A website in India is aiming to become the country’s ‘Amazon of co-operatives’.
Although India has over 500,000 co-operatives – from food to artisanal products – they are struggling to compete with franchises and large-scale technology.
GoCoop is India’s first online marketplace for artisans and handicraft-makers. It only works with co-operatives, offering a range of support, from set up a shopping cart or payment cycle, to a website listing service where people can buy in bulk. For larger co-ops it can maintain their whole website.
Siva Devireddy, founder of GoCoop, explains: “We don’t just tell people to sign up and deal with everything themselves – that’s not going to retain customers and make long-term changes. Until things change, we’re taking those sort of things into our own hands.”
One of the main problems that co-ops face is that outside of towns and cities, many people have limited access to the internet, and few of them have credit or debit cards. GoCoop takes on this responsibility. When someone buys something through the GoCoop website, the money goes into GoCoop’s bank account, before being moved into the account of the co-operative the customer is buying from.
The organisation also has designated Cluster Service Representatives (CSRs) all over India who handle the delivery, meaning the customers and producers don’t have to spend time tracking their orders online.
India is estimated to have over nine million artisans, but they suffer from a lack of market access. Mr Devireddy believes it is an untapped market, a market where people care about where products come from, but haven’t previously had access to.
As a child, Mr Devireddy moved several times across India, becoming attached to rural life and the innovation it can produce. But he also studied at Arizona State University and worked for a supply chain start-up in Silicon Valley before moving back to India and studying co-operatives.
Now there are plans to expand GoCoop overseas: “It’s a natural move because there are so many cooperatives worldwide,” he says. “It’s the best way to retain a great part of business culture while helping groups of producers get access to new customers.”
GoCoop is part of a wave of ethical online retailers providing support for the co-op community. In the UK, Fairmondo UK is launching this autumn and will be the UK’s first co-operatively owned online marketplace. The site is being built in partnership with Fairmondo DE from Germany, and aims to be up and running by Christmas 2016.