Sunday, April 16, 2017

Visit to Mulkanoor

I had a chance to spend time in Mulkanoor for professional exposure visit recently. Why? Mulkanoor is guiding light of India's cooperative movement. I was able to visit Mulkanoor Women's Cooperative Dairy (MWDC) and Cooperative Development Federation (CDF) promoted Thrift Cooperatives but unable to go at Mulkanoor Cooperative Rural Bank and Marketing Society. The purpose of the visit was to gain an insight into Community Micro Finance & Livelihood intervention work and gradual evolution of the cooperative model formed by the local women. I tried to learn from personal experiences as well as technical formalities by interacting with staff, members, & board directors of the cooperatives. My visit began with a morning ride from Hyderabad and it was about a four-hour drive. Mulkanoor falls in Bheemdevarapalli mandal of Karimnagar district.


Mulkanoor is a hub of agriculture related activities. This area is known for paddy, maize and cotton cultivation. In addition to it, Mulkanoor is famous for its milk production too. Mulukanoor Women’s Cooperative Dairy (MWCD), a model enterprise was established in 2002, the dairy today is an enterprise powered by 22,000 women producers. Currently, the dairy has 138 societies also known as women dairy co-operatives (WDC) having members from the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) spread-out in Karimnagar and Warangal districts. MWCD’s brand Swakrushi stands for quality for its consumers.

Cooperative Development Foundation, popularly known as Sahavikasa, was formed in 1975 when a group of Individuals came together and started working for the development of cooperatives. The CDF has provided technical assistance to the cooperatives with the strategy revolving on the social construction of an economic institution. The following working paper throws light on CDF and Women’s Thrift Cooperatives in Mulkanoor.

I am sharing few peculiar observations about Mulkanoor here -

1. Access to credit is the primary reason to join thrift cooperatives. Financial inclusion is always an enabler of other development objectives and not as a standalone goal. The financial inclusion goal has been achieved in Mulknaoor but the action to ensure social justice or affirmative action in political space have been shunned. The premise of cooperative movement is the result of the struggle against traditionally dominant business class. They have chosen a strategy to fight on the single front rather than spreading limited resources for democratizing the social, political, and economic life.

2. Many women believe that financial products and services are too complicated for them to understand, and this perception serves as a barrier for adoption of these products and services. It’s unfair to expect women members to be expert investors in various available financial services. But thrift cooperative has done ample of capacity building and localization of the financial services. This is inspiring to see how real banking services is supposed to work for real people leading real lives. Thrift cooperative has ensured service accessible to all and not turning into a complex maze only a few can navigate.

3. Most cooperatives fail in running enterprises due to being insulated from the discipline of the market especially in consumer-facing enterprises. MWCD has again proved that AMUL Model can be replicated and adopted anywhere in India. Also, Thrift cooperatives at Mulkanoor have not been caught the in the trap of imposition of across-the-board waivers in the interest rates and loans repayment. Good governance can be attributed to the Andhra Pradesh Mutually Aided Cooperative Societies Act specially. This helps management in not allowing outside interference of the government as they want to maintain the integrity of this cooperative. The institution has developed because they were not politicalized and kept away from concessions and subsidies of the government.

4. Democracy in the cooperative did not just mean that one has the right to vote, adding that it is necessary that the democratic ethos spread in the community. CDF has served the community with the commitment to deregulation and entrepreneurship. It's difficult in a practical sense because a cooperative can't be run like business corporations. Internal issues have to be resolved in a sensitive and tactical way as the community has to live with those whose status quo are affected by the cooperative. Such deregulation and upholding of power by community representative have helped cooperatives in avoiding governance crisis and not transforming into an ineffective parastatal institution.

5. CDF and community leaders have dared to challenge conventional wisdom and social assumptions. Community leaders at Mulaknoor have brought next generation with skills into decision-making positions. That has built a cadre of professional and leaders at the community level. The chance to get skills and to practice and learn leadership has expanded the leadership base and increased the age of the institution.

Mulkanoor cooperative is an exception rather than a rule in Indian cooperative ecosystem. Cooperative Movement has been burdened with a variety of problems, mainly from the outdated cooperative law and practice, conflicting with the basic tenets of cooperation and sound business principles. The cooperatives who are most successful work in an enterprise way without being at odds with transparency as well as accountability. Trust and perception matter more than financial benefits in the cooperative movement. Roots must go deeper in the creation of the power to the people, which is opposed to the coercive power of the state and differs from the traditional business.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Street Entrepreneurs - 2

The informal economy in India is run by entrepreneurs providing products and services to the customers. These low-skilled occupations require low financial investments and thus have a relatively low threshold for entering. The street vendors have created a carefully constructed beehive of economic activity in the public space. They have created a functional system for themselves without waiting for government to provide them the legal permission, space and subsidy. In the series of street entrepreneurs (first part), I am presenting here a blog post by Anishok Mishra from the 2016-18 batch of XIMB:

The Cost behind the Taste - The Chaiwalas of Bhubaneswar.

Tea, or as we fondly call it "Chai" is one of India's most preferred hot beverages. Almost every person in our country has had a sip of this drink once in their lifetimes. Some prefer it black, some with milk, some with a splash of lemon and those looking to get healthier by drinking it prefer it "Green". No matter the variety or the recipe used to brew, this drink has only grown from generation to generation.

A big contribution in the same can be attributed to the numerous vendors who are situated on the streets in shops and "thelas", sporting aluminium kettles and gas stoves, serving tea to all who pass by their shops in glasses, earthen "matkas" or sometimes in plastic cups too. They all have their ways of working and their ways to making ends meet. This article attempts to take a closer look into the lives of these "Chaiwalas" and attempts to analyse how they recreate the same taste every day and the rewards they earn for their efforts.

At the outset, during the course of our short study we observed the following average trend in the expenses that surround a tea vendor:

Monthly sales (Rs) 24600
Montly Cost (RS.) 15193
number of cups per month 4920
Quantity of tea sold (liters) 388
quantity of Tea used (as input IN KG) 12
Cost of Tea Purchased per month 2898
Milk used (litres) 318
Cost of milk 9432
Electricity /Gas 587
Other Expenses 2276
Profit per month 9407

Let above figures not lead you astray. The same are simply an average of the shops that were surveyed at random and follow no patterns as such. Not every tea vendor makes more than Rs. 9000 as profit in a month. Besides this does not consider the expenses such as the cost of his equipment (Stove/Fridge/Utensils etc.) or the support staff. This means that the profit gets trimmed down even further and comes within a range of 4 to 7 thousand a month. This figure gives an insight into the hard lives that these vendors have to endure.

During our survey we approached each of these vendors with a set of questions. Although our intent was strictly academic at the start of the project, we could not help but indulge ourselves into the brimming cups of tea as they shared the information with us in a forthright manner. Be it their sales or their expenses, the "Chaiwalas"seemed as relaxed sharing this information as Toyota inviting people to study its Just In Time systems. Though the comparison may seem far fetched, the same is precisely what transpired.

During the time spent at the stalls asking for information, we observed the plethora of customers that these stalls catered to. Ranging from students who were headed back from tuition to tired office staff blowing off steam after a hard days work; or even the rickshaw drivers when they take a break. Somehow, these "Chaiwalas" have established their presence in all our lives as focal points where people meet and socialize irrespective of their occupation or status. The experience reinforces the importance of these vendors in the social landscape in maintaining a delicate balance between the lives of individuals.

Selling averagely 5000 cups a month and making only a rupee of profit per cup is a grim situation for any business. But the "Chaiwalas" have endured for the better part of a century and continue to do so serving us with a smile across their faces and the amazing fragrance of brimming tea filling our nostrils.

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This Blog is meant purely as a personal diary of a rural manager in making. It exists to record information, experiences and opinions about various issues encountered in the line of duty. Any person, institution and organization mentioned here doesn't assume any liability for its contents. This is not a deliberate attempt to defame anyone. And if you have actually read all that is written in the blog and aren't mad at me, then thanks for your time and patience !

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