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Incredible Dairy India — More than Milk

As we begin the celebrations commemorating Dr Verghese Kurien’s Birth Centenary Year, let us pause for a moment to look at the significant achievements, the challenges and opportunities ahead in our dairy sector and what Dr Kurien might advise us to do.
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Amrit Manthan in Sea of Milk

From a two-village, 247-litre-milk-a-day cooperative, Dr Verghese Kurien, a host of visionaries and a mass of hardworking farmers transformed Amul into a global leader in dairy, propelling India to the top rankings along the way. But the Indian dairy industry—production, supply chain and policy et al—needs a booster dose again.
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How Dreams Turn Reality

It was this energy that was unleashed when Dr Verghese Kurien along with Shri Tribhuvandas Patel, embarked upon the journey of organising scores of small farmers who had been marginalised in the social and economic realm. The inspiring leadership of Patel and professional commitment of Dr Kurien was first manifested when the small Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union, often known as Amul Dairy which had begun its journey with just two village dairy cooperative societies and 247 litres of milk in 1946 was entrusted to Dr Kurien in 1950. Miraculously, this small unknown entity started growing from strength to strength; a growth which has been consistently on the rise over the past seven decades. This 247-litre milk dairy is now a globally respected brand, owned not by any corporate bigwigs or a conglomerate of landlords but by millions of farmers who individually would be too small to matter even in their own societies but their collective cooperative strength invites grudging respect from the biggest of global dairy giants.
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Maintaining the Amul Model in a Fast Changing Global Food System

Amul Dairy has been the most creative farmer cooperative leadership model in the global food system. It has taken a leadership role in not only changing the vertical dairy chain in India but throughout both the developing and developed world.
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Working in NDDB with Dr Kurien was a Blessing

Before India liberalised its economy and before IT professionals made India matter in the world, the most successful story of the country was its achievement in the dairy sector. From huge dependence on imports of milk powder, India became self-sufficient in milk and even started exporting significant amounts of milk powder and other milk products. Our milk production increased from 20 million tonnes in the ‘seventies to 80 million tonnes in the ‘nineties and 140 million tonnes now.
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An Improbable Dream Verghese Kurien was a transformational leader

In March of 1957, a thirty five year old dairy cooperative manager sat at his desk and put a Dream to paper. He had arrived in the dusty little Gujarat town of Anand a few years earlier, “condemned” to serve in a government-owned creamery that, as he later said, probably caused more British Army casualties in Mesopotamia than had the enemy.
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Converting Liability into Strength, Mike was an indefatigable leader

From this beginning in 1967, Mike became my mentor and friend. By the mid-1990s, on his yearly visits to Anand, he taught me how to write, how to think for small farmers and how we could empower them.
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The Architect and the Engineer

One afternoon in 1977, soon after getting my doctorate in business from the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA), I chanced to visit the NDDB campus at Anand. A friend from IIMA had suggested me to meet the NDDB Secretary to explore a possible job. The Secretary, a dairyman, gave me an audience but was about to dismiss me when he decided to pass me on to Dr Michael Halse, an FAO advisor, who had an IIMA connection.
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The Matchless Duo Who Nurtured Talent

In 1967, at the Ford Foundation Guest House in New Delhi I first met Dr Michael Halse. I was working on a consulting project for Prof V K Gupta of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) as a Research Assistant on a contract basis. Mike came into the room, looked at me, smiled and said “Hello”. He was the first foreigner, a white man, who just looked at me and said “Hello”. I stood up from my chair and said “Hello” in return.
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