When Gargi Maiti completed her MBA, she stepped up her passion for fashion, fitness, travel, and scuba-diving. Her Instagram audience of 21,000 followers has been an integral part of Gargi’s personal moments in countries like Dubai and Malaysia, or on the beaches of the Andamans.
More recently, Gargi began monetising her social media influence as a direct seller. “To be in good health and a workout keeps me happy,” she posted on Instagram, where she is seen with Nutrilite All Plant Protein Powder. Her posts typically clock over 100 likes and comments.
It’s no different for Sunil Sharma, a native of Hisar in Haryana, with a passion for off-road biking and adventure. Sunil started posting photos and videos of his cycling experiences and gradually people with a penchant for the sport started joining him. Today, Sunil is connected with hundreds of cycling enthusiasts through social communities. “My energy partner always with me,” he posted, with a photo of XS Energy Drink that generated 1,077 likes.
Gargi and Sunil are part of India’s growing ‘passion economy’, a wave of entrepreneurs who share their passion on social media to harness communities around their content thereby turning their passions into profit. Both Gargi and Sunil, are Amway Direct Sellers.
The passion economy has emerged as a way for entrepreneurs to monetize their skills and social personas. Historically, direct selling has been a catalyst of India’s economic growth as it offers an alternative to traditional employment for people who want a flexible opportunity to supplement household income. In this context, companies like Amway have been at the forefront of empowering its direct sellers.0
Interestingly, direct selling activities have accelerated since the COVID-19 lockdowns, as more women take to direct selling and build their social communities online. Amway witnessed women participation scale upward by 10% since the pandemic. Today around 70% of Amway’s 550,000 direct sellers in India today are women, who are taking to the passion economy.
Take Pramilla Ohlson, for instance, who runs a blog titled FoodandLife, and has more than 85,000 followers on Instagram. “Through unique exposure to people in the field of optimum health, and nutritional medicine, I started to make changes in my own life and for my family,” Pramilla says. Her posts include videos of making nutritious meals in the simplest ways, which garner thousands of likes.
In stark contrast with freelancers or ‘gig workers’, these passionpreneurs get their business and direction from brands directly and produce content on social media for their followers—or communities based on shared interests.
Amway taps into the social wave
In India, the passion economy took wing after the pandemic-induced lockdowns, which accelerated online adoption amidst the closure of physical stores and the wariness for public places. Investment advisory Avendus Capital expects India’s online spending to grow from $39 billion in 2020 to $200 billion in the next five years.
India’s passion economy is rising in this backdrop. So, smartphones have become the de facto means of contact for direct sellers on social media. They build their niche communities by creating and sharing content, as well as through social selling that resonates with people who have similar interests.
As the pandemic ravaged most businesses, direct sellers already had networks based on personal one-on-one connections. But they began to move online to expand their reach across people who connected with their passion.
To this tune, as part of its global A70 multi-year growth strategy, Amway has made significant strides towards unleashing the power of entrepreneurship through social commerce for millennials who are driven by their passion for fitness, healthy cooking, beauty and adventure. In just one financial quarter of 2020, 64% of new Amway registrations were entrepreneurs aged under 35 (U35) years.
Apart from skilling passionpreneurs for social media, Amway also provides them with a wide portfolio of products in categories like health, beauty, and personal care to fit the needs and lifestyles of their consumers.
Convergence of technology, commerce and passion
As India becomes a large market for social commerce, estimated by consulting firm EY to be $50 billion by 2025, the passion economy is spawning more and more opportunities.
Gurans Pal Singh Mann, for example, is another under-35 entrepreneur who has cultivated a strong following. His Instagram posts feature videos of him cooking healthy meals, working out, running, and cycling.
On social media, Gurans, also an Amway Direct Seller, has evolved into an influencer on nutrition. His home workout videos typically clock more than 300 likes. His recent Instagram post on plant-based supplements garnered 614 likes. One of his followers remarked, “Best of nature, best of science”, while many others ask for nutrition tips.
While leveraging social media apps like Instagram and Facebook have inherent advantages in engaging and retaining customers, training is key. Amway Direct Sellers are upskilled through digital training programs, where they learn to use online tools to ramp up connections, build communities, and initiate followers to products that suit their lifestyles.
With 75 percent of consumers on social platforms purchasing from people they know, India’s entrepreneurs are driving sales and evolving into ambassadors to build trust and scale. Transacting buyers believe in the convenience of social commerce and seek recommendations from people on social media if they are sincere and share their passions. This is a huge opportunity in India.
Both entrepreneurs and brands are riding the passion economy wave in India, discovering that the personal connection with communities is an invaluable asset as more users go online. Even as the pandemic has distressed the physical world of business, it has marked a new beginning for India’s young passionpreneurs.