The Goan: Netsurf Communications is an unusual name for a company, which is into direct selling of natural and herbal products. Could you tell us how did it come about?
Sujit Jain: We started an e-commerce company, which is called Netsurf Communications. That’s where the name came from. But, our direct selling company is called Netsurf Network Dot Com. Our core philosophy is strong research and development (R&D) and the second main thing for us is technology. We merged the two and that’s how Netsurf, the direct selling company, was created.
The R&D and formulation of products is done by Netsurf. Besides, we have our own technological platform, as we have developed an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system for direct selling.
Q: How is your direct selling different from say, Amway?
SJ: In a way, all direct selling is same. It is different in the sense that we are 100% indigenous company. Second, our focus on technology is much more than Amway. We developed the first 100% online front-end for distributors (direct selling agents) in India. Subsequently, other companies also created a system like this, but we were the first one.
Q: A major concern while buying natural or health care products is how we know that it is indeed natural or herbal. How do you deal with it?
SJ: This is where our direct selling model is helping us. Our direct selling agents can reach out to our consumers and personally explain to them that our products are indeed natural and herbal. In the last 18 months alone, we created 60 product training videos. These videos tell you exactly which ingredient was used in a product and how our products are genuinely natural and herbal.
We even created a mobile app two years ago and all our 75,000 distributors have downloaded it. These agents use our digital content and mobile app to push information about our products on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. We combine technology, products and direct selling in a unique way through a compelling business model.
Q: How does Goa fit into overall scheme of things for your company?
SJ: We had decent business in Goa ten years ago. Somehow, we got drifted, as we started consolidating in geographies we were strong in. But, Goa was always on our mind. Now, we intend setting up an independent set up in Goa itself, which will have three stock points and we see a great future in Goa in agriculture because of cashew. Besides that, we will also be selling our personal and healthcare products in Goa through our distributors.
Q: How does cashew fit into picture?
SJ: We manufacture organic farming products. Now, compared to chemical products, organic products are initially more expensive. Therefore, it is easier for us to sell our farming products for a cash crop like cashew. Cashew sells at Rs 500 a kg, which means that it will be easy for cashew farmers to buy our product.
Q: What kind of organic farming products do you have for cashew farmers?
SJ: Well, we manufacture growth promoters, which are organic in nature. We make bio pesticides as well. Recently, Goa government introduced a subsidy for cultivators of organic products, which is an open invitation for us to do business here.
Q: What do you make of agriculture scene in Goa?
SJ: There is enough potential for our products in Goa. There is around 1,35,000 acres of land under cashew cultivation in the state. Even, if I consider Rs 10,000 per acre sales, the potential market for organic farming products alone in Goa is worth Rs 135 crores a year.
Q: But, why would farmers go for organic farming products?
SJ: Those who don’t use organic products are seeing their products getting rejected, when they try exporting them. There is something called maximum residuary limit, which means you cannot use more chemicals than a certain prescribed limit.
Often export consignments get rejected, as products have more chemicals than what is prescribed. That’s why even the government is subsidising organic inputs because we are threatening our future by using chemical products.
Q: Are you looking at only cashew and not any other crop for your organic products?
SJ: Cashew is the main crop for us. But, apart from that, our products can be used for any crop, fruits and even vegetables. Our products are not crop specific. But, we think it’s a good strategy to target a crop like cashew, for reasons I explained.
Q: How is your direct selling different?
SJ: At Netsurf, you have to work proportionately on multiple legs, get business and then generate your revenue. It’s not just that you are the first and therefore you will get income. As you grow further in your career with us, we have roles and responsibilities mechanism.
A certain percentage of your income is for network and a certain percentage is for fulfilling your roles and responsibilities.
Roles and responsibilities include supporting your team, taking a certain number of training programmes and making a certain number of visits to consumers. All these factors put together will determine your income and not just that you are the first agent.