Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘Online is the best thing for our industry’

New Delhi: Milind Pant, Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of American direct selling company Amway worked with Yum! brand and Unilever before joining the Michigan-based firm known for nutrition products and beauty brands in January 2019. Pant, who is now in India, announced a global investment of over $300 million by 2024 to promote innovation and science, digital technology. and entrepreneurship. Of this, $20 million will be invested in India, which is one of its priority markets along with the US and China, he said in an interview. Edited excerpt:

How has been the transition from a fast-moving consumer goods company and quick service restaurant business to a direct selling dietary supplement?

There are many firsts in this. It was a shift of industries. It was moved to a family-owned, privately held company, and was the first for Amway outside the family and an outside CEO. I take the first 100 days to listen and learn what I do in any new role. That’s exactly what I did at the beginning of 2019—go to markets around the world to understand how our entrepreneurs and our leaders are building their businesses. 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 Los Angeles to understand where the money was going. Then we made a 10-year strategic plan. The core of that plan is to empower and liberate our entrepreneurs to grow their health and wellness communities. This is a change that we are investing in. India is leading 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. These things were in pieces, but everyone became highly aware of it for the sake of their health, the health of their spouse, parents and children. This accelerated our business, as our business is a wellness solution.

However, another thing also happened at the same time – there was an inherent tendency of people to increase in micro-entrepreneurship, women seeking flexibility and earning supplementary income. Again, the disruption of the pandemic gave him a boost. So both of these—the rise of micro-entrepreneurship and the immunity, nutrition, wellness space—were tailwinds for entrepreneur-led health and wellness company Amway. Despite all the challenges and all the difficult things, our business has grown in 2021. We believe we are in a multi-year development phase, as we are providing and playing a small role in providing a societal need. This health and wellness solution.

Has the Amway business model relying on direct selling not suffer with consumers shopping online due to Covid?

If you look at the last decade, there are two industries that have grown rapidly. One is e-commerce—Amazon and Flipkart are examples. We find examples all over the world and in every market.

The second is social platforms. Facebook is an example, but we have Kakao in Korea, WeChat in China, Line in other parts of Asia, and examples in Latin America and Russia. Today, we are seeing an interesting trend where social platforms and e-commerce are coming together with people who are online, building community. They do it sometimes in person, but mainly online. It links 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 a significant amount in training to lead entrepreneurs into this new era.

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