India’s financial co-ops urged to modernise and go digital

'Going digital is necessary, not only for the growth of co-operatives, but also to reach out to vast sections of society'

India’s financial co-ops lack a “futuristic” mindset and need to go digital to attract younger members, a leading figure in the sector has said.

Sridhar Neelkant Rao, founder president Gnana Shale Sauharda Co-operative Ltd, made his comments after a visit from Brian Branch, president of the World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu).

Indian Cooperative, a news website for the national co-op sector, reported on Mr Branch’s visit. It said he had stressed that digital is the way forward for financial co-ops wanting to expand their customer and fund base.

Echoing Mr Branch’s words, Mr Rao said: “They need to go digital now. Along with digitisation, they should have products targeting the younger generation.

“The co-operative movement in India is over a century old and almost all co-operatives have a mindset that is not ‘futuristic’. The membership base is that of elderly people. The co-operatives have left out a whopping 65% of the population that is below 35 years of age.”

Rao also called for societies to work together to create economies of scale and share the costs of digitisation.

“There are 800,000 co-operatives in the country with a huge membership base – spread over many branches – and fund base that can certainly take the lead, as investments in technologies can be substantial,” he added.

“If co-operative societies go digital, that in itself would provide a platform for growth. The potential for co-operatives to transform lives at village level is enormous, as banks have not reached out to the rural population as they should have.

“Going digital is necessary, not only for the growth of co-operatives, but also to reach out to vast sections of society that are away from the mainstream.”

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