In 2006 the construction of "Pour Tous II" building situated next to the Solar Kitchen was finished, and a new experiment in the Auroville community life was started.
It is called Pour Tous Distribution Centre (PTDC), while the original Pour Tous, situated in Aspiration area, and also estetically renewed, continues to work on the same basis as before, and is called "Aspiration Pour Tous".
Here some details on the different aspects (and concepts) of the two experiments in collective food supply for the community.
Pour Tous Distribution Centre
The Pour Tous Distribution Centre is a fresh step towards creating the “prosperity” within Auroville which was envisaged by the Mother.
The Pour Tous Distribution Centre is “for all”. Each and every Aurovilian and Newcomer who wants to help create a new collective experiment is welcome to participate. It is a co-op (cooperative effort), where the community shares its resources.
These resources are under one umbrella (common account) and are used for the benefit of all who choose to be involved. We currently have 250 participants and the numbers keep growing.
Since the beginning, the Distribution Centre has been committed to providing the community with its “basic needs” including bread, rice, milk, and recently, cooking gas. Lunch can be included from a choice of several cafeterias. Prepared food is also provided.
Two key factors are different here: there are no prices on items and no bills given during check-out. The emphasis is on “getting what you need” and not on “how much can I spend”. During this time of experimentation, learning and adjustment, it is necessary to track the usage of all participants in order to better understand “basic needs” and to discover a balance between over and under-use.
Most of the items on the shelves are chosen by the participants and when several individuals request a particular item it becomes part of the regular stock.
Special order items are available upon request and for those with exceptional needs due to health, age, and current conditions.
The management and staff are Aurovilians or Newcomers with participants providing additional help by preparing foods, packaging items, stocking and cleaning, etc.
Currently adult participants are requested to make a contribution of Rs 2,100 a month and the amount for children is based on a sliding scale. This covers personal toiletries and household items estimated at Rs 300, and food at Rs 1,800.
We are often asked what is the difference between the Aspiration Pour Tous shop, and the Pour Tous Distribution Centre.
|Items display prices||Items do not display prices|
|Bill received||No bill received|
|Vegetable and fruit not self-service||Choose your own fruits and vegetables|
|Commercial emphasis||No commercial goals|
| Financial transaction per
| One time monthly
|Individual accounting|| Common account
| Profit / increased prices -
necessary to pay employees
|No profit/no increased prices - Aurovilian/Newcomer not “paid”|
|Greater variety of stock; orientation is to sell more to create profit||Less variety of stock; orientation is to provide needs with contribution pool|
* For every purchase/bill, money is deducted from the customer's PT account.
** One account is shared by all; however, individual tracking is currently necessary to understand patterns of usage.
The Distribution Centre is attempting to create a community resource, which provides “basic needs” in the form of food and sundry items and that allows individuals to share, regardless of their personal assets.
In Truth, the PTDC
When I read the comparison of the Pour Tous Distribution Center (PTDC) with the Aspiration Pour Tous (APT) in the above table, I feel that it doesn't do justice to the Aspiration Pour Tous.
After the new management under Francois had taken over operations in October 2005, it underwent such a metamorphosis that I rather like to call it the New Aspiration Pour Tous.
It has emerged like a Lotus flower from the muck. It seems time to me that we should pay tribute to the beauty of this transformation and let go of the stains it has accumulated in the past.
Phrases like “commercial emphasis”, “profit oriented” and “consumerism” carry negative connotations that the new shopping center does not deserve, because they distort the reality of what was actually accomplished there. With a multitude of measures, Francois and Sid pursued 2 main objectives:
“How is this possible?” you ask yourself? Then read on.
Among countless others, these steps were taken:
Overheads were brought down drastically by cutting corners in all thinkable ways.
New and different suppliers from all over the country were identified, to purchase at optimal prices, and to break with corrupted business practices.
Counteracting potential malpractices, double-checking all billing related activities, and rotating the personnel involved in those, were introduced.
Wages were actually raised to the level of the official minimum wages, while at the same time avoiding over-time work.
The product range was fully reviewed and redefined according the actual demand.
A new section for a variety of organic products was created.
Fully biodegradable plastic packaging was introduced without raising the prices, by streamlining the packaging process and cutting down the costs there.
Buying in bulk from wholesale suppliers and repacking it into smaller units was increased.
Reducing the wastage in the vegetable section from the earlier 15000 to the present 6 to 8000 Rs/month.
Most shelves have now been replaced to enhance functionality and the interior atmosphere.
Additional Services to the Community:
Free of charge basket delivery of about 350 baskets a month, worth 15000 Rs running costs.
Bulk sales at reduced rates to those who have use for it.
Short of some produce supplies, virtually everything in the PTDC is supplied by the APT.Twice a week the orders are put together on a short notice, and are being delivered. They presently encompass around 440 different products. Packaging the bulk items into smaller units and labeling them is done by APT.
The savings that are attained by the highly optimized shopping system of the APT are directly passed on to the DC. On top of that, a 4.5% discount is granted on what is a cost-price already. To make it more clear: without the professional support of the APT, the PTDC simply could not exist in its present form and with its current contribution rates.
The APT does not make any profit as such. Without ANY subsidy, it simply covers its own costs, which include the high maintenance of the old buildings, and the low maintenance of the Aurovilians at Rs 4000 at the most. But since most of these are recurring costs, a minimum of turnover has to be maintained to make ends meet. You can call this a commercial interest. I call it a financial necessity, if the community is not to be asked again to pay back large deficits.
In the end, it was possible to cut down the margins to 1/3 of what they used to be. Yet, the products sell now at a price that is always below the recommended maximum retail price.
To me it is a sheer delight to go there at anytime in the day between early morning to late afternoon, and cover MY basic needs, without having to place a special order. Together with the warm and friendly atmosphere among the people who work there, it touches me as an Auroville success story that is one of a kind. I put my hands together for a standing ovation to the New Aspiration Pour Tous.
Written by Ulrich
|Auroville Universal Townshipfirstname.lastname@example.org|