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Associations should not act like big boys clubs

Over 350-plus associations and NGOs from different verticals will share a single platform to come together and interact in the second edition of India Association Congress. The chief driver of this event is a man who has many firsts to his credit - Prasant Saha. Faiz Askari speaks to Saha, who is on the boards of many associations, cultural and sporting bodies.


What will be the main attraction for the event which you are going to organize in Mumbai?
It is our endeavor to make the platform a quality driven initiative and expect national and international dignitaries who are veterans in their own field. We are also trying to create an IAC owned association award ceremony to facilitate associations who have been doing fascinating work in India.
It is the only platform which discusses issues like  Competition law, RTI, coalition and advocacy, future of association, professional help for managing associations, the pros and cons of opening Indian chapters of overseas associations, membership retention techniques and that too without being industry specific.
How did you conceive the idea of bringing various associations under one roof?
I have had an opportunity to work with various associationsthrough my professional life . One of the major features that I could evaluate was, though all of them are working in various industries but still their goal, objective and issues are same.
This was the igniting force that led to the first India Association Congress last year in Hyderabad. And now with issues like lower GDP, privatization, etc the relevance for a platform to listen, evaluate and find solutions to various facts/issues of associations becomes even more imperative. 
Small businesses requires great amount of handholding and knowledge sharing with regards to various schemes and incentive programs. How can an association play a proactive role here?
Exactly. Before I answer this we need to understand what are associations and the main reason behind them. An association is an organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common.
Also, associations are groups of people who find strength in numbers while sharing common interests in industries, professions, charities, hobbies, or philanthropic action. At the end of the day, we all need a voice to understand us and convey our message to the higher bodies.
It won’t be wrong to say that an association plays the exact role a parent plays in a teenager's life - handholding, guiding and helping. All this while never forgetting that they are growing and have their own needs.
Similarly, advocacy is also very important for SMEs, in order to have better representation among government forums. What should be the ideal approach that an association must take?
Unfortunately, in India advocacy is not considered or given the respect which ideally it would get internationally. In India because of this perception, the importance of an association grows.
SMEs need government support, they need help and have issues which needs intervention. What will happen if they do not have associations to take their message to the next level? They will be lost and so the reason why an association is formed becomes self-explanatory. 
Unfortunately many associations have become big boys clubs where the basic structure and hierarchy has been dissolved. When the representatives lose touch with the members and start taking unilateral decisions, the balance which sustains an association is lost. This is the major issue which needs to be tacked to maintain an ideal relationship, which we will be discussing at IAC.
What are the key pain points of business associations themselves?
It is unfortunate that many associations are considered to be a big boys club or a cartel. Also, with the introduction of CCI (Competition Commission of India), which used to be MRTPC (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission), has led to them being under more scrutiny.
How many associations are likely to participate in this year’s Indian Association of Congress? And which industry segments are likely to participate actively?
We are targeting 300-plus associations along with NGOs. IAC does not target any specific vertical but it is an amalgamation of all verticals together. That sets us apart.