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‘5 figures’ a month, quality time with family: What’s the deal with multi-level marketing?

SINGAPORE: Ever since her mother-in-law joined a multi-level marketing (MLM) company, Elaine Hing and her husband, Kelvin Lim, have received products such as coffee infused with the herbal mushroom “lingzhi”, which purportedly can eliminate free radicals.

They have received a promotional booklet — about a powder, for instance, that is supposedly able to stop cancer cells from multiplying.

“She definitely believes in the claims,” Hing said. “That’s why she thinks that she’s helping other people … by trying to promote these products.”

This worries Hing, who wrote to ask the programme Talking Point to investigate the claims.

The older woman is so enthusiastic she has tried to recruit Hing and Lim as distributors. One day, she wants to hand over what she has built to them.

Oncologist Wong Seng Weng, medical director of The Cancer Centre, helped to weigh up the purported health properties of “lingzhi”, or Ganoderma, products.

“There’s evidence to show that (Ganoderma) activates the immune system. And that’s important in fighting cancer,” he said

Today, as a distributor for Best World International, which is a DSAS member, Yap earns “five figures” a month — “10 times more” than when she was an accountant.

And because of her flexible working hours, the 40-year-old can spend “a lot of quality time” with her family.

“MLM is just another business model (whereby) the company distributes its product to the end customer directly,” Yap said. “If I buy the product and I love it, and I try to share and sell it, I get a commission.

“When my friends also love it, they’ll sell it too. So I get more income from a bigger network.”

Within a year, Yap rose through the ranks to sit among the top three tiers, where fewer than 20 of the company’s distributors in Singapore have arrived, she said.

At a convention in Kuala Lumpur, she saw sales leaders carrying luxury handbags, which added to the shine. “If I’m lucky, I could become like them: Have time and financial freedom and spend more time with my family,” she thought.

But there were strings attached. Kam had to order at least around S$200 each month to qualify for any commission as a distributor.

She was soon buying more oils than she could use. The pandemic prevented her from meeting people, and Kam found herself spending more than she was earning. “After four years, I realised that it wasn’t making financial sense,” she said.

She has enough essential oils to last “a lifetime” but has no regrets. “There are people who actually achieve (success),” she told programme host Diana Ser. “Different MLM platforms would suit different people.”

After quitting that MLM firm, she worked full-time but found it “very taxing” for her health. Then she joined a weight management programme offered by another MLM. She said she became healthier and lost some excess weight.

Her current company does not require any minimum purchase. Its product range includes beauty and household items, and Kam said her income has grown steadily since almost three years ago.

She has even opened a spa to “share products with people who are interested in beauty”. She added: “Maybe I might get a few down-lines from my business. Who knows?”

Watch this episode of Talking Point here. The programme airs on Channel 5 every Thursday at 9.30pm.

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