- GS-3: Indian Economy & its challenges
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Learning from Dairy Revolution
Context: November 26, 2021 was Verghese Kurien’s 100th birth anniversary. Kurien’s deep understanding of Indian farming and the trust he earned from the farming community could have helped to find a possible solution to the current crisis over farm laws.
Initial Scepticism over V. Kurien
- There was a time when Kurien seemed to be an improbable architect of a rural revolution that would eventually transform the lives of millions of farmers in Gujarat.
- There were many who saw him as an outsider to that world.
- He hailed from distant Kerala, belonged to an upper middle-class Christian family, and was educated in a western university in a subject like metallurgy which is far removed from agriculture.
Key Role Played by V. Kurien – Started White Revolution
- Despite the initial scepticism, Kurien quietly and with self-confidence, Kurien won the farmers over with his professional integrity and his vision of a central role for farmers in India’s journey of development.
- It is on that foundation that Kurien went on to design his idea of Amul as a co-operative, turned it over the years into a global brand, and later launched the White Revolution that would make India the largest milk producing nation in the world.
- Central to Kurien’s vision was the co-operative model of business development.
- He decided that Amul would grow and establish its identity neither as a public sector undertaking nor as a private corporate entity.
Why did he choose Cooperative model for dairy sector?
- The co-operative model, he felt, was in the best interests of Gujarat’s milk producers.
- He had reservations about the social objectives of the private sector. Much of the corporate sector, he felt, was led more by a profit motive than by public good
- Kurien had a deep distrust over Public Sector model and Indian bureaucracy. He saw it as a leftover of the colonial mindset and the product of a western lifestyle.
- Kurien’s fascination for the co-operative model was also influenced by Gandhian thinking on poverty alleviation and social transformation.
- He viewed co-operatives as the closest embodiment of Mahatma Gandhi’s powerful insight that “what the world needs is not mass production, but production by the masses”.
Did he completely reject Corporate model?
- Notwithstanding his reservations, he did borrow from the ideas and the practices of the corporate world.
- In areas such as innovations in marketing and management, branding and technology, the private sector excels and sets benchmarks for businesses across the world to follow and adopt.
- At the same time, Amul was steadily emerging as a laboratory (priority to innovation), developing significant innovations and evolving technologies of its own, and these have strengthened its competitive power against multinational corporations.
- Its biggest success came when under the leadership of H.M. Dalaya, a distinguished dairy engineer, Amul achieved a breakthrough in converting buffalo milk into skim milk powder and condensed milk. It was one single innovation that gave Amul a distinct competitive advantage and profoundly changed the lives of milk producers in Gujarat and beyond.
Two questions are central to evaluating Verghese Kurien’s legacy and his contributions to India’s growth story.
One, how has Amul performed in the years after its iconic founder left the world in 2012?
- Amul has grown steadily on the strong foundation laid by its visionary leader, diversifying its product range and adding new ones.
- Amul continues to remain one of India’s best-known food brands.
- It is an inspiration to other dairy cooperatives such as Nandini in Karnataka, Aavin in Tamil Nadu and Verka in Punjab.
Second, how far has the cooperative movement in general met its professed objective of an economic transformation at the grass-roots level.
- Sadly, Amul’s success has not been the catalyst for similar movements across other agricultural commodities in India. For millions of farmers, life is still a struggle for survival.
- India’s digital revolution has bypassed the agriculture sector. India talks about smart cities, not smart villages, nor even liveable villages.
- The cooperative movement in India has suffered due to lack of professional management, adequate finance and poor adoption of technology.
This is truly a moment to reflect on Verghese Kurien’s remarkable legacy and the unfinished task he has left behind.
Connecting the dots:
- Ministry of Cooperation
- Green Revolution 2.0