Today is the birth anniversary of the man who ushered in the ‘white revolution’ in India and lifted millions out of poverty.Google has a doodle celebrating Verghese Kurien’s birthday on India home page. Kurien went on to lead the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd whose Amul is one of India’s iconic brands.
The Amul moppet takes a witty take on current events on hoardings and newspaper ads across the country. There have been over 4000 Amul Butter hoardings till date and a lot of amazing facts associated with them.Here are 15 extremely interesting facts about the moppets.
1. Amul butter had been selling in the market for 10 years before the Amul moppet was conceived.
2. The ‘Utterly-Butterly’ tagline was suggested by author Nisha daCunha, who is also the wife of Sylvester daCunha, the man behind the Amul butter advertising and chairman of daCunha Communications that has been handling the Amul Butter for 49 years.
3. The Amul girl was born in 1966. She still isn’t 50, but Amul celebrated her golden jubilee a couple of years ago.
4. The moppet was created by Eustace Fernandes, who was then the art director at daCunha Communications. Fernandes passed away in March 2010.
5. The first of the ads featuring the girl in the polka-dotted frock and a matching ribbon were put up on a few lamposts in Mumbai.
6. The first ever hoarding featuring the Amul girl had her saying a bedtime prayer (see the ad below). Interestingly, in her first major appearance, the Amul girl wasn’t in her trademark polka-dotted frock.
7. The Amul Management (including Dr Verghese Kurien) did not interfere in the making of the ads and daCunha Communications did not even need to get their approval before putting up the ads.
8. While Amul ads are not known to trigger a controversy, but there have been a few ads that created quite a furor. The most controversial Amul butter ad of all time was perhaps the one after incidents of UK authorities conducting virginity tests on Indian women arriving at London airport. The text said, “Indian virgin needs no urgin’!” Following protests, Amul came up with another billboard apologizing for the ad.
9. Indian TV’s funny man Cyrus Broacha worked as a trainee copywriter with daCunha and of the many Amul hoardings that he helped conceive was the famous “Lara, kya mara!” following Brian Lara smashing Garry Sobers’ record for the highest score in Test cricket.
10. Jagmahon Dalmiya had tried to sue Amul for Rs 500 crores for a hoarding that said “Dalmiya mein kuch kala hai? Amul Maska khao, paisa nahin’ but had other thoughts when the courts required him to deposit 10 per cent of the amount.
11. The Ramalinga Raju (Satyam, Sharam, Scandalam) ad following the Satyam scam drew the ire of the Satyam board and they sent a letter demanding an apology else Satyam employees would quit consuming Amul products in protest.
12. In April 1995, the Election Commission got an Amul Butter hoarding painted black. The ad showed Congressman in a tug-of-war with the hand symbol and the Commission interpreted it as a political advertisement.
13. Pia Benegal, director Shyam Benegal’s daughter had as a kindergarten student lent her voice for the ‘Utterly Butterly Delicious’ ad jingle.
14. The present Amul Butter cartoons are drawn by Jayant Rane.
15. A number of Amul ads have been based on other much-discussed ads.
Bonus: A mosaic of the Amul moppet made up of 1,432 individual Amul ads
Verghese Kurien came to Gujrat, a Christian man, unknown to the local language, was unable to find any place to stay
After quitting the Government job, he started to work with Tribhuvandas Patel and his cooperative set up
Today, he is known as the Milkman of India and the father of White Revolution
Verghese Kurien, popularly known as the ‘Milkman of India’, is the father of White Revolution. The man who made a milk-deficient country self-sufficient in terms of production, and made dairy farming India’s largest self-sustaining industry. Currently, the dairy industry is the largest rural employment provider and counts a third of rural income.
He was born in a Syrian Christian family from Madras Presidency in British India. In 1949, Kurien worked at Anand in the Bombay province. He did not like his work and planned to quit the Government job. Meanwhile, he got in contact with Tribhuvandas Patel, who had formed a cooperative society and brought together farmers. Even though Patel possessed only primitive dairy equipment, he still enjoyed a deep trust of farmers.
After Verghese Kurien left Anand, Patel convinced Kurien to stay back and help him set a dairy. It was the efforts made by Tribhuvandas that inspired Kurien and he dedicated himself to establishing a dairy cooperative, ‘Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited (KDCMPUL), which later came to be known as Amul Dairy.
‘How’ and ‘Why’ of the Success Story
It was a time when farmers faced a problem of ‘fluctuating milk production’. The surplus milk would be wasted in huge amounts during the flush season. When farmers turned to the cooperative for help, Verghese Kurien got an idea of converting this surplus to milk powder. Most of it was buffalo milk, and it was considered impossible by dairy experts around the world that buffalo milk could be converted to skim milk powder or condensed milk. However, H.M Dalaya (Kurien’s batchmate) invented a process which made it possible.
The fact that Kurien could use buffalo milk (which is abundant in India, unlike cow milk) cleverly, made it possible for Amul to compete against Nestle.
Amul later took on other competitors like Aarey dairy and Polson dairy. It also started making cheese from buffalo milk. Later, Kurien also had the products packaged in tin units. Amul gained a market share in Bombay with these products, along with the famous ‘utterly butterly delicious’ Amul butter.
This was the ‘how’ of it, now comes the ‘why’.
India had just gained independence from the British. The political establishment had overseen extortion of taxes from farmers in the times of famine and crop failure. Most of the leaders were concerned over food security. They sought self-sufficiency to substitute imports. Also, there was a huge influence of socialist ideas in the country at that time. Leaders were more keen on the formation of social capital than capital assets.
Amul was cooperative which followed the Gandhian philosophy of ‘production by the masses’ and not ‘mass production’. Hence, Verghese Kurien enjoyed the backing of political leaders and bureaucrats who saw merit in this cooperative model of farmers who were ready to be led by professionals even though they were the owners.
Also, the cooperative which only consisted of Tribhuvandas Patel’s case was now being flooded by farmers from other castes too. Amul was breaking caste-barriers, raising incomes, and helping the farmers get riddance from debt dependence.
All in all, favourable social and political conditions heavily aided the onset of Amul.
The Extent of ‘Good Relations’ with the Government
1. When Verghese Kurien visited Nestle in 1956,on the request of Commerce and Industries Minister, asking them to induct more Indians and bring down imported inputs in the Indian production, he was told “making condensed milk could not be left to the natives.” What followed after he came back to India was Amul ramping up production of condensed milk. After two years, the government banned the import of condensed milk.
2. Kurien had really good relations with the Finance Minister of that time, whenever he wanted the imports to be cut, it was done. The only condition being, there should be no shortage of butter in the market. Verghese Kurien always kept his promises.
NDDB and Nationwide Work
During a visit to one of Kurien’s dairy, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was so impressed by how the dairy worked, that he asked Kurien to replicate the ‘Anand pattern’ nationwide. For this purpose, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was founded, under the conditions that it would be independent of the government and the set up would be at Anand. Kurien wanted the established to be away from the political class and close to farmers.
Verghese Kurien replicated the Anand dairy in Gujarat under Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF) in 1973 to sell their combined produce under a single Amul brand. Other states set up federation on the same pattern, Rajasthan’s Saras, Karnataka’s Nandini and Bihar’s Sudha are prime examples. These brands are dominating their respective state markets today.
Kurien understood the ‘convert aid into trade’ policy of various foreign governments and countered it by his policy of ‘converting aid to become self-made’. He used all the dumped aid in the Indian markets as his ‘billion-litre idea’. He set milk sheds and dairies to reverse the movement of high-yield native cattle (who would otherwise face unnecessary slaughter) to stabilize the markets of big cities.
International experts used to stay back at Anand to work alongside Verghese Kurien. In exchange, he used to engage them for their expertise on salaries cut from the aid money.
Padma Shri in 1965
Padma Bhushan in 1966
Krishi Ratna in 1986
World Food Price in 1989
Padma Vibhushan in 1999
Verghese Kurien made India the world’s largest milk-producing country in 30 years of his work. He worked with 9 Prime Ministers in his 5 decades of work. He never left Anand during his lifetime, saying it was his real home. He died on 9th September 2012, aged 90.