A cooperative is a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit.Cooperatives are defined by the International Co-operative Alliance's Statement on the Co-operative Identity as autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises.
According to V. L. Mehta defines co-operation as, "One aspect of a vast movement which promotes the voluntary association of individuals having common economic needs who combine towards the achievement of the common economic end they have in view and who bring into his combination a moral effort and a progressively developing realization is the achievement of economic ends. In fact co-operative movement was started to safeguard consumers from the exploitation of capitalism"
According to. Dr. H.N. Kunzen defines co-operative as "Co-operative is self-help as well as mutual help. It is a joint enterprise of those who are not financially strong and cannot stand on their legs and therefore come together not with a view to get profits but to overcome disability arising out of the want of adequate financial resources".
A cooperative may also be defined as a business owned and controlled equally by the people who use its services or by the people who work there. A co-operative is an organization formed by people coming together to meet their common needs. Locally owned and democratically controlled by the members who use its services, co-operatives are founded on a common idea - that people know what's best for them and can work together to achieve their goals. Based on co-operative principles, they empower individuals, and encourage healthier and stronger communities, by enabling them to pool their resources and share risks. Co-operatives and credit unions are active in every sector of the economy, including finance, insurance, agro-food and supply, wholesale and retail, housing, health, and the service sector. They can provide virtually every product or service, and can be either non-profit or for-profit enterprises. Unlike the private, public or voluntary sectors, all co-operative organizations around the world are guided by the same seven principles:
1. Voluntary and open membership
2. Democratic member control
3. Member economic participation
4. Autonomy and independence
5. Education and training
6. Co-operative among co-operatives7. Concern for community focus of study in the field of cooperative economics.