The Direct Selling Industry has been working as a large training ground for India’s micro-entrepreneurs. On July 15, on the occasion of the first ever World Youth Skills Day, Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched four initiatives aimed at preparing a workforce of 40 crore skilled Indians by 2022. The initiatives include National Skill Development Mission, National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship 2015, Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) scheme and the Skill Loan scheme. During the event, Skill India logo with the tagline—Kaushal Bharat, KushalBharat were also unveiled.
Let us look at the human resources figures in India. Universally, the working age population is considered to be in the age bracket of 15 to 59 years. At this, in just seven years, India will have a staggering 600 million working population. The demography would be heartening, no doubt, only if we did not have to factor against it; low existing skill levels in the country. While only 3.5 per cent of the country’s workforce is reported to be skilled, in comparison, South Korea has 96 per cent, Japan 80 per cent, Germany 74 per cent and China 47 per cent of skilled workforce. While the Hon’ble Prime Minister has emphatically emphasized the youth power as India’s advantage. “If China is like a ‘manufacturing factory’ of the world, India should become the ‘human resource capital’ of the world. That should be our target and we should lay emphasis on what Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi said on the occasion of Skill India launch. On other occasions too, he has emphasized the need to map regional skills to the global demands. However, there have been murmurs of skepticism from certain quarters.
The questions being raised ranges from India’s capacity to train such a large workforce to industries’ willingness to pay for skilling of this workforce. There are also questions as to whether just acquiring skills would be a guarantee for jobs in this globally competitive space? Looking at the emerging issues, it is pertinent to look at Skill India from the perspective of Direct Selling Industry. What has been the Industry’s contribution so far and what can it do to take the mission forward?
According to experts, industries like real estate, transport, retail, beauty and wellness will be the ones where there will be the highest demand for skilled labour. Out of these—retail, beauty and wellness—fall well within the ambit of the Direct Selling Industry. This is all the more reason why the Industry must have a plan of action ready for taking the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s flagship program forward. To begin with, the growth statistics of the Industry are heartening. According to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), India’s Direct Selling Industry has the potential to engage 18 million Direct Sellers and to reach a size of `64,500 crore by 2025. The Industry has the potential to engage over 10 million women as Direct Sellers by 2025. Its contribution to the government revenue is expected to increase nine folds to `9,000 crore by 2025. It is surprising that an industry which has so far struggled to maintain a bonafide identity, often confused with Ponzi/Money Circulation Schemes in absence of a separate legislation, has still provided such a yeoman’s service to the nation.
The Direct Selling Industry has been making immense contribution to the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the growth driver of the Indian economy. The Direct Selling Companies, many of whom are large multinationals, have been manufacturing their products locally in India, either through third party local vendors (SMEs) or by setting up their own plants. In this process, they have been providing skill training to the local people employed in the small scale industries and their facilities. The MNCs also bring state-of-the-art technologies to their vendor partners in order to manufacture global quality products that conform to international standards. Hence, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Direct Selling Companies hold great stake in the Skill India Initiative.
The potential of the Direct Selling Industry to provide employment to the unskilled and under-skilled has therefore hardly been explored. The Industry proves to be a training ground for underserved sections of society, especially women and the low qualified unskilled workforce, who take up Direct Selling as a secondary occupation to supplement incomes. The Direct Selling Industry provides not just an alternative avenue of employment but also a training ground in micro-enterprise, salesmanship and soft skills. As a source of employment for youth from various segments of society, irrespective of barriers, it helps channelize the skills of young people in productive work and creates enormous opportunity for them. Even the formal industrial and vocational training most often lack in the department of soft skills. In today’s workplaces, industrial skills must be equally complemented with personality for an individual to make a mark.
Apart from the direct benefit of employability, the Direct Selling Industry plays a critical role in personality development of individuals by improving and polishing their personal skills. The Direct Sellers are provided hand-on training to work, learn and grow by improving their interpersonal skills such as good communication, confidence, convincing power, etc. Company sponsored training programs to enable Direct Selling agents to hone their skills before they venture out. In fact, most of the Direct Selling Companies offer ongoing improvement programs at all levels. According to the Annual Survey of Indian Direct Selling Industry 2012-13, published by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Indian Direct Selling Association, Direct Selling Companies having multi-level operations model, introduce their sales agents to the business through a sponsor and offers training to their sales representatives spanning up to 500 to 2500 man hours per quarter. Such training helped bring up self esteem and confidence levels in individuals, as the Direct Sellers also have the opportunity to hold meeting with groups of consumers and demos of the products. In doing so, they sharpen their presentation, public speaking and engagement skills. Given the reward culture adopted by Direct Selling Companies, the motivation levels of the Direct Sellers is high and helps them emerge as confident individuals in society. To sum up, the Direct Selling Industry has the potential to scale new heights not only in terms of sales volumes, but for creating self employment opportunities and contributing to India’s growth in socio-economic indices. In India, by honing the skills of more than 50 lakh people as Direct Sellers, the Industry holds the potential not only for the economic development, but also for social development of the country. With the growth in the Industry, it is projected to employ nearly 1.8 crore Direct Sellers by 2025, all skilled on its floors. The Direct Selling Industry will play a big role in the Skill India Mission.