"Dear, whatever you're selling, I've already got two of them." These words, from the Ashley Judd-starrer Double Jeopardy, uttered by a woman who mistakes an approaching Judd to be a door-to-door seller, are an apt reflection of the predicament of the direct selling industry. Considered a last resort for people unable to find employment otherwise, or for those looking to make a quick buck, the only qualification direct selling needed, it was widely assumed, was nonchalance and persistence when doors were slammed on one's face with a thunderous "no".It gets worse in emerging markets like India where modern direct selling, which proliferated in the mid-90s, has suffered from an acute lack of regulatory clarity, because of which it has often been equated with fraudulent pyramid/ponzi schemes. For a long time, products sold by such firms were viewed with scepticism, while recruitment processes lacked the professionalism present globally.

Moorthy K Uppaluri CEO,Randstad India and Sri Lanka

The contribution of direct selling industry to the Indian economy and our society cannot be ignored. Apart from promoting micro-entrepreneurship and financial independence especially for women, it is also generating direct employment opportunities across the value chain by outsourcing production, packaging and distribution of products, thereby helping the SME sector and positioning India as a manufacturing hub. Taking note of these benefits, the government has instituted an inter-ministerial committee to create a framework to regulate the industry.

These developments are encouraging for the industry as it increases its credibility, helping the players to recruit better talent. And unlike many other businesses, the success of direct selling also depends on a person’s skill as well as his cultural fit with the company, making HR best practices from across the globe relevant and critical. Today, companies offer professional and personal development programmes to hone individual talents. And to maximise performance, companies establish specific and meaningful goals in addition to consolidating careers through certified diplomas.

Interestingly, technology, which was perceived to be a threat with shifting demographics, has now been turned into an advantage by inducting passionate youngsters into the industry through social media platforms. Companies have also realised the criticality of succession plans – grooming motivated youngsters will go a long way in ensuring sustained growth in the future.

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