an alternative source of income for anyone interested to take up the opportunity.
It has offices and agency partners in 25 countries worldwide, and more than 50 stokists, localized operations and franchisees in a number of countries globally. Now with a firm footing in East Africa, it is committed to developing the Direct Selling model across this region.
“We are also committed to giving back to communities,” said Fall.
Some of the beneficiaries of the company’s corporate social responsibilities have included Maunga Orphanage and Newlife Orphans Home which have received substantial support in the form of donation of food supplies and provisions in recent years.
“That is why we have also invested heavily in sustainable corporate social responsibility projects across different parts of Africa through our Corporate Social Responsibility arm, RYTHM Foundation,” he added.
In Ghana, through RYTHM Foundation, the firm provided 50 Kindle e-readers which were pre-loaded with 100 culturally-relevant books each for students in Nima, a large slum within the city of Accra, Ghana.
It was a project in partnership with Worldreader, a global literacy non-profit organization and Achievers Ghana, an educational social enterprise.
It is also active in sports sponsorships around the world. Some of the more recent prominent partnerships include being the Direct Selling Partners of Manchester City Football Club and Manchester City Women’s Football Club, and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for Total CAF Champions League, Total CAF Confederation Cup and Total CAF Super Cup for 2018 and 2019.
Previous major partnerships have included Formula One, badminton and more, due to the company’s strong belief that the drive, passion and teamwork of sports mirror that of QNET.
As a firm, the company believes that there is nothing more empowering to individuals than the financial freedom that a career in the direct selling industry provides, and believes that the people of East Africa, with their ambition and strong sense of entrepreneurship, will appreciate the quality consumer products that the company offers and the business opportunities for self-development.
Direct selling can be a fulfilling career for those who choose to pursue this opportunity full-time or even part-time as it provides financial rewards commensurate with the time and effort one puts into developing this business.
In addition, unlike other conventional businesses that require significant start-up capital, resources and even experience, Direct Selling offers this low-cost business opportunity to anyone interested in taking it up, irrespective of their education or experience.
Moreover, the training and mentorship that start-up entrepreneurs undergo (Independent Representatives or IRs) provide them with unique skill-sets leading to self-confidence, self-esteem and eventual personal growth that hone one’s expertise as an accomplished entrepreneur.
The crucial benefit of direct selling in the emerging markets such as East Africa is that the model is proportionately more impactful here than in the developed markets because of the financial impact it can make in people’s lives - providing entrepreneurship opportunities to all, irrespective of qualifications or experience, thus ultimately contributing to the reduction of poverty in the society.
At the root of the firm is its philosophy of RYTHM – Raise Yourself To Help Mankind - which guides all their initiatives, and drives the company to not only change the lives of people around the world, but also partner with them in taking this impact wider.
The company’s CEO, Trevor Kuna, said that they believe that financial success alone is not enough.
“In order for us to make an impact, we need to develop people to be better human beings so that they can use their success to contribute to their local communities,” he said.
As with any other business, the Direct Selling industry too encounters some challenges. The most serious among these is the proliferation of illegal, pyramid schemes that masquerade as genuine direct marketing companies, promising potential investors extraordinary profits if they enroll other people.
The fact is these ‘scams’ create a negative perception of the Direct Selling industry, thereby creating hurdles for genuine companies to recruit sales consultants and run their genuine and legal businesses.
When confronted with such scenarios, companies address the problem by educating the public to be wary of such ‘scams’ and urging them to ascertain the genuineness of any company based on its adherence to guidelines, rules and regulations set by governing bodies and relevant authorities.
To buttress the direct selling’s legitimacy, a recent study by the India Multi-Level Marketing Institute examined multiple operations such as Avon, Mary Kay, QNET, and Tupperware and established that “they are not schemes, of the pyramid type or any other variety”.
Another challenge facing the direct selling industry is undeveloped skills especially among those who have taken up the opportunity most recently.
As for QNET, the firm sayss it addresses the challenge by putting very strong emphasis on training and education for the IRs. Such trainings not only develop their professional skills but also focus on their personal growth and development.
Granted, delivering the products to rural and far-flung areas is another hurdle but the company has managed to sort it out by recruiting IRs who network within their communities for easy access and also enables them to place bulk orders in exchange for a discount in order to inhibit stock-outs, thus ensuring a steady supply of products.
The company’s entry into the regional market might also face competition with the already established formal retail firms and global brands but its distinctive distribution model will set it apart and pave the way for success.
Besides its unique distribution model, the firm’s training programs will distinguish it from its peers because the trainings are specifically tailored on ‘Train-the-Trainer’ model which encourages the participants (IRs) to duplicate these trainings to their own teams.
Most importantly, they impart training on the tenets of ethical and professional marketing - an important ingredient that fosters integrity among the sales teams. The trainings that IRs are introduced to include Network Seminar Series (NSS), Network Basics Seminars (NBS), Product Trainings, Webinars, Conventions and other hands-on programs, including product exhibitions.