There is a large network of consumers’ cooperative comprising of numerous primary cons. ‘Coops’, 28 Dist. level wholesale cons. Coops. and one state level Consumer Federation named CONFED, spread over the whole of West Bengal for distribution of consumers’ articles of competitive and reasonable prices to the people of both rural and urban areas. Besides, some of them play significant role in supplying LPG and in distribution of Consumer goods under Public Distribution system. The Consumer Coops. by opening large number of “Self-Service Units” and “Retail outlets” are trying to reach more and more middle and lower class people to stabilize the market price and check to some extent the exploitation of the consumers. Besides, a good number of PACS and PAMS are engaged in sale of consumers’ articles in rural areas. Considering the above, WEBCON has been entrusted with the task of studying the problems of CONFED and preparing “Turn Around Strategy” with the assistance from NCDC so that the entire system can be made more viable. Recently an “Expert Committee” has been formed to suggest measures for Development of Consumers’ Cooperatives in West Bengal.
The Consumers’ Co-operative in West Bengal are facing problems of shortage of professional staff, lack of positive work culture among the Coop. Personnel, perpetual tendency to look for help, protection from Govt. and lack of planning to be commercially viable and successful.
The need of the hour is for the Cons. ’Coops. to shed some of their traditional approaches. They must realise the need to co-exist gracefully in a competitive environment. They must explore their own strengths in a competitive business environment. Coops. must work on ideological lines and undertake steps to enlighten not only members but also society at large. Coops. function on the principle of service motive. But they must earn profit to become commercially viable and at the same time they should never maximize profit at the cost of consumers’ of their area. The Cons. ‘Cooperatives should be encouraged to introduce ‘Home delivery System’ to cater to the need of the working couple and aged persons of the locality. Side by side, emphasis should be given on competitive pricing, stock display in an attractive manner, market survey, taking feed back from the customers, introduction of Gift/Rebate coupons, Lottery and giving token mementoes to cash purchase over a certain fixed amount etc. to increase customer flow in the Self-Service/retail outlets counters.
Man is a born consumer’ is a fact of human life So, the importance of the Cons. Coops. lies in that statement. The role of the leadership of the Board of the Cons. Coops. is vital as the performance should be system centred rather than people centred Coops. need to be managed by professionals who could act as a system check against the adverse influence of same members. Their pay and perks should be related to performance. Coop personnel need to be fine tuned to make them responsive to the demands of the changing business environment. The 3 tier (three tiers) set-up in the consumers sector should be strengthened by expanding membership base, supply of goods as per requirement within the shortest possible time from CONFED to wholesale cons. and from their end to primaries. NCCF, at the national level and CONFED, at the State level have to play a significant role in strengthening the supply base at the ground level i.e. at the level of Dist. Wholesale and primary Consumers. A common pool may be created at the State level of essential commodities by NCCF and CONFED by processing and procuring them directly from the producers / manufacturers in bulk quantity and thereby being able to supply the same at cheaper prices to the Dist. W/Sale and primary Cons. Coops. to minimize the price of Goods at the ultimate customer point