HYDERABAD: They prey upon people of all age groups and across all walks of life. They talk glibly and oftentimes, effortlessly convince others to use their highly-priced products. And they sell dreams – that you can become a millionaire and earn ‘residual’ income for the rest of your life; that you can travel in swanky cars and visit tourist destinations around the world at the drop of a hat.
All you need to do is to just ‘enroll’ a few other people into this ‘exciting’ opportunity, and continue buying their (expensive) products. This is a typical scenario depicted in senior journalist Aruna Ravikumar’s book ‘Marauders of Hope’, which showcases the fraud perpetrated by multi-level marketing (MLM) companies on some of the most vulnerable sections of society in India.
From big corporations such as Amway, Avon, Herbalife, Oriflame, QNet, etc. to little-known entities, the modus operandi of these firms is the same – enroll more people and sell exorbitantly-priced products to them. They, in turn, would have to enroll others and continue the chain to fulfill their dreams of a flashy lifestyle. Alas, in more than 99.99 percent of the cases involving such ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes, the dream remains just that – a dream, reveals Aruna.
The results are there for all to see the loss of livelihoods, deep debt, tremendous pressure to recruit more people ‘down the line’, loss of trust, broken relationships, among others. In extreme instances, victims of MLM frauds committed suicide, points out Aruna.
We can understand if illiterate people fall prey to such ‘get-rich quick’ schemes, but when highly-educated persons holding high posts get ensnared in such frauds, it’s deeply disturbing. Aruna shares the reason – the sophisticated psychological techniques used by big MLM companies. Questions such as, “What is it that you want from life?”, “Doesn’t your family deserve what you can give them?” among others steer the discussion to promote their agenda, and a cult-type scenario is developed in the meetings that frequently take place, shares Aruna.
Aruna also speaks of brave hearts who continue to expose such fraudulent organizations, despite obstacles and threats from those who have something to gain from them. She delves in detail on the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978, and alleges that political patronage is the prime reason behind the thriving business of these MLM firms till date.
The author also lists some of the FIRs filed by victims against the corporations and includes information on IPS officers and activists who fought for the cause of those defrauded in such pyramid schemes.
Marauders of Hope by Aruna Ravikumar is a must-read for each and every one of us who would like to know more about such multi-level marketing frauds and find out ways to stay clear of them. And most important of all – she tells the readers to spread the word, which, rightly, would be a much-needed step to stop the onslaught.
Publisher: The Write Place