Dr Verghese Kurien

To honor Dr Verghese Kurien, father of the White Revolution, 26th November is National Milk Day in India. He’s also the man behind Amul and here’s a short brief about it.

For those who didn’t know, Amul stands for Anand Milk Union Limited. Amul is headquartered at Anand, Gujarat, where it all began.

Amul is the biggest dairy cooperative in the World. In fact, it’s the biggest cooperative of any sort in the world.

India happens to be the largest producer and consumer of dairy products, majorly contributed by Amul, the World’s largest milk producer.

What makes it legendary is the fact that it’s managed to bring hundreds of thousands of individual dairy farmers under one label to provide great quality, clean and safe milk to the masses at affordable prices. This is not an easy task at all, think about procuring from thousands of dairy farmers, compensating them, processing with modern techniques like pasteurization, packaging, and having a cold supply chain so it reaches people and doing this consistently every day. All this and much more at an “affordable” price. Even today, Amul remains to be the affordable milk in its category compared to its competitors.

Just to add, the milk procured from each farmer varies in its fat percentage, creaminess, and a lot of other factors.

The story begins in the 1940s, during the pre-Independence era of India. Dairy farmers from villages in Gujarat were forced to sell their milk produce to the then market leader — a foreign company that mostly controlled the milk and butter supply chain throughout Gujarat.

Since the farmers had no choice, they were ill-treated and exploited.

(Dr.)Verghese Kurien, a Syrian Christian from the southern state of Kerala was sent on Government Scholarship to New York to study a different course but ended up picking Nuclear Physics and Metallurgy. Since he went on a government scholarship he had to get back and work in whatever department he was asked to.

He was sent to Gujarat to work in a creamery. What a turn of events! It is now that he realized that life here was very different. From studying in New York and being exposed to technology and knowledge, here he is amidst cows and dairy farmers.

To cut it short, Kurien developed empathy for the farmers and began to do something for them. This was the first step towards forming Amul.

Amul was and is not just a business model. It’s innovation along with a lot of research and development. Innovation to prove that butter can be produced from buffalo milk too(which was believed cannot happen), innovation to provide better cattle feed for the farmers for a better and quality milk, innovation with artificial insemination to name a few. And this was just the beginning.

Today, in 2020, Amul’s milk is still produced by millions of decentralized farmers and it’s still a co-op, even at this massive scale.

Here’s an interesting event that led to the spread of Amul’s presence across the Nation. Long story short, the then PM of India Lal Bahadur Shastry, spent a night in the village in Gujarat with Mr.Kurien, without revealing to Kurien that he’s the PM. Shastry later said it was a great experience with a lot of learning and pushed for Amul’s expansion.

The National Dairy Development Board was set up and Amul now had the Government’s support. This expanded Amul’s presence to various parts of the Nation.

As a brand, Amul is one of the iconic brands of the country. “Amulya” in Sanskrit means invaluable. Amul’s campaign is the longest, most successful, outdoor billboard campaign in the entire World, even after more than 50years.

The campaign represents the most happening event in the country in the subtlest yet quirkiest way possible. It changes every Monday and people take the route to drive by the billboard to look at it every week.

The branding was taken up by a small agency. They’re the same ones doing it today too. The agency was a husband-wife duo with a small team. Legend has it that the wife suggested Utterly Amul as the tag line to which the husband quickly replied “Utterly Butterly Amul”. People around rejected as “butterly” isn’t a word, but Kurien thought it’s insane and worth giving it a shot. That’s how Utterly Butterly … Amul, (you completed it, didn’t you?) came into existence.

Amul’s staying in the game because it’s stuck to its core principles. It still creates a win-win situation, win for farmer, win for the consumer and hence wins inevitably.

Amul has a great relationship with the farmers. The farmers have peace of mind. They don’t have to worry about the price — it’s predetermined, accurate, and most importantly reliable. The farmer’s money is secured, which is most important when every penny matters.

Consumers get the best, safest, consistent, and affordable dairy products. What better can a competition offer? It’s hard for consumers to switch.

This is a great story of innovation, problem-solving, impact, strategy, and branding. It’s got all the fundamentals pillars right and solid. A classic case study for the learners and most importantly a major part of the country’s Heritage.

What are you building?

Trying to do something good enough to make my Bio look impressive.