Celebrating QNET’s 20 years of empowering entrepreneurs – in conversation with QNET Founders Dato Sri Vijay Eswaran and Joseph Bismark.When you started this journey that gave birth to QNET, what was foremost in your mind? And did you ever think you would get this far?
DSVE: We didn’t quite start out wanting to build a company. At the time, circumstances were such that we had about 1,500 people in our team who looked up to us, had put their faith in us and we needed to make a decision about their future. The company we were associated with had shut down overnight and left us high and dry. As the leadership, we had a responsibility towards our team. These were our people and they had trusted us to help them change their lives. We knew we could not let them down.
Foremost in our mind was to take care of our people and give them the opportunity to build the future we had promised them. We were a motley group of people from very diverse backgrounds. I was the only one with management experience. I don’t think any of us fully grasped what it would take to actually start a company but we all shared the same values, and the same vision, and that’s a powerful thing.
JTB: When we discovered that the company we were associated with had been dishonest with us and had abandoned us, I was initially very depressed. I didn’t know what we were going to do, but Vijay told me to look at this as an opportunity. Ultimately, we had started on this journey of network marketing because we wanted to be financially free and have control over our lives. He pointed out that we could still be on this path of entrepreneurship, with just a few changes. We had the opportunity to create something new that would address the shortcomings of all the other network marketing companies we had experiences with earlier.
Initially, I was terrified with the idea of starting a company. I had no formal education, and no corporate experience. But, I believed in Vijay, and our collective ability to face challenges and overcome them. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. We had the opportunity to start afresh and on our own terms. That was a great motivator. Of course, looking back now, I am amazed at how far we have come.
How different was network marketing in 1998 and how has it evolved in the last 20 years?
JTB: The fundamental principles of network marketing have always been the same. This is a relationship-based industry and people will always be the greatest asset of any network marketing business. What has changed is the methodology. From the early days when people carried a trunk full of products in their car and went from one meeting to another, today’s technology has enabled people to do this business from the comfort of their homes. E-commerce, mCommerce, and social media have completely revolutionised how you meet new people and present the products and the business to them. The business has also become borderless today. You can be sitting in Cairo and explain the product benefits to someone in Kolkata. You can conduct online trainings through Skype and other video streaming platforms without having to travel from one place to another.
DSVE: The world is rediscovering network marketing today as a form of entrepreneurship. Even though this industry has existed for over a century, it has always battled skepticism. We are moving towards a future where technology is making many traditional jobs obsolete. We have a rising unemployment problem in many countries, with no clear solution from any government. More than 700 million young people will graduate from universities and join the work force by 2025 and there will simply be not enough jobs for them. Entrepreneurship is the only logical solution to fill the gap between population growth and rising unemployment. Network marketing is one of the fastest growing industries today that has created millions of micro entrepreneurs, and it has survived the test of time. What’s so great about this industry is that despite its evolution, the one thing that will never change is that people will always remain at the heart of this business. I am excited about how it will evolve over the next 20 years with new technology and new modes of communication.
How do you see the next 20 years unfolding?
JTB: I guess I would say we are still taking it one step at a time, although, the steps might be bigger now than they were when we started. I also think we are more equipped to deal with the next 20 years.
Our main focus will be to build, nurture, and strengthen the second tier – the passionate networkers and staff who can take over from us. We can’t be here forever, so we want to train and build a second generation of passionate leaders who will carry our legacy forward.
DSVE: The next 20 years will have more to do with 20 of the next-generation leaders than with the two of us. It is my fervent hope that as our roles diminish in the company and as our presence reduce on-stage, our message will grow in strength and passion. Let it continue to blaze unabatedly across the sky; Raise yourselves, people. Mankind awaits.