Mumbai Grahak Panchayat: Staying relevant in changing times

Mumbai Grahak Panchayat needs to adapt to face competition from instant online delivery systems and wide variety of goods they offer. 

A ritual from my childhood involved going to a local co-operative store at the end of every month with my father. Buying and storing groceries, which would last the month or even the year, was the norm of the time. But consumption patterns are getting transformed — a part of a larger, systemic change.

Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP), one of India’s largest co-operative consumer organisations has not escaped the effects of this change. “There is a significant change both in terms of the number of members and the number of goods ordered,” says Advocate Shrish Despande, the Chairperson of MGP. Both these show a downward trend. Both these show a downward trend.

The Mumbai centre of MGP had 2,714 sanghs in 2020-21 as compared to 2,565 in 2021-22.  The number of members too dropped from 16,789 in 2020-21 to 14,894 in 2021-22. The pattern for total number of sanghs and members, which includes all six centres is no different. 

Consumption patterns

One of the obvious reasons for these dwindling numbers is the surge of online platforms, whose USP is an almost instant delivery of a wide range of goods.

“There is no doubt that the younger generation prefers to order online because it gets delivered immediately,” says banker Krutika Ranade, whose mother-in-law is a member of MGP. The convenience of ordering from companies like Amazon, Big Basket or D-Mart cannot be denied. One can schedule deliveries according to one’s availability, a facility that is particularly useful for people who work long and odd hours. 

sorting of deliveries from grahak sangh at a member's house
Several young members, who work erratic and long hours, are unable to find time for organising delivery and collection. MGP is considering door step delivery for members’ convenience. Pic: Shruti Gokarn

The challenge for younger members of Grahak Sangh is that things are delivered to one person’s place on a fixed date, and they have to pick them up on the same day. If they get held up at work, which is very likely considering the fact that they work longer and more erratic hours as compared to the workforce operating pre 2000, it becomes a problem. 

“They can manage it if the delivery happens over the weekend. How can they take a day off every month otherwise?” says Shailaja when talking about her daughter, Deepali Chavan, also a member of a Grahak Sangh. Deepali has to take leave each time it is her turn to accept delivery of the goods.  

Shailaja Velankar, a member of MGP since 1997 also points out that though MGP offers a wide range of goods, people may want particular brands not available in the MGP list. This is particularly true of skin care, and personal hygiene products. 

Read more: It is consumer literacy that leads to real progress

Door to door delivery

The obvious solution to this problem is door-to-door delivery of goods on weekends. Krutika says she would not mind paying an extra delivery fee. She is certain that she wants to continue buying from MGP due to the quality of the goods that MGP offers and is willing to pay more for getting more convenient delivery option.

Both Pradeep Raorane, the purchasing manager of MGP, and Shirish acknowledge that door-to-door delivery is the answer to this specific difficulty, but Raorane explains the challenge they face in putting this into practice.

The distribution process involves sorting all the things that the members of a Sangh have ordered collectively into plastic tubs at the MGP warehouse. Only those particular tubs are offloaded at the destination. But making individual deliveries will mean preparing a tub for each member separately. This in turn will require that much more space, which is not at MGP’s disposal at the moment. 

Demographic shifts

The other reason why memberships are dropping is redevelopment of buildings. During this time, members move to another location indefinitely, and end up discontinuing their membership. 

On the other hand, relocation of members within a family is causing a decrease in the quantum of things being ordered. After children move out, a family is often reduced to two people. According to Shubhada Ranade, it does not help that MGP offers some things in one kilo or half kilo packs. Both she and Shailaja suggest that MGP should offer things in smaller quantities, which will be sufficient for a smaller family unit. Moreover, all items are not available every month.

Both these factors discourage people from ordering on two counts—one is having to create storage space in their kitchens. Moreover, buying in quantities beyond their current needs means an unnecessary advance investment of money.

Adapting to needs of the young 

MGP is cognizant of these challenges and the need to adapt. “We also see what are the genuine requirements of this generation and unless we meet these needs of the generation even we cannot continue any more,” says Shirish.

A survey is being planned to understand the requirements and expectations of the younger generations so that the experience of buying from MGP can be tailored to suit them as much as possible. For instance, one change, which is in the pipeline is offering all the items, barring seasonally available ones, every month. “We are thinking why not offer all the products in every month. It’s like any shop. I go and pick up the things (I want),” elaborates Shirish.

Secondly, they are figuring out a way to deliver to individuals at their doorstep without raising the cost too much. They want to adhere to the philosophy of MGP – ‘good quality at affordable rates’ while doing so.

MGP’s vision

The provenance of an organisation like MGP comes from a time when scarcity was the norm.

It will be necessary for MGP to move to keep up with changes in lifestyle—whether it is the demand for ready to eat meals, longer and flexible working hours, shrinking family sizes, changing priorities of the young, or the need to publicise their work more vociferously. 

Shirish believes the aggressive marketing strategies employed by such platforms draws consumers to them. “These are the marketing strategies, and you think that you’re paying less for something, but at the end of the day, you pay something more,” he explains.

Shrish is confident that MGP will not only survive but also thrive. He says, “So long as the consumers are there, consumer movement has to be there. And so long as the consumer movement is going to be there, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat is going to be there.”

(The first part of this series, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat: A model voluntary consumer body, focused on history of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat, how it came into being and its structure and functioning. It also explained how one can become a member of this consumer cooperative. This is the concluding report.)

Contact details for MGP

Head Office Address: 
Grahak Bhavan, Sant Dnyaneshwar Marg,
Behind Cooper Hospital, Vile Parle (West),
Mumbai 400056 Maharashtra.

Telephone Number: 
Email for information:

Other activities of MGP

1. They run a monthly magazine called Grahak Tituka Melavava, distributed to all the members free of cost.
2. They operate a Consumer Education Wing which works to create awareness about consumer rights through media, outreach programmes, and workshops.
3. They run free Consumer Grievance Guidance Cells to help consumers use consumer protection laws to get justice. These function from their head office in Juhu, Vile Parle (east), Santa Cruz, Chembur, Thane, Pen, and Pune.
4. Through the effort of the Consumer Protection Wing, forty two MahaRERA reconciliation wings work in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.

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