American direct selling company Amway’s Global CEO Milind Pant worked with Yum! brand and Unilever in markets around the world before joining Michigan-based Amway, known for its nutrition products and beauty brands, in January 2019. Currently in India, Pant announced a global investment of more than $300 million through 2024 to promote innovation and science, digital. Technology, and Entrepreneurship. Of this, $20 million is for the country, he said, adding that India is one of the top priority markets, including the US and China. Edited excerpts from an interview:
From traditional FMCG and QSR businesses to direct selling firms in dietary supplements. How was the infection?
There are many firsts in this. It was a shift of industries. It was moving into a family-owned, privately held company, and it was the first for Amway outside the family and an outside CEO.
What I did, as I do in any new role, is to take the first 100 days to listen and learn. And that’s exactly what I did in early 2019, to go to markets around the world, to understand how our entrepreneurs and our leaders are building their businesses going forward. I went to startup companies and large companies in both the technology and nutrition sectors. I went to see Alibaba and met Google and Facebook in California. I went to nutrition startups in Seattle and LA to understand where the money was going.
And we have put in place a 10-year strategic plan. The core of that plan is how we empower and liberate our entrepreneurs to grow their health and wellness communities. This is a change that we are investing in. And India is at the forefront of that change today.
The pandemic boosted nutrition businesses in general in India. How was the reaction in other markets?
The trend towards nutrition and holistic wellness has accelerated in India and around the world. This trend is all about eating well, regular exercise, good sleep, meditation and mindfulness. Things which were in pieces but everyone became highly aware about it for their health, their spouse, parents, family, kids, and it accelerated our business because our business is a wellness solution.
But another thing happened at the same time, which is that there was an inherent tendency to increase the macro entrepreneurship of the people, the resilience of the women of youth and earning a supplementary income. And, again, the disruption of the pandemic provided a rise in that micro-entrepreneurship. And so both of these — micro-entrepreneurship and the rise of the immunity, nutrition, wellness space — are a tailwind for Amway, an entrepreneur-led health and wellness company. Despite all the challenges and all the difficult things, our business is growing in 2021. And we believe we are in a multi-year development, as we are providing and playing a small role in providing a societal need. This health and wellness solution.
Has the Amway business model – which relies on direct selling – not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with consumers shopping online and then social distancing?
If you look at the last decade, there are two industries that have grown rapidly. One is e-commerce — Amazon and Flipkart are examples. But we can find examples all over the world and in every market.
The second is social platforms. Again, Facebook is one example here, but we have Kakao in Korea, WeChat in China, Line in other parts of Asia, and other examples in Latin America and Russia. And, of course, Facebook and Instagram around the world. What is happening today is an interesting trend, where social platforms and e-commerce are coming together of these people who are online, building community.
They build communities around a passion, sometimes in person, but mainly online. Then he gets back to commerce. We are empowering micro-entrepreneurs to build their communities online. Then we are integrating backend commerce on payments, transactions, product delivery, so that entrepreneurship is in one box and hassle free for them.
We see online as one of the best things we can do for our industry. We are investing and training a significant amount to take these entrepreneurs to this new era.
You have also launched local Ayurvedic products in India. Is this a common practice in other markets?
In its origin, Nutrilite Darshan is similar to Darshana and Charaka Samhita which was written 5000 years ago or The Chronicles of the Yellow Emperor, which is claimed to have been written at a similar time in China. So, there are huge similarities between Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Nutrilite Philosophy.
So we are taking all this wisdom and knowledge of the past and combining it with Amway’s scientific rigor and supply chain integrity, and launching a complete set of products in India. We have got Chyawanprash, which is organic, we are getting Brahmani, Tulsi and many more.
We are doing the same thing in China.
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