Co operatives in India

The cooperative movement in India owes its origin to agriculture and allied sectors. Towards end of the 19th century, the problems of rural indebtedness and the consequent conditions of farmers created an environment for the chit funds and cooperative societies. The farmers generally found the cooperative movement an attractive mechanism for pooling their image meager resources for solving common problem relating to credit, supplies of inputs and marketing of agriculture produce. The experience gained in the working of such cooperatives led to the enactment of the Cooperative Credit Societies Act, 1904. Subsequently a more comprehensive legislation called the Cooperative Societies Act was enacted. This Act, inter alia provided for the creation of the post of registrar of cooperative societies and registration of cooperative societies for various purposes and audit. Under the Montague–Chelmesford Reforms of 1919 cooperation became a provincial subject and the provinces were authorized to make their own cooperative laws. Under the Government of India Act, 1935 cooperatives were treated as a provincial subject. The item Cooperative Societies is a State Subject under entry No 32 of the State List of the Constitution of India.

The cooperative store popularly known as Super Bazar was registered under the Bombay Coop, Societies Act 1925 as extended to the Union Territory of Delhi, under Registration No. 284 (s) dated 25 June 1966.

It started with just one supermarket in 1966 and grew into a 147 store chain in thirty years, clocking an annual sales turnover of over Rs 136.55 crores during 1995-96. With 147 branches, six regional distribution centers, 18 drug stores, of which six operated round the clock and a fleet of 17 mobile van shops catering to far flung areas, including slum colonies where there were no branches of Super Bazar, it had no parallel in the country.

From 1972 to 1996, Super Bazar made profits with annual sales turnover crossing Rs 130 crore, allowing it to declare regular dividends to its members including the government. Thereafter, the Cooperative went into a spin, making losses, year after year, unable to perform and turn around its fortunes till it finally closed down in July 2002. The outstanding points of Super Bazar comprised of selling a wide range of products below the MRP, laboratory testing of food items and direct purchase of most of the products from the manufacturers. Super Bazar was a pioneer in self service shop in the country.

Kendriya Bhandar consumer cooperative stores started operations in 1963 as The Central Government Employees Consumer Cooperative Society Ltd and were set up by the Government as a welfare initiative for its Central Government employees and other weaker sections of the society.

With 77,000 members (inclusive of associate members), Kendriya Bhandar has the unique distinction of being the country’s largest consumer cooperative in terms of membership. It has today, approximately 119 stores spread nationwide. The cooperative retails groceries, stationery, office equipment and other consumer goods & items of daily use, at margins that are lower than the open market. With government support, it grew into a 119-store and 42 Fair Price shop network, spread widely across Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Trichy, Cochin, Tirupati, Daman, Gwalior, Jaipur, Mussoorie, Lucknow, Faridabad, Kapurthala, Noida, Manesar and Chandigarh. It also started a fleet of four Mobile Shops in Delhi to cater to customer staying in regions with no shops.

Similar to the Super Bazar of Delhi, Sahakari Bhandar is a cooperative chain of 23 retail stores, located strategically in and around Mumbai. It retails in consumer goods, grocery and other general purposes items.. With its origin going back to 1968, Sahakari Bhandar stores gained in popularity for their affordability, self service convenience discounted pricing and convenience of location.

In recent years, however, these stores plagued with the usual problems of funds and stock outs due to bad debts, began to lose their sheen looked run down and started to lose their popularity more so with the deluge of modern retail formats in Mumbai.

Revival came in the form of Reliance Industries Ltd when RIL’s group company Retail Concepts & Services saw the inherent prime location potential that lay in these early supermarkets of Mumbai inked a deal with the cooperative in April 2006 to handle their complete supply chain requirement wherein Reliance does the sourcing for Sahakari Bhandar, directly from its suppliers and in turn is paid for the goods by the cooperative at a later agreed point of time.

This arrangement has come as a boon for the beleaguered cooperative and some of the stores have already been renovated and the newly revamped stores have been given an attractive modern façade the aisles are well laid out, the ambience is pleasant and with well stocked shelves and prices competitive as ever sales have risen dramatically. Adding to it is the fact that stores are now open all seven days of the week and for longer hours in a day. Now we hear that it is taken over by Reliance Fresh and seems to be offering better goods and services.