The Tupperware Effect: Can Direct Sales Help Women Living in Poverty?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

While direct sales presents a potential career path for Americans looking for work, most of the growth for companies like Tupperware and Avon is happening abroad-specifically, in emerging markets like Africa and Indonesia. The presence of these companies in poor nations have provided a much-needed chance for women to gain economic independence. It’s been a successful partnership on both sides, and the impact of these companies is starting to attract attention. Rick Goings, the CEO ofTupperware, recently returning from the World Economic Forum at Davos, where “more and more people are starting to talk about our kind of business,” he says. “Even in Davos, they’re talking about the Tupperware effect.”

What is the Tupperware effect? It’s when direct-sales companies go into developing markets and, in the course of building their business, build up the opportunities for the women that work with them. “We will provide her microfinancing, we will train her, we will provide her with a coach and a mentor,” he says, noting that these services are free of charge. Tupperware has also developed specific products specifically for women in developing nations. Because many of the women served by these markets don’t have access to electricity, they developed the Quick Chef, a hand-crank operated food processor. (Goings notes that the Quick Chef is now also a popular seller in European markets.)

By giving women the tools they need to get started, as well as a product line friendly to the needs and resources of women in developing nations, Goings predicts a revolution of sorts. “When she tastes success, she gains confidence. And confidence equals influence. All of the sudden, she starts to change, and that influence spreads to her family, to relatives, to the streets she lives on, and the community she’s part of.”

Source: Newsweek (link opens in a new window)