Importance of Cooperatives – A talk by special guest Mr. Balu Iyer

by Team TNF

The biannual programme review meeting of Keystone Foundation was held in October, 2021. Balasubramanian (Balu) Iyer, Regional Director for the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) Asia and Pacific and Director for The Nilgiris Foundation was invited as a special guest where he talked about the relevance of cooperatives and the importance of tapping into its potential.

Mr. Balu Iyer interacting with Keystone Foundation Staffs – Programme Review Meeting

A cooperative, said Balu, is “a jointly-owned enterprise to meet the members’ common economic, social, and cultural needs. It is an association of persons working together voluntarily”. While in large enterprises, the owner gets the profit, in certain other sectors aggregators get the profit. In cooperatives, however, the members of the cooperatives get the profit. 

Cooperatives can be formed in any sector. A very relevant model, a lot of us use products from cooperatives on a daily basis without even realising they are from cooperatives. There are different cooperatives in various sectors ranging from home care to automotive and labour. 

Cooperatives like Sewa Federation works for the benefit of women, providing employment and livelihoods. Women are the shareholders here and the cooperative ensure fair wages to all the women involved. Another example of a cooperative in urban India is Urban Clap, now Urban Company, that provide various services at home.  

Another good example is of cooperatives in the automotive sector in Australia. Earlier, before the cooperatives, the service was individual based but with the emergence of cooperatives, the work became easier and better organised. The suppliers do not have to deal with many people individually but one cooperative that will take care of the smooth running of the business. Uralungal Labor Contract Co-operative Society in Kerala is another good example of a successful labour cooperative. They are so successful that even the lowest paid worker in this cooperative makes as much as a government employee would. 

The challenge in India is that youngsters aspire to get a government job to earn more money and are not aware of the potential of cooperatives. It is important to take the message to them. It is important to encourage more cooperatives from forming in the country.