When almost every transaction is going online, and the country’s metros are turning towards Flipkart or Snapsdeal for online shopping even to buy a book, it seems so unfair when its rural is left out of the growing trend. It reveals the wide gap between urban and rural in the country. But an attempt by thirty-seven-year old Shiva Devireddy has made a change. He gave up his corporate career with the aim to transform the lives of people living in remote areas by setting up cooperative.
He founded GoCoop Solutions a0nd Services Pvt. Ltd, a Bangalore-based venture, that provides an online marketplace to products made by self-help groups and several rural cooperatives.
The idea occurred to him during a visit to his home town in Andhra Pradesh five years ago. It gave him the opportunity to closely observe the operations of several self-help groups and weaver cooperatives. Then he noticed how the lack of marketing opportunity had deprived them in expanding their business. For three years he researched the working of cooperatives, and with guidance from the Regional Institute of Cooperative Management in Bangalore the idea finally germinated into GoCoop which was launch in September, 2011, as a platform for intra and inter collaboration between cooperative societies.
“I have always been keen on taking up social entrepreneurship, especially interested in promoting livelihoods. I had the opportunity to see how different life is in rural parts of the country and was keen on seeing how we can use ICT ( Information and Communication Technology) in making a social impact. When we look at organizations like cooperatives the main challenges they face is access to markets and information. After 12 years of corporate career, I decided to start GoCoop,” says Devireddy, Founder and CEO of GoCoop.
He saw very strong support and very good acceptance of their platform during the last 7-8 months. “We completed the first phase of the project successfully with over 2,000 registrations on the platform and marketing products for over 100 co-op producers. We received very good feedback from the buyers, sellers and other government organizations from the sector,” he adds.
GoCoop is based on very simple business model. It is an online marketplace which provides services to the sellers on the subscription basis and charges a reasonable transaction fee for every order processed. It also provides free services like directory and connect which enables discovery and access to information.
Primary cooperative societies (lowest level) had no online presence or strong marketing medium, and they always bank on selling goods at nearest exhibitions or trade shows. He had the tough task of highlighting prospects of online selling, including international exposure. “Access and adoption is the biggest challenge for technology intervention in rural India. In Co-op and self-help-groups, there is very little access to basic information technology like computers and internet. Convincing someone who has not seen a computer before about an online marketplace takes time,” he says.
To make it possible, GoCoop conducted awareness session for the rural folks. It has also partnered with government organizations in promoting the concept in different areas. “Cooperatives users and members can get access to the information through basic mobile services like SMS today,” Devireddy explains.
In the beginning Devireddy targeted rural handloom and handicrafts cooperatives, but after reaching a certain point bulk buyers became his target. “We are targeting most bulk buyers (B2B) which includes small entrepreneurs like boutiques, designers to buy directly from the producers. We have received more than 40 percent of business from international buyers,” he adds
GoCoop has managed to reach 15 states in India and six countries worldwide. With 1,700 cooperatives and self-help groups on board, GoCoop has roped in 35 bulk buyers. But taking rural India online was not easy.
Devireddy says, “We are currently targeting over 300 producers marketing their products on the marketplace by end of the year. Our gross sales is increasing 100 percent.”
His next step is to cover 250 districts in India over the next five years. He also hopes to tap into international cooperatives from the US, Indonesia and Thailand over the next few years. “We would like to expand our services beyond India. This would be the key to provide market linkage to Indian products with potential buyers outside India,” elaborates he.
Devireddy believes that he will hit the bullseye in 10 years with 2 lakh cooperatives and 10 lakh self-help groups adopting the GoCoop’s way as he improves the lives of 20 crore individuals. With his projection and the milestone he has achieved, it will not surprise us when we see another online platform as big as Amazone for rural products in the years ahead.