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Co-operator Newsletter: March 2019 issue

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The Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) hosted its annual New Year Reception for its affiliates on the evening of 27 February 2019 at the The TreeTop room, *Scape.

Themed “Together: Celebrating as One”, the programme started with quizzes and games, and some even went to visit SNCF Bicentennial Pop-art Event which featured the service co-operatives outside the Mandarin Gallery.

Sncf Nyr ChairmanSNCF Chairman Kwek Kok Kwong welcomed the affiliates with a short opening speech before dinner commenced, highlighting the initiatives rolled out by SNCF in 2018 such as streamlining the grant processes, marketing the affiliates to youth etc. Major upcoming events include the third and final instalment of Bicentennial Pop-art events in July/August and September/October respectively.

Not only did more than 110 guests, who were mostly the key officials from the co-operatives got a taste of what is to come for 2019, they also got to know other co-operatives better through this networking opportunity.


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Other articles from Co-operator Newsletter, March 2019 Issue:

Co-operator Newsletter: March 2019 issue

“As businesses driven by values not just profit, co-operatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through co-operation.”

This remark by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) succinctly encapsulates the spirit of collaboration that characterised co-operatives.

It is this very spirit of collaboration that propelled The Methodist Co-operative Society Ltd to leverage and work with other co-operatives to promote mutual help within the co-operative family and produce a win-win outcome.

Mou Silver Horizon Methodist CoopIn December last year, Methodist Co-operative signed a Memorandum of Understanding with  Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative Ltd (SHTCL) to open up new growth possibilities. Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative, a co-operative formed by seniors for fellow seniors, promotes active living and learning through customised travel programs for seniors and to use travel as a platform to build friendship and bonding before, during and after the tour. Their activities are intended to make life more active and meaningful for seniors. The services provided by Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative fit well with the members of Methodist Co-operative as more than 80% of its members are 50 years old or more. By collaborating, Methodist Co-operative’s members get to enjoy same preferential rates as Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative’s members, while Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative gains access to networks and the benefit of having scale which can help lower travel packages’ cost.

Apart from Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative, Methodist Co-operative also collaborated with other co-operatives, i.e. Seacare Co-operative Ltd, Singapore Professionals’ and Executives’ Co-operative (SPEC) and Choice Décor Co-operative Society Ltd. Seacare Co-operative offers Methodist Co-operative’s members discounted local and international hotel stays and medical services while SPEC, reskill courses and Choice Décor Co-operative, affordable renovation services.

Methodist Co-operative is also exploring collaboration with other third parties to enlarge its membership benefit privileges. These include referral programmes covering insurance, real estate, online medical assistance and portable power banks for its members. The co-operative will continue its strive to serve the needs of its members and the local community.

Indeed, they have shown that when we do together, we can then be greater together.

 Other articles from Co-operator Newsletter, March 2019 Issue:

Co-operator Newsletter: March 2019 issue

rochdale pioneers members 1844Thirteen of the 28 original members of the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers (1844)


A group of ordinary folks, compelled by their idealism that co-operation is the way to better social order, exerted an influence so deep that up to today, 175 years later, their impact is still felt today.

So, who were the Rochdale Pioneers?


Rochdale was a market town outside Manchester, England, famous for its flannels. For centuries, the people in Rochdale had depended on the textile industry for a living, spinning and weaving wool and cotton. With mechanisation taking over many of the tasks of traditional weavers and spinners, the people of Rochdale fell into poverty.

Original Rochdale Coop Store Toad Lane
The original Rochdale Co-operative Store at Toad Lane.

The weavers and tradesmen decided to start a co-operative store to help the town people but it lasted only two years before it collapsed having given too much credit. The failed attempt, however, did not deter a group of workers who were largely made up of flannel weavers; and included a clogger, a tailor and a cabinet maker. They were motivated by the desire to collectively reduce the cost of living by opening a store that would buy in bulk, by-pass the middleman, and sell basic necessities cheaply to its members.

These 28 founding members, popularly known as the Rochdale Pioneers, set up the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers in 1844. They raised £28 and rented the ground floor of an old warehouse at 31 Toad Lane for three years at £10 a year.  The first co-operative store was opened on 21 December that year. Initially, there were only four items for sale: flour, oatmeal, sugar and butter. Membership grew steadily such that by 1880, the original 28 pioneers had been multipied 379 times and capital reached well over £300,000.

Between 1844 and 1854, the rules of practice were distilled into the following seven principles, known now as the Rochdale Principles which might be summarised as follows:

  1. Open membership
  2. Democratic control (one man, one vote)
  3. Distribution of surplus in proportion to trade
  4. Payment of limited interest on capital
  5. Political and religious neutrality
  6. Cash trading
  7. Promotion of education

The co-operative became a prototype for societies in Great Britain; and its set of principles became the foundation on which co-ops around the world stand on to this day.

Source: The Singapore Co-operative Story: 1925 – 2015 published by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation, 2015

 Other articles from Co-operator Newsletter, March 2019 Issue:

Co-operator Newsletter: March 2019 issue

From Selling Fire Extinguishers to Building a $15 Million Safety and Security Business


“There is a bunch of people here who are passionate about this cause. We would go all the way to pursue it. If at first we don’t succeed, we try again - a different approach, another way, anything it takes to make it happen.” - Jackson Lim, one of the founding members of COSEM.

Cosem Anthony Jackson Tony
From left: Anthony Pek, Jackson Lim and Tony Lim

The Co-Operative of SCDF Employees (COSEM) was established in 2005. It was the culmination of the efforts of Jackson and his co-labourers, who since 2001, had sought for a solution to a pressing issue - finding jobs for those retired from the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The retirement age for uniformed staff then was 60 and 55 years for senior and junior officers respectively, and in a subsequent policy revision, it was reduced further to 55 and 50.

“Many of the retirees want to continue working and are fit to do so. They have the skills and experience gained in the course of employment which can be channelled to the safety and security industry. The question is how to provide an avenue to re-employ them,” said Jackson, former SCDF Deputy Commissioner.

That question set in motion the quest to find a solution. The journey turned out to be a challenging one, and at times, meandering.

“SCDF, a government agency, is not allowed to own a company. Someone pointed us to try the co-operative route instead,” Jackson said. This was a humbling experience for the team, as they had to start from virtually zero knowledge about setting up a co-operative. They read up, and checked things out with those who had taken the route. They navigated the paperwork trail; one part of it was still fresh in Jackson’s mind: “We were asked to put forth a business plan. That baffled us for a while. We only knew that we wanted to provide jobs to our retired staff, but a business plan, we hadn’t a clue. In the end, we said we would sell fire extinguishers!”

Special efforts were made to reach out to staff, seeking their support to join the Co-operative. A very high rate of positive responses was received, which helped raise $300,000 in a seed funding collectively. Then came the test of perseverance. Just when they thought a solution was in hand, a realisation set in. The formation of the co-operative was only half the battle won.

“We aren’t quite done yet, we realised. How are we going to create the jobs to absorb the staff? So began another cycle of enquiring, researching and navigating the application rigmarole. Our expertise in areas like civil defence, fire safety and rescue could be marketed to international clients, which in turn could create jobs for our people. Hence, COSEM-owned company, COSEM Safety and Security Services Pte Ltd was formed in 2006,” Jackson added.

Cosem Firemen GlovesThe Co-operative has since evolved to adapt to the needs of members. In addition to retirees from SCDF, COSEM also employs former full time National Servicemen (NSF) firefighters. In response to new opportunities and challenges to strengthen itself, COSEM’s core business includes Consultancy for Civil Defence Systems and Fire Safety; Training Services; and Consultancy & Supply of Safety & Security Products. While the expanded clientele is instrumental in diversifying its revenue base, its intent remains unchanged, i.e. to keep personnel with expertise and to contribute to the safety of Singapore.

“We are the exclusive service provider to National Environment Agency in terrain decontamination, which involves cleaning up areas that have been affected by hazardous materials. We also serve Changi Airport and the oil and gas industry - our firefighters are on standby for activation as needed,” said Anthony Pek, General Manager of COSEM Safety and Security Services.

“In recent years, we receive an increasing number of invitations from foreign government agencies to provide consultancy services in the setting up of safety SOPs. We also help SCDF to promote the courses they conduct, to enrol the participants and arrange the accommodation for foreign delegates. The SCDF’s search and rescue capability is recognised by the United Nations, which helps explain the popularity of this programme amongst governments in Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” Anthony, a former staff of SCDF, continued.

cosem fire extinguisher workshop 2

Judging by its strength and stature, COSEM has come a long way since its days of selling fire extinguishers out of a small rented facility in the Central Fire Station. COSEM Group registers an annual revenue of about $15 million and employs about 280 staff.

The story of COSEM continues to be written as they join forces to take advantage of new opportunities on the horizon. As we pause to look back at the path it had trekked, this question needs to be asked: in extending the Co-operative to include a business outfit, and bringing in industry professionals who may not be members of the Co-operative to run it, will the co-operative ethos be diluted? Jackson, who is now the Deputy CEO of Aetos, a security service provider, and Anthony provided some food for thought:

  1. Be conscious of the Co-operative’s objective to serve members and be financially viable - this is the first order goal.
  2. Be professional, tapping into the Co-operative’s business acumen to maximise returns - this is the second order goal.
  3. Monitor the first order goal. SCDF maintains oversight of the Co-operative and requires the Co-operative to meet certain hiring target. The percentage of ex-SCDF uniformed staff employed should constitute at least 75 per cent of the total staff.

As of the last update, COSEM has achieved 78 per cent, a sign that the Co-operative’s mission is alive as it tastes the fruits of business success. 


Learning Tips

  • Committed and motivated employees can create a winning co-operative/organisation
  • Passion and belief bring success
  • Stay true to your social mission


 Other articles from Co-operator Newsletter, March 2019 Issue:

Co-operator Newsletter: March 2019 issue

touching lives tcc education loanPhoto credit: @mindandi

To every parent, our children’s academic success is our biggest pride. We all know that a good education will help elevate our children’s social and economic status as it is inextricably tied to employability. However, education is a hefty investment, and not every parent can afford to fund their children’s tertiary education. Our children may have to work for a few years in order save up to further their education or they can fast track their route by taking an education loan. 

When come to loans, for most people, the first place that we would think of will be the commercial banks. But for not for Mrs Joan*. She approached TCC Credit Co-operative for a helping hand when it comes to her daughter’s tertiary education.

“TCC Credit Co-operative’s staff are very friendly and I am so comfortable chatting with them. The interest rate by TCC Credit Co-operative is affordable too compared to others,” said Mrs Joan. “With this loan, my daughter is able to pursue her study and achieve her dream.”  

Mrs Joan was full of praises for TCC Credit Co-operative. She said: “No words can describe my joy when I received a call to inform me that my application was approved. TCC Credit Co-operative was efficient. The application process was straightforward and the processing time for approval of application was not long too.” She ended with a word of encouragement for the staff: “Keep up your determination, helpfulness, friendliness & joyfulness! Once again, 'THANK YOU' TCC Credit Co-operative.”

TCC Credit Co operative Ltd logo

TCC Credit Co-operative

TCC is a family-oriented Credit Co-operative. A not-for-profit financial institution, TCC Credit Co-operative provides members with a safe repository for savings and access to credit at affordable interest rates. It cares for the well-being of its members and their families. It is the only credit co-operative that members of the public can join. TCC Credit Co-operative offers loans at competitive interest rates such as education loan, marriage loan etc that would help you through the different stages of your life. Visit their website at or call +65 6319 3700 now!


*Not her real name

 Other articles from Co-operator Newsletter, March 2019 Issue:

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Singapore National Co-operative Federation
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SLF Building, Singapore 298135
Email: [email protected]
Tel (65) 6602 0747, Fax (65) 6259 9577

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