truly the flavour of India
When I was in college, I happened to read this book called the Amul India Story, by Ruth Seredia. To put it mildly, the tale the book unfolded was magnificent. Now 4 years later, I am putting up a gist of what i read – and it still awes me! I really think this should be a part of our history text books when we study swadeshi. Read on – youll never think its “just” milk again! :)
For 30 odd years, the Utterly Butterly girl has captivated us. We have eagerly looked out for the Amul hoarding on our way to school, work or home to see what her tongue-in-cheek humour has decided to highlight. So much so that now the ads are ready to enter the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest advertising campaign ever. A simple measure of her fan following - a British company launched a butter calling it Utterly Butterly.
“Amul” is a sanskrit word meaning “priceless”. Formed in 1946, Amul initiated the dairy cooperative movement when it inspired the formation of an apex cooperative organisation, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF). It is owned jointly by around 2.1 million milk producers in Gujarat. Its products are milk powders, milk, ghee, butter, cheese, chocolate, ice cream and pizza.
One of Amul's earliest orders was to provide butter for the railways. this was quite early : pre-independence. the contract was until then awarded to a british company, but after Amul stepped in and built up a reputation for timely deliveries and delicious butter, the british government appointed Amul to produce butter for them. since then Amul has grown to bill an annual turnover of around US$ 500 million every year.
Amul has come to be the symbol of the aspirations of millions of farmers, creating a pattern of liberation and self-reliance for every farmer to follow.
Dr. Verghese Kurien – Founder:
Amul is different from all the other industrial greats, in the sense that the founder - Dr. Kurien is a social entrepreneur. Dr. Kurien happened to enter the dairy sector by sheer chance! As a bright young man, studying at Guindy Engineering College, he enthusiastically joined the University Training Corps. His mother disliked the idea greatly and forbade him to leave for war. During this period, Kurien was finishing his engineering degree, the last six months of which had been cut short.
Both, the Indian Army and TISCO, were eagerly searching for young engineers to recruit. Kurien’s uncle (Dr. John Matthai) was then the Director of the Tata Industries, and responsible for TISCO. Assured of a job by his uncle, Kurien’s mother made him join the Tata company in 1944. Kurien was miserable there, as he felt singled out and self-conscious. He was so desperate to leave that as soon as he heard of the scholarship sponsored by the government, he applied for it. 500 youths would be selected and sent to US or the UK to study. The selection panel did not heed Kurien when he insisted that he wanted to do metallurgy: he was assigned dairy engineering! (GoI never made a wiser blunder!)
After a few more years, when he found himself in Kaira, he was approached by Tribhuvandas Patel for help with the malfunctioning plant of the local cooperative dairy. Being very bored with his assigned job, and with nothing else to do, he soon started going to the dairy every evening to tinker with the machinery and set things right.
Though the idea was Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s, and Tribhuvandas Patel had tried to gather the villagers to implement it, it was Dr. Verghese Kurien who built Amul from a small movement in Gujarat into a fantastic paradigm of development. For this he was awarded the Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, World Food Prize, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Development, Carnegie Wateler World Peace Prize, etc.
Growth of Amul -
Impressive though its growth, the unique feature of the Amul saga does not lie in the extensive use of modern technology, nor the range of its products, or even the rapid inroads it made into the market for dairy products. The essence of the Amul story lies in the breakthrough it achieved in modernising the subsistence economy of a sector by organising the rural producers in the area.
Amul began with two village cooperatives (today it involves more than a thousand). Any farmer had to depend basically on his seasonal crops, as the income from milch buffaloes was undependable. The milk distribution and marketing system was controlled by private traders and middlemen. Milk being a perishable commodity, the farmers had to accept whatever price they were given, or let the milk spoil.
Realising that the oppression would continue as long as there were middlemen, the farmers rose in protest and decided to market and sell their milk themselves. This led to the formation of the Kaira District Coooperative Milk Producers’ Union (which grew over the years and is now popularly called Amul). It was formally registered on December 14th, 1946.
The Union started pasteurising milk for a government milk scheme in June 1948. The assurance of a market proved to be a great incentive and by the end of the year, 400 more farmers joined in the village societies. The daily quantum of milk handled rose from 250 l a day to 5000 l a day.
Integration and replanning led the cooperatives into animal husbandry and veterinary practices. By now, the production was so high that the farmers did not have adequate markets! In 1953, they had a brilliant solution: processing milk into milk products like cheese, butter, etc. A Rs.5 million plant was set up to do this. It was then but a small step to start making condensed sweetened milk. By then the Kaira Union had definitely marked its presence.
The government first gave them a defence contract and then later asked for an additional plant to be set up in 1963. Soon Amul had the facilities and resources to both encourage and support its members. They set up a 24-hour help service, provided bimonthly cattle inspections, introduced advanced techniques in animal husbandry, etc.
More than 900 village cooperatives have created jobs for more than 5000 people, and managed to do so without disturbing the socio-agro system. Also, such employment dramatically reduced the rate of migration to cities.
This model also promotes women's entrepreneurship and empowers women to support themselves and their families, enabling them to have a major say in the home economy. Perpetuating the voluntary mix of the various ethnic and social groups helped overcome social and communal problems and prejudices, thereby building up social stability.
Independent studies showed over the years that Amul and the movement accounted for 48% of the rural household income, thus not only helping people to liberate themselves from poverty but also elevating their standard of living.
Today Amul stands for many things: for high quality products sold at reasonable prices, for the genesis of a vast cooperative network, for the triumph of indigenous technology, for the marketing savvy of a farmers’ organisation…. and for a proven model for dairy development which is now followed around the globe.