Asha Krishnan is an East African network marketing leader with a team of over thirty thousand distributors spread out over Africa and the Middle East.
Born and raised in Kenya, Asha grew up in a single-parent household surviving on less than a dollar a day. After she finished grade school, she went to work to supplement her mother's meager income. At age seventeen, she started a family of her own.
Asha's priority as a mom was to provide her two daughters with the education she never received. Thanks to her innate entrepreneurial spirit, she was able to start a small business and quickly raise herself above the poverty line, but her lack of knowledge and self-confidence put a cap on the income she was able to earn.
In 2005, Asha was introduced to network marketing through an old friend. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she decided to give it a try. She signed up a couple of friends, but self-doubt kept her from reaching further.
Everything changed the day she attended a training event in Thailand where she met the company founders and leaders. Hearing the company's mission and values helped her get clear on her own purpose and prompted her to make what she describes as a lifelong commitment to the business.
Asha's newfound belief in network marketing and in her own ability to succeed dissolved all her fears. She teamed up with women and young people who, like her, were passionate about building a brighter future for their families and communities. Today they provide hope, education and unwavering support to others who want to change their destiny in Africa and beyond.
Asha in her new home.
With sisters-in-law, brothers, mother, niece, and grandmother (sitting).
On vacation in Manaus, Brazil heading to the Amazone rainforest..
With daughters Swarna and Smita.
Asha leading a team meeting at her office.
Sharing her story at a company event.
Awarding a certificate to a student for completing the Network Marketing Internship program.
With her leaders during the Network Marketing Internship graduation ceremony.
With her team feeding and helping children in need.
Celebrating her birthday with her team of young leaders at her office.
Speaking at the TITANS global convention in Kenya.
With UNEP DELC Director Mr. Bakary Kante, presenting In the Sphere of Silence book by Vijay Eswaran to the late Ms. Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
With the TITANS founders and Senior Executive Partners.
Finding a Better Way
Asha was born in the small town of Embu, Kenya. Her parents separated when she was little and she grew up in a family consisting of her four brothers, her mother and her grandmother.
"In our family," says Asha, "education was not considered a priority for girls. When I finished grade school, my mom couldn't afford to let me continue, so I never went to middle or high school. It was customary to give priority to the boys, so in order to let my brothers continue their education, my mom took me out of school and sent me to work. In a culture where girls could be married at an early age, the idea was that I didn't need an education because I could start raising a family."
At age fourteen, Asha managed to get a job in a shop by wearing high heels to look older. She spent her teenage years moving from job to job, while her mom was trying to make a living as a hotel maid.
"I thought the only way out of the hassles of working was to get married," says Asha. "When I was seventeen, I found a man who was willing to help with my responsibility of taking care of my brothers' school fees."
Despite the fact that the man was more than twice her age, they got married and started a family. Asha resigned herself to becoming a housewife, she says, because she didn't have the qualifications to get a decent job. Feeling unfulfilled, she put on a lot of weight.
Unhappy with herself, she eventually joined a health club, started exercising regularly, and in one year, lost about fifty kilos. Everyone asked her, "How did you do it?" and she would explain what she had done. Before she knew it, teaching other women how to lose weight, based on her own experience, turned into a career. She educated herself a little more on the subject and became a fitness instructor.
For nine years, Asha taught two or three exercise classes a day in addition to taking care of her family. This was exhausting, she says, but she had bills to pay and was extremely motivated to put her two daughters through school. She was able to send both of them to college; the older one majored in chemical engineering and the younger one in electronics and communications engineering. Still, tired of trading time for money at a low hourly rate, Asha yearned to find a better way.
One day, in 2005, an old friend and neighbor who had moved to Oman contacted Asha to refer someone who was looking to expand his business in East Africa.
"It turned out my friend had started a network marketing business and his upline was coming to Kenya," says Asha. "My friend put his upline in touch with some of his old friends in Nairobi, one of whom happened to be me. This friend was actually a physics teacher who taught at one of the top schools in Kenya, and when we were neighbors, he had tutored my daughters for six years for free. When I got a call from someone who knew this old friend of mine, I immediately was open to what he had to say. Out of respect and gratitude for my friend, I accepted the invitation to go meet his referral."
Even though there were many network marketing companies operating in Kenya, Asha had never been approached before.
"This was the first business presentation I ever attended," she says. "Seeing the luxury products this man was presenting, I couldn't imagine who in my world would buy them. At the end of the meeting, I made up various excuses not to get involved, but the truth was that I didn't see how I could possibly promote these products."
After attending the meeting, Asha kept thinking about her friend who had taught her daughters for free all those years. The least she could do was buy a product he was recommending, she thought. Even though money was tight, she decided to give it a try.
"I got into the business just to return a favor to a friend," she says. "Little did I know I was going to do this for the rest of my life."
The first product Asha purchased was a telecommunication service. Both of her daughters were studying in Malaysia at the time, and she saw how this could help her lower her phone bills.
"I knew nothing about business at the time," she says. "The person who showed me the plan traveled on after a few days, so it was difficult for me to get started. I made calls to my upline in Oman and searched online for information. I had never browsed the Internet before; I knew only how to check email, because my kids had taught me before they left."
Asha struggled with every aspect of the business, but fortunately she had a close friend whom she had invited to one of the presentations while the businessman from Oman was still in town, and who had also joined the business.
"This friend was of great help, because she really tried to understand what this business and company were all about," says Asha. "I also had a few friends from my fitness career and neighbors who showed interest. I started presenting with the limited knowledge I had, and some of my friends agreed to buy a product, but none of them wanted to do the business. I was afraid to talk to anyone beyond my close friends because I didn't think I would be able to answer their questions."
For several months Asha's insecurities kept her from moving forward, until she heard about a company event taking place in Thailand in September 2005.
"Someone in my upline told me this would be a good training for me to attend," she says. "Up till then, I had just tried to market the company's products, but I didn't have a strong belief that the business worked. At this event, I suddenly saw three thousand others who had done exactly what I didn't believe I could do.
"I will always remember the moment when our company founder, Dato' Vijay Eswaran, came on stage and said, ‘If you're here without your values and integrity, then you're in the wrong place, because in our business, for you to succeed, what you need most is values, integrity, and commitment, not only to the company, but to the people you sponsor into this business.'"
In a subsequent session, one of the company directors asked the audience, "How would you define your success?" Most people gave the usual answers, such as, "When I become financially free, buy my first home, or have a million dollars." The director said, "Not so! You become successful when someone comes up to you, gives you a hug, and says ‘Thanks, I did it because of you!'"
These words deeply resonated with Asha and she decided these were the people she wanted to work with for the rest of her life.
When Asha came home, she says, she was a different person. No longer afraid, she started talking to as many people as she could, in hotels and everywhere she went.
"I showed the plan and products without any fear of rejection," she says. "I don't know whether it was my belief or the passion I was showing, but in two or three months the number of people I sponsored into the business grew exponentially. In less than a year my team grew to five thousand people. I sponsored about seventy-five people personally, and because I was doing the business full time, I was able to give many presentations for the people who had joined me and were too busy to show the plan to their contacts."
Asha's original sponsor slowed down his business activity soon after she joined, but he referred her to another upline leader, Cherian Matthew, who had been with the company for about six years and had cofounded a team called the Titans.
"As soon as I was introduced to Cherian, I contacted him and asked him to help me and my team," says Asha. "He made two trips to Kenya in 2005 and has made many trips since. I don't think I would have made it without him.
"He told me that when he met me for the first time, he told my original sponsor, ‘I believe this girl will take this business places.' From the moment he saw me, he believed I had what it took to make this a success, so he kept calling me and taught me everything."
Another person who had a huge impact on Asha in those early days was company director Donna Imson.
"I met Donna during my first convention in Thailand in 2005," says Asha. "Listening to her talk about her journey, how she overcame her challenges as a single mom and achieved her dreams, made it easier for me to contemplate success for myself. In my numerous interactions with Donna, she always emphasized the importance of empowering people in Africa, and especially women."
Asha used to feel she was not good enough because she constantly compared herself to others who had joined her organization, many of whom were lawyers, doctors, and professors at the university.
"I was afraid I wouldn't know how to handle them," she says, "because they knew much more than I did. To my amazement, and this is something I love about this profession, I found that every person who came into the organization actually complemented me in whatever skills I was lacking.
"The people who joined me wanted the team to grow, so they would always play to my advantage. I shared my passion for the company and taught them the concept of network marketing, and they taught me everything I was missing. I believe they made me who I am today."
Asha's unwavering commitment also came from the realization that she had no other options.
"I had a choice: I could do this, or lament that I was poor," she says. "This pushed me to work hard. Here in Africa, and especially in Kenya, women are the more enterprising gender. I came across numerous women who shared the same dreams and challenges as I had and who also had a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of their families and the people they care about. Together we were able to build the organization we have today, thanks to our upline support and the Titans. Even our grand upline leader, Arun George, made a few trips to Kenya, which really boosted our team's morale and showed them that in this business, the leaders care and will always be there."
Training before Prospecting
In the first couple of years, Asha's network was 99.9 percent women. She remembers her upline asking, "Don't you have men in your country?" She used to answer, "I guess I haven't figured out what makes men tick."
Today she has changed the way she works—and almost half of her team is composed of young men and women under the age of twenty-five.
"Here in Kenya, we have lots of young people who have degrees but can't find jobs," she says. "To address this problem we go to universities and reach out to students."
Asha has a woman on her team who used to be a university professor. Together with other leaders, she designed a course to help young people understand the network marketing business model, and Asha's leaders offer this course as an internship training for college and university students.
"We give an introductory presentation at the universities, and that's how we get students into the program," she says. "In this part of the world, people don't believe that this business can work. Our goal as a team is to educate people even before we sign them up into our opportunity so they can make an informed decision. We train them in the business model and give them a certificate for completing the course.
"If they like what they hear, then they can choose which network marketing company they want to join. We expose them to all the companies there are, then let them decide. When we show them our company's products and compensation plan, forty to fifty percent of the graduates choose to join our organization, so our success rate is very high.
"We've found that it is mostly the older generation who thinks this doesn't work due to negative past experience. For the youth, this is less of an issue. Many of them are getting started in the business because it gives them a real chance at building their dreams."
When Asha's daughter graduated as an electronics and communications engineer, she came home and took a job for a year. Today she is pursuing network marketing as a career.
"My daughter is very knowledgeable and reads a lot," says Asha. "I'm not the kind of person who reads books, in fact I've read very few. My native language is Swahili and I've never had much practice reading English in school. This used to be a challenge because my upline and mentors would tell me I needed to create a habit of reading books so I could help my leaders grow. My daughter has also been pushing me to read and I'm doing my best. I'm overjoyed to see my daughter choose this business as a profession. I had never imagined she would want to follow in my footsteps and become a network marketing leader."
No longer afraid to sponsor up the social ladder, Asha loves to share the story of how she signed up a senior staff member of the United Nations and how this greatly expanded her team's reach throughout the African continent.
"One day I was flying home from Indonesia after attending one of our company trainings. At the airport in Dubai, I met an important-looking man and we sat together on the plane. He asked me where I was coming from and what I do, and of course I told him about our company and products. He took an interest in one of our products because one of his brothers was diagnosed with cancer, and I mentioned this product might help him feel better.
"When we landed, he took my card and said, ‘I'll call you and follow up.' He became a product user, and when his brother felt a big difference in his health, he became one of the biggest believers in our company. I had not shared the business opportunity with him, perhaps because he told me he had always worked in high-level positions.
"It turns out he works for the United Nations and used to be the Director General for Senegal for many years. When I shared with him how the opportunity works, he decided to take it up so that he could offer it to his people in West Africa, where he has many relatives who rely on his financial support to pay their bills. Today he has become one of my most dedicated business builders. We travel all over Africa together to show people it is possible to create a better life by making a small investment in this business and teaming up with others who are invested in your success."
One of the greatest challenges Asha sees in Africa is that many people still live on less than a dollar a day.
"In every family there is at least one person who has managed to cross that poverty line," she says, "so that's what we try to encourage. I came from a family where we sometimes didn't even have that one dollar. We lived in one room with five kids, my mother, and my grandmother. There was one bed and we kids slept on the floor. We would lay down sacks and dirty clothes to sleep on. Many Africans come from this kind of background. After I escaped this life of destitution, I was able to pull other family members along by enrolling them into my business.
"One thing I love about network marketing is that it creates the same opportunity for everyone, no matter where you come from. I had nothing, but through hard work and commitment, and of course with the help of my mentor Cherian, I was able to do what many would see as impossible."
Today Asha rents a 1,300-square-foot office in an upscale neighborhood in Nairobi. There is seating for about two hundred people and her team uses it for daily presentations and weekly trainings.
Asha's dream is in line with her company founder's dream, which is to touch a billion hearts through network marketing.
"This business has not only given me financial security and a great lifestyle, but the company trainings have also helped me grow by leaps and bounds as a person. What I have learned and appreciate about network marketing is that it is not only about me today, but also about building a better future for generations to come."
When people ask Asha what enabled her to succeed, her answer is simply belief.
"I believed 100 percent in my mentor, who believed 100 percent in me. I eventually believed in myself because I had found my calling."