From modest beginnings in the 1800’s to provide loans to traders and merchants to tide over financial problems,chits funds or kuri companies have grown by leaps and bounds in Kerala,with an estimated annual turnover of Rs 70,000 crore,covering a gamut of activities.
Numbering 5000 in Kerala,with Thrissur district accounting for the maximum of 3,000,these companies provide employment to about 35000 persons directly and an equal number indirectly.
M K Antony,general secretary of the All Kerala kuri foremen’s association told PTI that chit fund companies have prospered,despite difficulties in running them due to enactment of ‘unhealthy legislations’ over the years.
The banking industry in the state has also acknowledged the contribution of chit funds to the development of Kerala.
The concept of Chit funds came into being in the 1800’s when Raja Rama Varma,ruler of erstwhile Cochin state gave a loan to a Syrian Christian trader,keeping a certain portion of it to himself for administrative and other expenses.
Later,to manage the increasing numbers of those seeking loans,he ordered a cast of lots and gave the accumulated amount to those who drew the lot on the principle of equity,association president A P George said.
Gradually the practice spread to other parts of the country and even abroad,including Myanmar and Sri Lanka,he said.
But real streamlining of operations was somewhere between 1830 and 1835,when the Chaldean Syrian church started Kuries under its name and issued passbooks to subscribers as evidence of enrolment,he said.