A fascinating journey from Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 35 Lakhs per month!
The sixth economic census, released by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, presents a worrisome picture of the status of women entrepreneurs in the country. The survey shows that, women constitute only 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs, i.e., 8.05 million out of the 58.5 million entrepreneurs. Another revelation is that out of these women entrepreneurs, 2.76 million women (34.3% of the total women entrepreneurs) work in the agriculture sector, whereas 5.29 million females (65.7% of the total) work in the non-agricultural sectors.
This grim picture of women entrepreneurship can be reversed if the Direct Selling Industry in our country develops like that in other out south east asian neighbours such as Malasiya, Singapore and Thailand. Ms. Kavita Sugandh is a succesful entrepreneur and a top distributor of one such Direct Selling company – QNet, and her motivating story demonstrates how a small town girl made it big by switching from a regular job with a salary of Rs. 35,000 a month, to entrepreneurship that has led to an average monthly income of Rs. 35,00,000 a month! Here are some excerpts from an exclusive interview with Ms. Kavita.
Question: Tell us about your journey from a small time job to that entrepreneurship
I was born in Raipur, Chattisgarh, studied from Nagpur and hail from an average middle class family. My father encouraged me to start earning from a very early age. Hence, I have been working since the age of 14. I started by setting up a plant nursery while I was still studying in school.
After my graduation, I joined Hutchison Max (Now Vodafone), then I joined Aditya Birla Insurance and finally Kotak Mahindra Bank. Since I come from a traditional business family I was never comfortable with working for someone else and always knew I wanted to do something on my own. However, I never had enough capital to get started.
Around 2006, I decided to quit my job and started an HR consultancy business, which was my first major stint at entrepreneurship. I was the CEO, administrator, the clerk and the only employee, since I couldn’t afford to hire people. With hard work and determination, eventually I was able to grow this business and establish multiple offices. This experience also taught me that running a business is not easy. I was very hands-on and my company was centred around me and that meant I could not afford to fall sick or go on vacation since a lot of money was at stake. Also, all the profits seemed to only appear on paper and never in the bank!
Two years later, I discovered direct selling through QNet and since then my journey as an entreprenuer has completely transformed.
Question: So how did you come across Direct Selling and why were you attracted to it?
By the year 2008 I had already been working with some of the top brand names in India for 8 years. Then one day, QNet came into our lives through a family friend. My husband Sachin Gupta was the first one to realise the potential of the direct selling business and immediately took it up. I was initially reluctant since I was still focussing on making a success of my HR consultancy business, but decided to give it a shot, though not wholeheartedly.
It took me about a year before I realised the power of the direct selling business to impact sustainable change. I had gone for one of QNet’s international conventions where I had the opportunity to attend their training programs, interact with other distributors from around the world, and explore the various products. I came back home from the convention and closed down my HR business. From that day on, I decided to give QNet my 100 per cent.
I had to work very hard for four long years before experiencing any form of success with QNet. By 2012, my husband and I decided to move to Dubai to expand our business internationally. For the next one year I was constantly traveling between India and Dubai. By 2014 the team in India was becoming self-reliant and I didn’t have to oversee things regularly and was able to properly shift to Dubai and focus on the international business.
How many years did it take before you felt you were achieving some level of success in your QNet business?
I still don’t consider myself successful. There is so much more to achieve! For me, this is a never-ending journey. A journey that I wish would never end, because I am enjoying every minute of the ride.
I have never shied away from hard work, but as an entreprenuer with QNet I have learnt about hard work at a whole new level. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but a get-rich-sure business, provided you are putting our heart and soul into it. For the first 18 months, I did not make any money. I faced a lot of setbacks and rejections. That made me angry but it also fuelled my hunger to do better. When I earned my first commission cheque after 18 months of hard work and effort, the wait was totally worth it!
Question: How big is your team now?
The team under me that’s actively involved in the direct selling business is now close to 25,000 distributors. We also have 1.75 lakh customers who regularly purchase products of QNet.
Question: When you were working a regular job, what was your last drawn salary and how does it compare to your current monthly income?
I used to earn a salary of Rs. 35,000 a month in Kotak Mahindra Bank – my last job. Now, QNet’s direct selling business has shown us the power of entrepreneurship and the potential to grow a successful business through hard work and dedication. I easily average around Rs.35- 40 lakhs a month through the QNet business.
Question: What is the secret to succeeding as an entrepreneur?
There is no substitute to hard work. My husband and I used to work 18-20 hours a day, all 7 days a week when we started out. In the last 3-4 years, I have been unwell only once and I was in the hospital for a week. Even then, I used to work from the hospital helping and guiding my team members remotely.
Has it been difficult being a woman in this business?
I think men find it far more difficult. Women usually have all the traits needed to be successful in direct selling. In my opinion, us women are the only reason for our own failures. If we want to be successful and walk hand in hand in men, then why do we need a man to make us realise our own potential? We don’t need a special women’s day to talk about everything that’s good about being a woman. Success doesn’t see gender. It comes to those who put their blood and sweat into and are deserving of it.
What were the challenges that you faced as part of your entreprenurial journey? Did you ever want to give up when times were hard?
I believe that when you go all out to achieve your dreams, you will be faced with challenges. You cannot achieve success without failure. I am glad that I faced so many challenges and experienced failures, because that’s what helped me grow as a person.
My biggest challenge was coming out of my shell. I am inherently shy and a loner by nature. This has often been perceived as arrogance. I had to make the effort to change this and take initiative to approach people and talk to them. For this, I will always be grateful to my husband and my mentors because they helped and guided me to becoming who I am today.
I have never thought of quitting or giving up. I AM NOT A QUITTER. I never was. In fact, each challenge has only made me stronger. I think people who quit either have other choices or they are simply ok with not succeeding. I have been clear with myself that success is my only choice.
Question: Your advice to the young generation of women who aspire to be entrepreneurs.
In India, even today in many places young women or girl children are dissuaded from taking up a career or being ambitious. In my opinion we celebrate Woman’s Day because we don’t consider women as equal to men. I tell the women in my team that their success is entirely up to them. They need to believe they can be successful and be willing to put in the work needed for it.
As a society we should never let a women feel that she is not capable or not suitable to do something. We need to create an environment where women should be encouraged to follow their dreams, and make their own choices.
Question: What about settling down and planning a family.
Everyone has to make a choice and I made mine. I have a family of nearly two lakh people consisting of my QNet team members. We are like a family and I take care of my team, train them, and take pride in their success.