ThimphuTech was the first technology blog in Bhutan. We started writing it in 2009, just as broadband and mobile internet started to take off. (Although internet in Bhutan was launched in 1999, it was either super-slow or super-expensive, and was only used by a selected few).

In the blog, we wrote about technology and food, but also about plenty of other stuff. The blog became popular and influential in Bhutan. A companion bi-weekly column -- Ask Boaz -- was published for many years in the Kuensel, Bhutan's national newspaper. (The complete Kuensel columns are available as an ebook, Blogging with Dragons).

We stopped updating the blog when we left Bhutan in 2014, but the information within the posts can still prove useful, and thus we decided to keep it online.

We thank all our readers.
Tashi Delek,
Boaz & Galit.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pyramids and weight loss

I recently received a flyer in downtown Thimphu advertising the high-cost weight-loss food supplement Herbalife as promoting GNH:
If a country's citizens are more Obesity/Overweight and Underweight the Country will remain always bankrupt, hence can never achieved GNH
To see how happiness is involved, let me consider the two types of people involved in the Herbalife plan: customers who use the product to lose weight, and distributors who sell the product to make money.

From a customer's perspective, I'd ask myself whether the product really helps reduce weight and whether any risks are involved. The flyer or the Herbalife website are clearly giving one side of it. From a search online I found that scientifically, Herbalife has been shown to be no better than a placebo (as found in two clinical studies).  I also discovered that there have been several accusations of Herbalife containing toxic components, and especially lead, but that there is no conclusive evidence. By the way, turns out that the founder of Herbalife, Mark Hughes, died at age 44 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and doxepin, an anti-depressant. My own GNH approach to maintaining healthy weight is doing some exercise, cutting out the junk food, and not obsessing with my weight.

From a business perspective, Herbalife uses "pyramid marketing", which means that you buy a stock of the (very expensive) products, then sell it to your friends, who sell it to their friends, etc. On each sale, a cut is given to people higher in the pyramid, such that the person at the top of the pyramid makes a fortune, and the people at the bottom much less if at all... See the very prominent "Business Opportunity" section of the website. 20 years ago in Israel, I remember that meeting a friend sometimes involved the friend trying hard to sell you Herbalife in order to get rid of the expensive stock that s/he purchased. Most of these friends ended up in serious debt (is this really GNH?)

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about pyramid marketing schemes:
"The secret of our camels is Herbalife"
"[pyramid marketing] companies have been a frequent subject of criticism as well as the target of lawsuits. Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes, price-fixing of products, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company's products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members' enthusiasm and devotion."
In terms of GNH, it seems like pyramid marketing is not one of the pillars.