Cooperative societies stagnate over time for lack of product depth.
It is not uncommon to find cooperatives whose product offering is limited to Loans. Some others have bolder ambition; they enlarge their product depth by including target savings. Not to be outdone, some other cooperatives simply copy others; whether the products, so copied fits their cooperative or not.
There are correlations between product depth and three of the seven cooperative principles; namely: Members’ Economic Participation, Cooperation Among Cooperatives and Education, Training, and Information. Products enliven the trio, among other features.
Exciting products motivate members and incite activities (socio-economic) and participation among members. In this regard, departmental cooperatives in urban city-centers tend to fare better than their counterparts in the rurality and the hinterland.
Cooperatives require new products to the degree that needs abound in cooperatives circuit.
To have good shot at success and pass the crucible of test, there are qualities that such cooperative products must have.
Unique features: The product or service must have distinct attribute(s) that set it apart from similar-others. The uniqueness creates the ‘notice-me’ factor. For instance, Service-as-products such as Loans have tenure, Interest element could be deducted upfront or computed as instalment repayment alongside the principal. These are fringe attempts at creating uniqueness from one cooperative to the other. Consider EasyCoop; a technology-as-service Platform. It manages members data. Its accounting functionalities solve member-related needs. It is a bold attempt at automating cooperative processes. It has a cool new look that’ll make the user take notice.
Mass appeal: The product or services that is bound for success would appeal to different user segment. For instance, one of the verticals on EasyCoop (technology-as-service) offers access to online mart where about the cheaper prices for arrays of good for different age-group and gender types could be gotten.
Originate solution. Products ideally must target and solve a problem. Cost-savings, ease and user-convenience are some of the solutions that EasyCoop brings to table.
Story-telling; how the product/service works: tease, please and seize the user by explaining to members in an easy-to-understand manner.
For instance, EasyCoop elevator pitch: EasyCoop addresses that part of cooperative needs which others failed to note, it provides user-convenience, and simplifies end-to-end transaction.
‘Customizability’: Refers to how easily the product can be customized or modified to meet the changing needs and requirements of the cooperative members on the one hand and the ability of the product to accommodate additional features in the future to suit the customer’s dynamic needs.
Now, one more area to point at is product development; whether service-as-product, or technology-as-service for the agric, producer and marketing cooperatives must reflect the totality of input in their cooperative sub-sector. An enduring record keeping solution for those sub-sectors must provide for measurements and quantification in weight, mass, volume and number values. This is instructive because it captures the nature of their input and output which will in turn make products stand the test of time. This is glaringly lacking in most of the existing solution-as-service on offer.
Whichever product category, a golden advice on cooperative product development is KISS; Keep It Simple!
On a last note, keep in mind Albert Einstein’s reminder: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” The paradox is instructive. Therein lies the success of enduring cooperative product.