Thousands of delegates, most of them apparently from India, have converged in Penang for a large but low-profile direct selling convention at the Spice conference centre in Penang.
The main organiser of the convention is QNet, a direct selling or multi-level marketing firm using e-commerce founded by Penang-born Vijay Eswaran. Eswaran, who made it to no. 25 among Malaysia’s richest in 2013, is the founder and chairman of the QI Group, whose headquarters is in Hong Kong. QNet is their flagship company.
The conference is being held from 3-7 May at Spice.
Some 15,000 delegates are believed to be in town for the conference dubbed #VCON16. A hotelier told me they had been booked into top-notch hotels in the state, including five-star joints.
QNet showcases its links as the “official direct selling partner” of Manchester City football club. It also signed up former world number one tennis player Martina Hingis as “brand ambassador in India”.
But in India, the company is mired in serious controversy. Read these reports carefully: Kirit Somaiya, MP demands quick action against the MLM and CM Devendra Fadnavis has assured detailed inquiry into QNet: BJP. Check out other controversies in Wikipedia.
In 2013, QNet reportedly distanced itself from the operations in India, saying a franchisee firm handles the operations there. On the QNet website, the franchisee firm is known simply as QNet India with a PO Box address in Bangalore. Eswaran lamented back then that India had not legislated the direct selling industry or done enough to protect foreign investors; he also complained about “weak standards of journalism that can tarnish the reputation of a company or individual”, placing “great constraints” on doing business in India.
Yet, at the Spice convention centre foyer, delegates from all over India and elsewhere were in rah-rah spirits, with the noise levels rising a few decibels.
A caterer at the venue said they were providing food for a thousand people.
Delegates had to have a security wristband to gain entry into the arena proper, and hired security personnel were stationed at the various entrance doors to check incoming delegates. Even while wandering in the foyer, I was approached by a security personnel who asked me where my wristband was!
Inside the arena, check out the razzmatazz:
See what I mean by rah-rah?
Anyway… so now you know why George Town is suddenly so full of visitors.