Abstract: After more than 10 years of operation, the Women's Thrift Cooperatives (WTCs) in the impoverished Karimnagar and Warangal districts of Andhra Pradesh are an established part of the lives of their women members. As such they represent opportunities and challenges for the women and the non-governmental organization, the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF), which planted the seed for their growth and has since supported them with technical assistance. The cooperatives are savings institutions that also lend money to their members and they rely solely on the spread between the interest they pay on the savings and the interest they earn on their loans to support their operations. In recent years the fund utilization of the thrifts has decreased, leading to some concern about their financial sustainability. The members and CDF are attempting to do something about this by starting a dairy cooperative to sell milk in the city of Warangal - the women will use the proceeds from loans from the thrifts to finance their milk purchases. There is also concern that the thrifts' accounting practices are disguising some loans in default, resulting in an overly rosy financial picture. CDF and the leadership of the cooperatives have to work out how to get the thrifts to recognize the losses that the defaults constitute without undermining their faith in the thrifts. And finally, there is pressure on the CDF from the leadership themselves to relax its rule, which the thrifts freely adopted, that prohibits leadership participation in electoral politics. The thrifts have provided a fertile training ground for women to become involved in the public life of the village, and they are now in demand as candidates for political office, given the early 1990s Indian constitutional amendments that set aside one-third of all local council seats for women.
Learning Objective: The case provides a detailed account of the origin and current situation facing CDF and WTCs. Using this case, students can understand the workings of thrift cooperatives in an international rural setting and discuss strategic courses of action in dealing with the organizations' problems.