How a Restaurateur Couple from Bangalore Transformed into a Direct Selling Success Story
Opposites attract! Prashant and Anupama are the perfect example of this. Prashant, the South Mumbai boy from a well-to-do, liberal family who gave up his studies to open a restaurant and Anupama, from a traditional South Indian family in Bangalore, academically accomplished and focussed on building a career.
And yet, sparks flew when they met and together this couple went on to build an immensely successful direct selling business that transformed their lives.
Tell us a little about your background and what kind of upbringing you had?
Prashant: I belong to a well-to-do, upper middle-class family from Mumbai, now settled in Bangalore. My father was an automobile engineer but he also owned different business in Mumbai of engine re-servicing, crankshaft grinding, etc. I was not very good at academics so I chose not to pursue higher education. Instead, I became an entrepreneur at the age of 19 and started a restaurant in Bangalore. Over the next 13 years, I also ventured into other areas and got into the business of car accessories and started an industrial catering business.
Anupama: I belong to a typical south Indian family from Bangalore with a job-centric mindset. My father is a former central government officer and our parents’ focus was that I got a good education and then a good job. So I did till CFA-Level II and worked for about a year or two before I met Prashant and got married. When I saw Prashant’s businesses, my entire outlook towards entrepreneurship changed. I also joined him in his business and learned the ropes of being an entrepreneur.
So, what made you shift from those businesses to QNet?
Prashant: In India, many people are involved in traditional business sectors but most live in the so-called “everything-is-ok bubble”. They might be driving fancy cars and living in fancy houses, but no one makes real money. Their balance-sheets are hollow. The same thing was happening with me. I would show to the world that I was a businessman and I had a nice life, but that wasn’t the reality.
Anupama: I had become friends with this lady who had a fashion boutique next door to our restaurant. She was also involved in building a direct sales business with a company called QNet. She had been talking to me about it for some time. Over time I saw how well she was doing and witnessed how things were changing in her life. I was very inspired by this and in December 2011, I spoke to Prashant to consider getting involved. Initially he was sceptical. But I was very keen and decided to take a chance. Prashant only joined me later.
How did you end up taking the decision to focus on direct selling full time?
Prashant: Initially I didn’t really know much about direct selling. I didn’t understand the compensation plan. I didn’t know anything about the industry. But when I was introduced to QNET I saw they had some really good products. I enjoy traveling and they had some great holiday packages. After reviewing the details I decided to buy a holiday package. Even if I didn’t get involved in building a direct sales business, at least I could take my family on vacation!
But the real seriousness kicked in only because of a fortuitous holiday. One particular holiday I had made plans with my friends for Beer and Biryani. But in the last minute, I was invited to attend a training session by QNET and my wife insisted that we go for it, so I had to skip the get-together. The next day, one of the friends called me to find out why I missed our meet up. I explained that I had attended this direct selling training session where I met many people who were very excited about this business. I told him about the great products the company offered, and that the whole thing looked quite promising. He was intrigued and wanted to know more about it. The same evening I met another close friend for dinner and when I told him about my experience he got excited about it. In fact, he and his wife immediately looked up the products and bought some using my referral. I was fortunate that within 24 hours of that training session, I had made two sales and earned a commission. That got me motivated and I got serious about building this as a proper business.
So was it only the financial aspect that you found attractive?
Prashant: No, not really. Financially we were pretty much sorted. My late father has left me enough so that I can take care of my family in comfort even if I didn’t have to work. But it was my wife who really pushed me into this because she found the industry very exciting. She felt I will not just do well in it but also enjoy it. She offered to take care of the restaurant so that I could build a direct sales business full time.
I am happy that I took the plunge because it’s been an amazing journey. I have experienced so much personal growth. In the beginning everything was new and fun and it was exciting to meet so many new people and learn so many new things. That was the first stage. In the next stage, I had to focus on leadership and team building. It was a lot more serious. It was about my own personal development as well as mentoring others.
Today, I have built a large team comprising of thousands of smart, educated people who want to transform their lives. I am now responsible for them. These are my people who have joined this industry to make a living and they look up to me. It’s immensely gratifying to see my team grow at a personal and professional level.
You have always been a traditional entrepreneur, but now you are a different type of entrepreneur. How different is the customer acquisition process?
Prashant: Obviously, in direct sales, I have to do a lot more hard selling and work harder on convincing people about the potential of the business. But this is not because of lack of quality products or service, but because people tend to be sceptical about direct selling. They have certain fixed ideas and pre-conceived notions about this industry. There is a serious lack of awareness about direct selling in our country and hence I have to put in a lot more work on building trust with my customers.
What do you think are the reasons for the troubles that some of the industry players are facing in our country today?
The direct selling business is and will always be a legal business. As long as people choose to do things legally, there is no problem at all. All the troubles that the industry and the people in it are facing is because of some unscrupulous people who gave the industry a bad name by promoting get-rich-quick schemes under the guise of direct selling. Many people lost money because they didn’t do a proper background check or bother to understand what they were getting into.
QNet has been in the direct selling industry for two decades and is one of the fastest growing companies in the industry in Asia. Despite the challenges they have faced, they have remained steadfast by their customers and continue to fight the good fight. This is only possible if you are a genuine and legitimate company.
What is the advice that you would like to give to the new entrepreneurs?
Prashant: My only advice to everyone is to work hard. If you want to achieve anything in life, hard work cannot be compromised. You also have to keep an open mind and take chances when needed. Nothing comes easy in life and entrepreneurship is no different.
Anupama, how do you manage to balance your personal life and the business?
Anupama: I think it’s all about talking to your family, making them understand your dreams and goals in life. You need to plan well and set out a roadmap to achieve these goals. It of course becomes much easier if parents are living with you. My in-laws helped me a lot in taking care of our two daughters. Today, our kids are proud that their parents are entrepreneurs and are doing so well. They also want to become entrepreneurs like us.