Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2010 (Revised June 2011)

SEWA Trade Facilitation Center: Changing the Spool

by Mukti Khaire and Kathleen L. McGinn

Abstract

The case is about the decision to convert a not-for-profit organization into a for-profit company. SEWA Trade Facilitation Center (STFC), which is part of a larger non-profit organization—the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA)—works to improve the livelihoods of very poor rural and urban women in India. It does so by translating traditional Indian embroidery skills into contemporary apparel and home furnishings that STFC then helps to market and sell around the world. Organized as a producers' cooperative, STFC is owned by its artisan members. STFC is thinking of changing to for-profit status because it would enable faster and more sustainable growth by providing access to outside funds and also allow the payment of dividends, which would further improve the women's livelihoods. The legal and financial implications of such a move aside, it is not clear that STFC would be able to withstand the changes such a transformation would entail. Most importantly, would an organization accustomed to taking decisions based solely on social benefit criteria be able to adjust to a for-profit mentality? And, would customers accept the change?

Keywords: Cooperative Ownership; For-Profit Firms; Gender Characteristics; Business Model; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Nonprofit Organizations; Arts; Entrepreneurship; Economic Growth; Growth and Development Strategy; Consumer Products Industry; India;

Citation:

Khaire, Mukti, and Kathleen L. McGinn. "SEWA Trade Facilitation Center: Changing the Spool." Harvard Business School Case 810-044, February 2010. (Revised June 2011.)