Gender conversations are increasingly becoming a norm across the world, driving people to rethink how different industries and organizations can make room for more women to grow and succeed. Direct Selling is among the leading industries to walk the talk by creating increasing opportunities for women to turn into entrepreneurs and thrive. In fact, according to the annual survey 2020-21 of the Indian Direct Selling Association, the number of active direct sellers grew to 7.9 million, with 47 percent of them being women.
So, what are the key advantages Direct Selling has to offer for women who aspire to start their own businesses? It’s an absence of significant barriers like lack of capital, time, and upskilling. It’s the reason why more women are making the decision to turn direct sales into an opportunity for success that does not compromise on work-life balance, familial values, or personal growth. In 2021, a staggering 74.4 percent of direct-selling representatives were women. Whether a woman dreams of building a multimillion-dollar business or simply wants to earn enough extra income to send her daughter to dance lessons, direct selling opens the door for her.
Let’s go behind the scenes to understand the other aspects that make Direct Selling popular – and lucrative – for women entrepreneurs.
A Distribution Model that Thrives on Independence
A study by SBI and YouGov in early 2022 found that being financially independent ranks among the top three priorities of women in India. Patriarchal concepts, unpaid labor, safety, and earning power are everyday concerns of most of these women.
When women venture into business, they’re already carrying millennia of oppression within them. However, when they walk through the doors of Direct Selling, they can leave that baggage behind; because it’s an avenue where entrepreneurial-minded people build a business of their own with low start-up and overhead costs, fueled by passion, profits, and a desire to sell great products and services. Direct Selling is an ecosystem of entrepreneurs who support each other on their growth journey. The women get to work with legitimate direct-selling companies that sell everything – from household goods, beauty tools, and supplements, to various other consumer products.
Being more socially active, women can also engage with their vast network of friends and neighbors to demonstrate and sell products. By allowing them to leverage their existing social and entrepreneurial skills, Direct Selling not only gives them confidence in their ability to sell but also gradually and carefully helps them break away from the many limiting beliefs that hold them back from experiencing financial freedom.
Low Capital Investments = Greater Possibility of Building a Thriving Business
Challenges in funding – like smaller loan amounts for women entrepreneurs and a falsehood that phones, banks, and services are too smart for women – limit how much women can invest in their business and stunts their potential. Direct Selling provides women with the products and materials needed to start earning money immediately, with minimal costs. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, the low entry cost of Direct Selling empowers women in impoverished regions to lead the world with the highest entrepreneurial activity rates. When compared to retail investments, direct selling costs represent a fraction of the costs of renting storage space and purchasing inventory to start the store.
Freedom to Decide their Schedule and Priorities
The struggle to balance personal/ familial commitments and running a business is real and only became more serious with the pandemic, especially for women who are also mothers.
Direct Selling sits on the other side of this spectrum. Even though it requires the same commitment and effort as other business models, the industry enables women to determine their own schedules. They can fit her work around her other commitments. The added convenience of technology and e-commerce provides them with flexibility and independence to build the business at their own pace.
When it comes to resilience too, both, Direct Selling and women have this one characteristic to rely on. The Direct Selling model adapts quickly and efficiently to changes in market conditions – even the pandemic – while providing consumers with the products they want. During the peak of COVID-19, a new generation of direct sellers was able to harness mobile technology and e-commerce to discover new opportunities in this time-tested distribution model.
As many industries have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, direct selling set record sales in 2020 of $76 billion in Asia alone, according to the 2021 WFDSA report. Countries such as India and Kazakhstan demonstrated some of the highest year-on-year growth in the region. The global direct sales industry was worth more than $180 billion. And – no surprises here – women are generating an overwhelming portion of this wealth.
Steering their Own Ship with the Right Skills and Education
Direct Selling does not require specialized skills to get started. However, many direct-selling companies provide their independent representatives with the training, mentoring, and education to develop the skills and knowledge needed to run successful businesses and grow personally as well.
Digital India’s alignment with technology is shaping the industry’s new norm. Besides using technology for marketing and distribution, companies are increasingly investing in online training and development tools, which are creating transparent self-sustaining business models in entrepreneurship, with better governance.
Women in Direct Selling – Forces to Reckon With
Today, direct-selling companies across the world have built a reputation for shattering glass ceilings and putting the spotlight on nurturing and empowering women leaders across the globe. Multinational giants are actively investing in digital-based direct selling platforms, tapping into their largest demographic, and transforming it into a pipeline of women entrepreneurs in the present and well into the future.
In my opinion, it’s the result of the hard work that generations of women before us have put in. Stay-at-home mothers and enterprising young women have broken gender stereotypes to build the multi-billion industry that we know today. Even though I’ve been in the industry for more than 11 years, witnessing women from all walks of life has never ceased to inspire me. They demonstrate passion, tenacity, and drive, and emerge feeling empowered when their entrepreneurial journey brings them success.” By empowering women entrepreneurs, direct selling is also building a stronger global economy for all. And when women are economically empowered, they drive growth, reduce income inequality, and contribute to building a more inclusive, robust economy for everyone.
Empower One, and You Free the World
A famous saying goes that ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Direct Selling and women are connected the same way. The industry teaches women to become independent, earn their own income and manage their own time in a way that allows them to grow into successful entrepreneurs. And when you teach one woman in a household to rise above her current situation, you empower the future of her future generations.