The Mahakalasam Federation, as it is known today, began in a modest way with the organising of a small women’s group in Pulvakkarai village (Narikudi Block, Virudhunagar District), in 1992-3. The Kalasam (as these groups decided to call themselves) was formed for the purpose of collective savings, to be forwarded as credit to the members of the group, in times of need. Through word-of-mouth and the social circle of friends and acquaintances, the Kalasam groups expanded steadily. By 1993-94, there were over 68 Kalasams in 36 hamlets as community based organizations (CBO).

After 2 years of expansion and consolidation, the first Mahakalasam Federation from Pulvakkarai near Madurai, consisting of 68 Kalasam groups, was registered as a Trust in 1996. The second was registered in 1999 from the coastal Suranam area. Natham Mahakalasam Federation from the hilly Natham region was registered in 2000. The Madura iMahakalasam Federation was registered by 2006. Mahakalasam is organised in a three-tier structure with individuals and groups at each layer having defined roles, responsibilities and activities:

- The Kalasam group (inner-most circle, consisting of individual members)
- The Cluster level consultative committee (middle circle, consisting of groups of kalasams)
- The Mahakalasam Federation (outer-most circle, or the larger body)


The groups and clusters are organised on the basis of their involvement with CCD’s long term programmes, i.e.,

1) marketing agents of GMCL products,
2) women working in the area of Medicinal plants (MP) conservation and enterprise,
3) procuring, processing and marketing of traditional crop produces,
4) rural energy products & services and
5) education & health. Beyond micro-credit, the Kalasam members have identified 5 categories of enterprise support that they can offer in the village:
 
1) Individual centered micro enterprise - access to credit and loan
2) Family based hereditary activities - technological intervention
3) Group IGP - Income Generation Programme - support in terms of raw material, market, and other resources
4) Regional resource-based enterprise (the lean seasonal activity) - wherein raw materials and skills are available; finance, technology and infrastructure support is provided
5) Medicinal Plants (MP) – Medicinal plants based activity like collection, supply as well as semi-processed MP products, promoted as Community Enterprise activities