Ever since he was a young boy, Mahendra dreamed of owning a business, a goal inspired by his father, who had built and owned the family’s ice cream manufacturing and retail operation. Mahendra did well in school and seemed to be on the path to success, but his dream fell apart when his father suddenly passed away. Due to the company’s outdated equipment and tough competition, Mahendra was unable to take over the family business without his father’s guidance. At age 23, discouraged and devastated by the double loss of his father and his dream, he took a job with a watch company in India.
At the time, Mahendra’s brother was living and working in the Kingdom of Bahrain, a small, oil-rich island country in the Persian Gulf. Based on his brother’s assurance that Bahrain’s job market provided better and faster money, Mahendra moved there in 1991. He lived with his brother while searching for a job, and eventually took a position with a British-Dutch multinational corporation. He promised his mother he would save money and return home within two years, but the competitive environment, combined with the high cost of living, forced him to work long hours without being able to get ahead financially.
Nine years passed. Mahendra got married and had a son. He struggled to provide for his young family and regretted missing many milestone events—weddings, holidays and other celebrations—in his native Chennai, more than 2,000 miles away. He felt caught in the rat race and could not see a way out… until one day a colleague from Dubai approached him about an intriguing business opportunity.
“When he told me it was network marketing, I didn’t know what he was talking about,” Mahendra says. “But he was a friend and I trusted that what he was sharing would be good for me.”
Because network marketing was not yet prevalent in the Middle East, Mahendra had no preconceptions either for or against the business model. He researched the company and studied the compensation plan, and his interest grew.
“I saw how the business could be lucrative and fulfill my financial requirements,” he says. “But my question was, ‘How do I get started?’ The person who introduced me was living in Dubai, so we didn’t have the option of sitting across from each other and talking in person about what steps to take. We communicated primarily through late-night phone calls, emails and faxes.”
One month later, despite his busy work schedule and limited finances, Mahendra traveled to the United Arab Emirates to attend a four-day training, which provided him with both the basic knowledge to get started and the conviction to do so. When Mahendra returned home and shared what he had learned with his wife, they decided, “Let’s do it!”
“It took a while for me to get started,” says Mahendra, “because I was not an outgoing person or used to speaking in public. I had never done any kind of sales or marketing.”
But Chandrika stepped up as his partner and coach, helping him practice and fine tune his presentation.
“At first, I used photocopies of the compensation plan and made my own flip chart. Eventually, we realized this didn’t work and bought a white board, and we continued to improve our presentation every single day.”
Finally, after a month of practice, Mahendra asked Chandrika, “If I present this plan to someone, do you think they will understand?”
As soon as Chandrika gave her approval, Mahendra felt ready to go out and conquer the market.
Building a Team
Mahendra began approaching colleagues about his business opportunity; his first direct recruit was his coworker Arun George.
“I simply told Arun I’d come across a huge opportunity that I thought we should capitalize on together. After looking at the business plan, Arun said, ‘Okay, I will do this with you,’ and that’s how Bahrain’s first networking team was born.”
The State of Bahrain consists of a group of thirty-three islands (six inhabited) with a total area of 239 square miles, about three times the size of Washington, D.C.. Its population is slightly more than one million, and more than half of the nation’s residents are expatriates who have relocated primarily from Southeast Asia. Indian nationals like Mahendra compose Bahrain’s single largest expatriate community.
These demographics provided Mahendra with a unique networking opportunity.
“Bahrain’s expats turned out to be our ideal market,” he says, “because they were constantly looking for extra income so they could return to their native countries. I had an easy time convincing them, because this was precisely my reason for starting the business. I wanted to go home.”
Mahendra worked primarily with his warm market—friends, neighbors and colleagues—hopping around to everybody’s house to do opportunity meetings and trainings.
“My friends would invite their friends, offer them tea and cookies, and I would give my well-rehearsed presentation. We focused on creating close, personal relationships with prospects and new recruits so they knew there was somebody locally to help them, a luxury I didn’t have when I got started.”
In time, there were more houses to visit than days in the week. To accommodate his growing network, Mahendra rented a hotel room and invited his leaders and their prospects to join him on Monday nights. He did this for ten months straight, without taking a single Monday off.
During that time, Mahendra stayed in contact with his company’s cofounders, Malaysia-based Dato’ Vijay Eswaran and Philippines-based Joseph Bismark. In the spring of 2001, when Mahendra’s team had grown to about twenty-five committed business builders, Joseph agreed to come to Bahrain and give the first company training.
“This encounter created a paradigm shift for us,” Mahendra recalls. “Since we all still had day jobs, we met after 6 p.m. until 1 or 2 a.m. for several days. We brainstormed together and decided to re-strategize. We saw the importance of education and put a solid training system in place for the people who came into the business.”
What united his team members was the growing awareness that network marketing held the key for them to finally create financial freedom and return to their homelands permanently. For this, they were willing to devote long, late hours after work.
“Even while I was sleeping,” says Mahendra, “my mind was still working on what I needed to do the next day.”
During this period of intense building, Mahendra asked Chandrika, pregnant with their second child, to return to India with their son. Mahendra promised her he would join her in Chennai in time for the birth of their daughter. At the end of 2001, after just one year in network marketing, Mahendra finally moved back home.
Mahendra left Bahrain confident in his team’s ability to run their businesses in his absence. With his engineer’s mindset, he had devised a plan for developing this small, powerful group when he first began recruiting.
“My approach was to support whoever I signed up,” Mahendra says. “I was not a recruiting machine, bringing in a lot of people. I was very choosy about who I wanted to work with and who I put my faith in. During the first five or six months, I brought in only about ten direct recruits.”
Mahendra empowered this hand-selected group by exposing them to his upline’s know-how and to the lessons he had learned from The V, the name of his network marketing company’s training arm. He also made time for one-on-one meetings with each budding leader.
The geography and size of Bahrain also helped the group connect.
“Bahrain is unique in that it allows us, with a phone call and just an hour’s notice, to assemble all our leaders. Some might think it’s too small a market and there aren’t enough prospects, but I look at it as the type of place where you can truly build a team.”
Mahendra cultivated the autonomy of his organization by avoiding any stifling protocols or hierarchies, instead encouraging each person to develop his or her own style.
“My team members have their own way of prospecting and supporting their groups,” he says. “Once your network becomes bigger, it becomes difficult to oversee, and I don’t want to fall into the management trap. I am there to support my leaders any time they need me, but I encourage them to find their own solutions.”
In conjunction with this laissez-faire attitude, Mahendra put the structure in place for his group to operate without his constant physical presence.
“Since I knew one day I would leave Bahrain,” he says, “I wanted my leaders to be independent business owners. We formed a core group of people who would work together in my absence and whom I could call and follow up with from India. Leaders were stepping up because there was freedom for them to grow.”
Mahendra uses online resources to maintain contact with his team, which now extends throughout several dozen countries.
“One of the biggest opportunities in networking today is that you can go online and sign up people you haven’t even met,” Mahendra says. “After chatting on the Internet and showing people your company website, products and videos, they simply sign up.”
Now based in Chennai, Mahendra frequently travels to the Middle East, maintaining offices in Bahrain and Qatar.
“My wife gives me permission to travel for two weeks at a time,” he says. “Then I have to return home and show my face, and I can leave again.”
What keeps Mahendra motivated to travel and visit his leaders is his passion for spreading wealth around the globe and uniting nations in prosperity.
“I know people in Indonesia for whom the price of our starter kit represents six months of savings,” he says. “That’s a huge financial commitment, and a couple of commission checks can truly transform someone’s life.
“The world has become a global village. We can’t continue to think, ‘This is my country, these are my people, and I can only earn money here.’ We must adopt an international perspective and view the world as one community.”
This perspective is an innate characteristic of Mahendra’s team, called Aspirations, as it currently boasts more than 650,000 members in more than forty countries. Mahendra’s first recruit, Arun George, went on to create TITANS (Team in Trust and Spirit), an international network with more than 500,000 members.
Still, Mahendra says numbers are not what matters to him most.
“Network marketing is not about the numbers in your downline, but about the quality and number of leaders you have produced. I count those who have consistently been top earners and who have been elevated to the ranks of V Counsel and AVP (Associate V Partners).”
Mahendra still recruits when the right person comes along, but he prefers to focus on building relationships with new leaders and helping those who have been with him but have yet to reach their full potential.
Since day one, the driving force behind Mahendra’s network marketing career has been his family. His father inspired the dream of becoming a business owner. His brother encouraged him to leave his country. The promise he made to his mother to return home fueled his desire to build wealth. His determination to provide for his family got him into network marketing, and his wife’s support provided the confidence he needed to propel himself into the business.
Looking back on his journey, Mahendra muses:
“At one point, before I found networking, when we were both tired of missing our families, I told Chandrika, ‘Go back to India, I’ll stay behind to save some more money,’ and she said, ‘No, I am not going without you. Let’s do it together.’ From day one, she has been with me building our future. We were always together.”
By creating alignment in their vision and action, the couple fortified their primary relationship, which would function like the trunk of the tree that would nourish their family and eventually grow the branches of their global network.
“Ultimately, our family is the reason we want to do this business,” Mahendra says. “I want my kids to be taken care of, to go to the right schools, and I want to be around so I can spend time with them.
“I never wanted both my wife and myself to spend a lot of time away from the family, so I was the one who went out to build our network. Yet, I make sure to take my wife and children to every company training and event. Chandrika has not missed a single V-Con [the company’s annual global convention] since we started, because I want her to know exactly what I’m doing, the people I am involved with and the company’s mission and values.”
While Mahendra is one of his company’s public leadership figures, Chandrika is always present in the background. At home, in addition to taking care of their children, she oversees the day-to-day operations of the business. She is responsible for administrative duties, such as accounting, note-taking at meetings and email correspondence, as well as registering new recruits online.
At events, Chandrika has stepped into a leadership role by serving as a coordinator for The V’s In-Service trainings, where team members learn to provide logistic support for the company’s international mega-conventions. She also has been a supervisor for V-Kids, the company’s day camp for children of conference attendees.
“Chandrika knows everybody in the company, and everyone knows she is my biggest support,” Mahendra says. “I always tell my people, if you can’t build a solid team at home, you can’t build a team outside the home.”
Over the years, Mahendra has exposed his mother, brother and other family members to the business because he wants them to gain a closer understanding of how he has built his wealth.
“I want them to know that what I am doing is right,” he says. “I want them to be inspired by the people who are behind me and our common vision.”
Mahendra also exposes his son and daughter to the company’s leadership so they can absorb the knowledge and values of the community. His children regularly attend youth-formatted educational programs and have participated in more V-Kids events than any of their peers. Mahendra believes these experiences provide a foundation that will serve them throughout their lives.
“I don’t want my children to miss the training, the education or the vision we have gained,” he says. “This will make life easier for them when they graduate from college and start their own careers.”
By giving his children the opportunity to learn early on what he discovered later in life, Mahendra hopes they can avoid the financial struggles that plagued his early professional life, and perhaps even exceed his own achievements.
It took Mahendra just a decade to completely turn his life around. Today he enjoys a lifestyle that affords him the luxuries of spending time at home with his kids and taking his family on faraway holidays. He now also has the resources to support a variety of philanthropic endeavors.
“Our company mission is Raise Yourself to Help Mankind,” Mahendra says. “Thanks to the wealth I have gained in network marketing, I am able to invest in other entrepreneurial ventures and make generous charitable contributions. This last notion was not on our minds in the days when we hardly had enough for ourselves. When you’re struggling to provide for your family, you don’t think much about others. At present, when I see somebody in need, I don’t have to think twice about reaching out to help.”
The emphasis on education that was vital to Mahendra’s success is maintained through his charitable pursuits, which focus on supporting children in higher education. In addition, Mahendra and Chandrika donate money to an organization that helps cover the medical expenses of those who cannot afford healthcare. The couple sees this generosity as part of the karmic cycle.
“It’s a payback time,” says Mahendra. “What we have received is what we need to give back, to society by supporting charities, to the networking profession by sharing our story and experience, and to our company leaders by helping them open new markets. This is precisely how we spend our time today, besides taking care of our family.
“In contributing to the profession, my goal is to let the public know that network marketing can take a nobody and make him or her a somebody; that our business has all the ingredients, trainings and systems in place for anybody to get signed up and come out with flying colors.”