Some Issues of Consumer Co-operatives in Educational Institutions in Asia - Findings, suggestions and conclusions (1998)
(Source: Co-op Dialogue, Vol. 8, No. 3, Oct.-Dec., 1998, pp. 3-4)
Genesis of campus consumer co-operatives
The working statues of the campus consumer co-operatives in educational institutions in India as well as other Asia and Pacific countries depend on various internal and external factors in the socio-economic environment. A few of them mentioned hereon are purchasing power of the target members or potential member population in the educational institutions supposed to benefit from the service of co-operative society.
Secondly, the legal and economic environment for student's consumer co-operative societies and finally, the relationship with the main consumer co-operative organizations at district, state, national level organizations and international organizations in the co-operative sector of the economy, in terms of coordination and business promotion.
Since the motto of our national co-operative movement in India is peace, progress and prosperity, it is the social or community agenda of university/college co-operatives creating business goodwill, as well as credibility in relation to the youth community. The peace and environment activities served the purpose for them in a good way.
In the light of observation and analysis of the business operations of Delhi University Co-op Society the findings are recorded hereon:
The present working status of campus consumer co-operatives in the context of economic reformation, global changes and structural changes of the Indian market economy has been a matter of concern for its survival and healthy growth. The closeness of university/college campus co-operatives would put them at a disadvantage and become vulnerable to conditions created by authorities. These consumer societies are not strong enough to face the competition in a given circumstance of the business environment without proper recognition to the main stream of co-operation.
The major concerns of student co-operatives in India are that this sector remains unorganized, unstructured and perceptual. Consumer co-operatives in educational institutions, of course, have been established in the post-independance period of our country. They have yet to achieve adequate importance, both in terms of their business and in their role as educational and training grounds for a co-operative way of life.
The employees of the university co-operatives consider their service as a less remunerative and thankless job. Generally, a teacher or non-teaching staff of the educational institution become in charge as the honorary secretary of the management committee.
Insufficient financial resources and its mobilization, inadequate support by those managing in parent educational institutions, frequent intervention by government officials, limited market environment for business co-operation, insufficient infrastructure, less responsible members, and lack of recognition to the hard labour given by the employee are some of the many problems faced by the co-operative society which prohibits them to develop like other organizations.
It is observed that the business relationship of the university consumer co-operatives is very much limited to the consumer business of a few units such as consumer store, cafeteria, computer service, photocopier and telephone booth, and tea stall, etc. It lacks the inter-organizational relationship and its linkages with the Delhi State Co-operative Bank, Central Wholesale Consumer Stores, State Co-operative Unions and national level organization in connection with education and training such as the National Co-operative Union of India.
Lack of free access to co-operative education and training keeps students, members, staff, and employee confined to a limited scope of business operation in the stores on the university campus.
Most of the students of the university do not even know about the need and importance of their active involvement and participation in the business and welfare activities of the society on the basis of co-operative principles and values adopted by the International Co-operative Alliance.
University/colleges are centres of learning for advanced studies where the students of our countries come to acquire education and training in different fields of study. Co-operation has become the vital subject of social science. The additional application of business economics can boost the business aspect of co-operatives, combined with practical knowledge and experience gained through the campus co-operative in the university.
Development of university campus co-operative consumer stores depends mainly upon mass involvement and active participation of its student members in the business operation of this society. It would only be possible if the society is considered as a learning centre for student members to practice a co-operative way of life.
The university and college student co-operatives are the centre of business relations in terms of the needs of students and staff of educational institutions. The success of any organization in the ultimate analysis depends on how the resources, both financial and technical, are efficiently utilized and how the human beings in the organization work to gather in coordination and co-operation with other organizations.
The joint purchasing system should be introduced and practiced among the day to day business activities of the co-operative stores in the campus with strong ties to other wholesale consumer co-operative stores at the district and national levels.
The consultancy and promotion cell of NCCF (National Co-operative Consumers Federation of India) should be better coordinated with campus co-operatives to encourage the students and authorities of educational institutions to organize co-op stores of colleges and universities, thereby revitalizing the youth spirit in the process of building a co-operative consumer movement.
Lastly, but not least, there should be a national level co-operative planning and policy programme for the active involvement of youth students in the university and colleges with the help of campus co-operatives networking both country and region wide.
Integrated services of business and community development can be promoted in our country by means of strengthening the campus co-ops in educational institutions as well as promoting its relations with national level university co-op federations of Asia and the Pacific.
Co-operation has become the only alternative to bring the spirit of youth power into the process of national reconstruction and development.
* Mr. Hrusikesh Mishra is a lecturer in Economics and recently completed a three-month training course at NCCE, New Delhi.