More than 60-year-old cooperative commits to Gandhian values to stay relevant
Kendriya Bhandar (KB), a central government-backed co-operative society, plans to extend operations beyond capital Delhi and seven other states, officials said.
They were speaking at the inauguration of a five-part series of events on March 2, 2020, to mark Mahatma Gandhi's sesquicentennial anniversary in Rajghat, New Delhi.
The programme, ‘Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with food – Key to Health’, was organised in collaboration with the Centre for Strategy and Leadership (CSL), a New Delhi-based non-profit that assists public and private enterprises in developing strategies to enhance trade and investments.
The series will focus on specific aspects of Gandhi’s life like his experiments with food, hygiene and sanitation, domestic production, welfare and sustainability and conservation.
“A healthy and well-nourished populace is a pre-condition for sustainable development of the country. Gandhi’s ideas on food can help us improve our lifestyle and lead better (healthier) lives,” said Vikas Sharma, director and chief executive of CSL.
“The objective of KB outlets is to provide quality products at reasonable prices to our customers. Currently, our presence is concentrated in Delhi. We are making efforts to go beyond Delhi and offer services across India,” said Mukesh Kumar, managing director of KB, which is India’s largest consumer co-operative society.
In the coming years, the focus will be to set up fair price shops in regions like Jammu, Kashmir and the North East where there no KB outlets, Sharma said.
When asked if KB was considering alternative packaging solutions as part of its commitment to sustainable production, he said that decisions regarding packaging would be taken after due research but there was no clarity as to when such a transition would take place.
“KB outlets have to find a way to regain their position as the most preferred outlets for consumers. For this, the society has to develop new strategies and ensure it stays relevant,” Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State for the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions (MOPPP), the nodal ministry operating KB outlets, said.
Singh, who was present at the event as its chief guest, asked KB’s management to prepare a report on its future prospects.
After approval from the Union Cabinet, KB was established as a welfare project in 1963. Functioning under the aegis of MOPPP, the primary purpose of the organisation was to set up fair price shops that would offer essential commodities such as vegetables, stationery items as well as medicines at reasonable prices to its customers.
Currently, there are 153 KB outlets across the country, of which 110 are in Delhi. The remaining outlets are spread across seven states — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh.
In recent years, KB’s role as a crisis management agency has amplified. For example, when onion prices peaked at Rs 120 / kg in 2019, KB outlets sold them at a price of 20 / kg, which is six times lower than the market price.
Similarly in the aftermath of the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in November 2018, KB outlets continued to cater to the needs of its customers. KB’s outlets also supplied essential goods in flood-hit regions of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala in 2014 and 2018 respectively.
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