Financial Powerhouse for Common Man

R N Joshi
R N Joshi, IAS (Retd.) and Chief Executive Officer of the Federation

The Gujarat Urban Cooperative Banks Federation (GUCBF) represents the interests of the urban cooperative banking sector of the State. Its branding initiative ‘Proudly Cooperative’ has generated a sense of bonding among the member banks and given them a distinct identity, writes R N Joshi, IAS (Retd.) and Chief Executive Officer of Federation.

The Cooperative Banking sector in Gujarat has been catering to the needs of common man of Gujarat for several decades now. In fact, one of the bricks in the foundation of the Reliance Empire by Dhirubhai Ambani came from the cooperative bank in Gujarat. This proves the commitment of cooperative banking sector to serve the common man of Gujarat and become the financial powerhouse for them.

The formation of Gujarat Urban Cooperative Banks Federation (GUCBF) was just another attempt to demonstrate the will and efforts taken towards socio-economic upliftment of the common man in Gujarat. The Federation was established in March 1975, in accordance with the provisions of the Gujarat Co-operative Societies Act 1961. Ever since, the Federation has been playing a catalytic role in transforming the cooperative banking sector into a financial powerhouse with strong network, which should become the preferred choice for customers and significantly contribute to the twin national objectives of financial inclusion and inclusive growth by satisfying the common man’s needs.

Role of Coop sector

The cooperative sector has played a significant role in the lives of citizens of this State. There are more than 70,000 cooperatives having 1.25 crore members in the State of Gujarat. Thus, every fifth man in Gujarat is associated with the cooperative movement. The sector has seen the golden days in the field of Milk, Housing and Credit & Marketing. The sector has given best of the co≠operative leaders like Vaikunthbhai Mehta, Sakalchandbhai Patel, Atmarambhai Patel, Tribuvandas Patel and Dr Verghese Kurien, to name only a few.

Cooperative philosophy is a balancing force against Capitalism versus Communism. During the financial crisis in America and elsewhere in 2008, the world survived because of the strong cooperative sector in America and Europe. Even today, the cooperative sector can play a significant role in building a new India, as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendrabhai Modi with ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Jan-Dhan Yojana’ and ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. In all these sectors, cooperatives have a presence and, therefore, they can become an instrument to change, as they are very close to the rural as well as urban people.

‘Proudly Cooperative’

The GUCBF, Ahmedabad represents the interests of the urban cooperative banking sector of the State, in particular, and the cooperative movement, in general. By virtue of its eminent position, it continuously strives to protect and safeguard the interests of the member banks of the State and the depositors, who have placed their faith in the member banks. The Federation played an active role as a facilitator between the member banks and the various regulatory authorities on all policy as well as procedural issues and actively liaises with all agencies for furthering the interests of the cooperative movement in the State. It is in this context that the Federation decided way back in 2007 to create a strong image of the member banks, Credit Societies, Regional Federations etc. By way of branding, the Federation obtained a registered trademark “Proudly Cooperative” in January 2007.

The logo is a joint venture of the Federation, and its users have a feeling of bonding through the logo. In the last seven years, the Federation has persuaded all member banks to enter into an MoU with the Federation and use the logo for all practical purposes, which has generated faith among the users that they belong to the cooperative fraternity. Our logo was widely appreciated during the “International Celebration of Centenary Year of Co-operative Movement” in 2012 at Bhopal. The Federation exhibits its logo anywhere in the world where it is a participant, collaborator or supporter or in any cooperative programme.

Sahakar Setu

The GUCBF organises a seminar every three-four years, in which member banks meet and resolve their issues. It is also an occasion when the Federation reviews its activities and problems faced by member banks. Since 2007, this state-level event has been christened as “Sahakar Setu”. This seminar generally takes place at an interval of four years. Last year, Sahakar Setu was held in June at Mahatma Mandir, Gandhinagar, and its theme was ‘Nextgen Cooperative Banking’.

‘Sahkar Setu’, a GUCBF seminar held every three-four years, sees member banks meet and resolve their issues. It is also an occasion for the Federation to review its activities and problems faced by member banks

Of late, a view has emerged that though banking system is heterogeneous in nature with good network, it has nevertheless not been able to provide banking services to nearly 45 per cent of the financially excluded population. To bring a greater number of people under the cooperative banking system is a huge task, for which the Federation wants urban cooperative banks to utilise next-gen technology for faster and easier banking. It is in this context that the Federation had organised this programme.

Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat Smt Anandiben Patel, banking luminaries like R Gandhi, Deputy Governor, RBI; Ilaben Bhatt, Director, RBI; N Vishwanathan, Executive Director, RBI; all senior managers of the RBI’s Mumbai and Ahmedabad offices; V S Das, Executive Director (Retd), RBI; chairman of all state-level federations; and representatives of 226 banks participated in this mega event.

During the event, the Federation also launched the Centre for Banking Research, Development & Excellence (CBRDE) at the hands of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat. This Centre is a frontrunner as the State Umbrella Organisation, as envisaged by RBI’s Committee on State Umbrella. CBRDE works for capacity building and has created a platform for Urban Cooperative Banks for technological leverages and many more technological upgradation.

Technology in Coop banking

Cooperative banks can survive only if they adopt technology. After CBS and CTS, technological leverages of the urban cooperative banking sector have reached the third phase, providing customer satisfaction through technology. Financial inclusion of the unbanked masses is a herculean task. However, as a viable entity, cooperative banks will have to adopt ATMs, Mobile Banking and Net Banking in the future. The Federation is striving hard to bring all cooperative banks on technology platform, so as to compete with commercial/private banks. It is through technology only that cooperative banks will be able to deliver best services to their customers. The Federation is in touch with the Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT), Hyderabad, for facilitating technology in cooperative banks.

The next important thing which the Federation has initiated relates to banking research. We have a team of experienced bankers like V S Das, former Director, RBI, and K V Lakum, GM (retired), Bank of India and a veteran training consultant, who keeps guiding 10,000-odd workforce of the urban cooperative banks of Gujarat. We have adopted a three-pronged strategy at CBRDE:

l. We invite faculties from the College of Agricultural Banking (CAB), Pune, and train our Directors and Senior Managers;

2. We offer on-location training wherein our faculty members go to the banks and train the employees; and

3. For technology leverages, we organise state as well as national-level seminars, in which we invite experts. They share their experiences with the member banks.

This strategy has given a boost to the whole cooperative banking movement and we hope that in future, cooperative banking will further shine.

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