Bamiro: Reshaping the cooperative concept with technology
After watching his friend go through the stress of travelling to Ilorin, Kwara State, for a meeting of his cooperative society during the lockdown at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YNorth, a leading indigenous fashion brand with over 60 outlets nationwide, Oluwaseun Babalola Bamiro, was convinced that there was a gap that needed to be filled in that sub-sector of the economy.
According to him, his friend had insisted that attendance at the meeting was compulsory for members and he (Bamiro) didn’t understand why. So, he started asking himself how to create a cooperative society with flexible terms for members.
He explained: “My friend had to travel all the way from Ibadan to Ilorin to attend a meeting of the cooperative. He said it was compulsory for him to attend. I was like what other ways can one do this thing differently? I came to the conclusion that the solution was the cloud. That means that everything that can be done in the mainstream co-operative society, we have to put it online.”
So, how did he proceed? “The first thing I did was to think of a suitable name for it,” he said. “Name is the first thing you have to pick when starting a business. I started thinking of a name to use, which will not affect the word cooperative so that people can actually identify with what we are into.
“I knew that anything online is cloud. That is why I came up with cloud cooperatve.com.ng. We registered it as Cloud Cooperative Multipurpose Society where members can save for six months and get access to double up whatever they have saved as a loan. You can become a member just with N3000.”
He stated that Cloud Cooperative has come to catalyse the cooperative sub-sector in Nigeria and around the world through the use of technology, adding that within a very short period after its relaunch in August this year, it has changed the face of the sector to a more flexible, very secured and smart way for people to save their money and already has over 100 subscribers.
According to him, the formal launch of the first online cooperative in the country would take place on November 27, this year, in Lagos.
“I am going to officially tell the world the vision and mission of our business. It is going to be a very powerful launch. We are the first online cooperative society in the world that has a database,” he added.
Bamiro, who is also the Managing Director (MD) of TheFastlane and Co, said Cloud Cooperative has well-experienced and trusted Nigerians on its Board of Directors.
“They are not just CEOs but chairmen of several multinational companies. They understand money and the nitty-gritty of business and how business can outlive their owners. Cloud Cooperative also has people on the board that will ensure that members’ funds are secured. Cloud Cooperative also has an insurance policy that actually helps to ensure people’s funds.
“That is the way business runs. You have to organise and have a good Board of Directors who can actually move the business forward. Cloud Cooperative is currently in a different game. Technology has actually helped us to be stable. See how people were scared of moving money around but now you can see everything has stabilised. Cloud Cooperative cannot make the same mistake others made. We have advanced technology,” he said.
He pointed out that some mainstream cooperative societies had run into problems because non-experts managed them.
“What do you expect when people who don’t have enough experience with cooperatives are made to head cooperatives? I have met people in several cooperatives who said their cooperatives were not giving them money or that they didn’t have funds because people were mismanaging the funds. When this happens, it is because businessmen who don’t understand how to turn around money are the ones handling the cooperative.
“So we are bringing in a team of experts who understand business, who can give us a 21st-century cooperative society, not the ones that will go and use cooperative’s money to build houses. If you want your money back, they will not refund because they have used the money to build houses and nobody is renting the houses,” he enthused.
Bamiro explained that the uniqueness of Cloud Cooperative was in the fact that its members could access it from anywhere across the world.
He added: “You can be in Canada and be a part of Cloud Cooperative or in the United States or anywhere in Nigeria. Also, you can have a virtual meeting with Cloud Cooperative from the comfort of your house. You will prefer Cloud Cooperative to other cooperative societies because it is run by individuals with business acumen.”
He disclosed that the Society has created several platforms through which it could favourably compete with the mainstream cooperative societies.
“Members can also have access to dividends at the end of the year when we are doing our Annual General Meeting (AGM). Right now, they buy their data, pay bills for cable TV and electricity on our mobile and web apps.”
He said potential members should not be scared of how their monies would be secured, stressing, “our board members are certified businessmen.”
Bamiro added: “I did a prelaunch of Cloud Co-operative in August this year and now we have over 100 people who have subscribed to be members of the Society and I tell you they are saving their money. They are proud of it. Some are still having doubts but many are actually contributing and ready to support this idea.
“To be a member of Cloud Cooperative, you have to save between N5,000 to N1,000,000 monthly. You have to pick a particular plan. We have several plans – gold, silver, platinum and diamond. So, a member must choose any of these plans.
“We also have loans for agriculture, personal loans, business and emergency loans. If you need some money to quickly do something and you cannot get access to your bank, you can get a loan from us if you are a member of Cloud Cooperative.”