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Africa Report


VOL.7 September 2015
Marketing Success
By Sally Nyakanyanga

When she lost her husband in an accident in South Africa, Juliet Ajara was left with six children under her care and a bleak future. The young teacher had never imagined she would need to raise her family as a single parent on her small income.

"My situation was a curse, which [however] became the opportunity of a lifetime," said Ajara, now 56.

She was initially introduced to the business in 2007 by Nyasha Chikwinya, now Zimbabwe's Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Economic Development. After an initial registration fee of just under $2 and introductory training, Ajara began inviting people to her network to purchase the Tiens products.

Today, she boasts a $2,000 monthly income and has given her children the best education possible, all thanks to her Tiens Network Marketing business. Ajara now sees herself as a heroine, comparing herself with American media celebrity Oprah Winfrey in the sense that like Winfrey, she too is able to donate some of her wealth to charity. With more than 6,000 partners from across the globe in her network, Ajara is the proud recipient of an X5, BMW's sports activity vehicle worth $40,000, for reaching the eight-star level in the multi-level marketing business headquartered in China. The Tiens Group now has more than 100,000 distributors across Zimbabwe, who are registered with the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe.

The group, founded by Chinese billionaire and philanthropist Li Jinyuan in Tianjin, a port city in north China, in 1995, launched its international market in 1997. The multinational conglomerate, among other businesses, operates in direct sales, training people to market its Tianshi healthcare products, creating a network of buyers who in turn market the products they buy.

The group has developed a series of diversified products said to be based on 5,000 years of ancient Chinese culture. These include health foods, traditional Chinese medicine, and health care, beauty care and home care products. The group promotes and encourages self-empowerment. In the process, it has embraced millions of distributors globally. The Tiens Group now has branches in 110 countries and a reach of 190 countries globally.

It offers Zimbabweans like Ajara an alternative source of income at a time when the country is experiencing massive job losses and economic decline. According to the African Development Bank, Zimbabwe continues to suffer a slowdown due to lack of or high cost of capital, revenue underperformance, outdated technologies and structural bottlenecks. The African Economic Outlook 2014 said Zimbabwe remains in a fragile state with high external debt and massive deindustrialization.

Zimbabwe's economy continues to nosedive with thousands of people joining the unemployment line as companies either close shop or terminate contracts. It is the fallout of a Supreme Court ruling on July 17, 2015, giving companies leeway to terminate employees on three months' notice without paying severance packages. The government is moving to amend the labor law to stop further job losses. Meantime Zimbabweans are either being forced to leave the country in search of employment or enter the informal sector.

"This is a business which doesn't require any qualification [and can be started with] very low capital but [yields] very high returns," said Ajara.

The Tiens Group's Li is now on Forbes' billionaires' list. The company has donated more than $237 million to charities across the world and made global headlines when the 57-year-old Li treated 6,400 of his employees to a holiday in France at a cost of $4.2 million.

(Reporting from Zimbabwe)





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