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Verghese Kurien: The Milkman of India

Photo: www.ilead.net.in

By Nithin Sridhar

India’s place in the sun would come from the partnership between wisdom of its rural people and skill of its professionals.

~Dr. Verghese Kurien

Independent India has seen many men and women whose inner calling has led them to dedicate their entire lives in the service of society. One such person was Dr. Verghese Kurien, who revolutionized the milk production that not only made the country self-sufficient in milk production but also brought prosperity to the farmers.

His Life: On this day, ninety-four years ago in 1921, Kurien was born in Calicut into a Syrian Christian family. He did his BSc in Physics in 1940 from Loyola College, Madras (now Chennai). Later, he obtained a degree in Mechanical engineering in Guindy and joined TISCO for a while.

Later, he joined the Imperial Institute of Animal Husbandry and Dairying in Bangalore and acquired training in Dairying. He finally went to Michigan University, US on a government scholarship and did his Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Kurien returned to India in 1949 and the Government deputed him to Anand, a place in Gujarat where he was supposed to work for few years in return for Government’s scholarship.

Kurien soon quit his Government job, but was convinced by Tribhuvandas Patel, who was working to create a cooperative movement of farmers, to stay back in Anand. This marked the beginning of Kurien’s serious involvement in the milk industry and paved the way for the subsequent improvements that he brought about.

He married Susan Molly Peter in 1953, and they had a daughter Nirmala Kurien. He established many institutions like Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF) and Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). He tirelessly worked for the welfare of the poor farmers whose life, at times, completely depended on the dairy.

He also penned down a few books like ‘I Too Had a Dream’ and ‘An Unfinished Dream’. He was awarded multiple times in recognition of his work, including Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1963, Krishi Ratna Award (1986) and Padma Vibhushan in 1999.

Kurien finally passed away on September 9, 2012, after living a fulfilling life filled with hard work, dedication, and service. He was a simple man with a simple goal of serving the society. To quote his own words: “My philosophy in life is to do as much good as I can to those who are less fortunate, but I would like to live my life as a common man”.

Photo: www.telegraph.co.uk
Photo: www.telegraph.co.uk

White Revolution: In 1946, Tribhuvandas Patel united dairy farmers and formed Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited (KDCMPUL) in order to fight against the monopoly of the dairy market and the exploitation of the farmers by Polson dairy. They procured an old dairy (of World War I times) and started producing dairy products.

When Dr Kurien arrived in Anand, Tribhuvandas recognized his potential and requested him to help in developing the cooperative. Kurien gave various advices regarding the management of the dairy and the new machineries that are to be procured for manufacturing milk.

Kurien was touched by the struggles and hardships faced by the farmers. He, along with Tribhuvandas, worked day and night for making the cooperative a success. Kurien finally joined the cooperative in the official capacity of General Manager. In 1951, the cooperative got rid of its old machinery and bought new ones from Larsen and Toubro (L&T).

This step significantly helped the cooperative to scale up its production. From a mere 200 liter procuring capacity in 1948, it increased exponentially to a capacity of 20,000 liters in 1952.

In 1955, Kurien, with the help of Dairy expert H. M. Dalaya, was successful in producing milk powder using buffalo milk. This was another turning point in Dairy industry. The KDCMPUL, was renamed as ‘Amul’ (Anand Milk Union Limited) in 1957. In 1965, after Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister of India, requested Kurien to replicate the Anand model at other places, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was set up.

It was through this NDDB that Kurien used to set up ‘Operation Flood’ that turned India from being a milk deficient country to becoming world’s largest milk producer. In 1968, when Europe had surplus production of milk, Kurien presented the NDDB proposal to World Food Programme (WFP) and convinced them to donate the surplus milk and milk products, which he could then sell at regular price at metropolitan cities, capture the market there, and use the funds generated to make India a self-sufficient country in milk production.

Kurien successfully implemented this Operation Flood over 30 years in three phases. By the end of Phase 2, in 1985, the project managed to establish 130 milk-sheds and 43,000 village cooperatives. The domestic milk powder production saw a drastic increase from 22,000 tons to 140,000 tons. The Phase 3 that ended in 1996, added another 30,000 village cooperatives.

Thus, Kurien, along with support from people like Tribhuvandas, completely revolutionized the dairy industry, accomplished a white revolution and made India the largest producer of milk. More importantly, Kurien’s efforts removed monopoly and exploitation by the middle men, and helped the farmers retain the majority of the profits from this endeavor.

Google India is celebrating his contributions to Indian society by creating a Doodle on him:Google Doodle celebrating the birth anniversary of Dr. Verghese Kurien

Google Doodle celebrating the birth anniversary of Dr. Verghese Kurien


Next Story

15 amazing facts about Amul Butter Ads


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.


10X20 Taaja MaalThe 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.

download (1)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.

First Amul horading

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.

Most controversial Amul 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.

Amul Lara Kya Hai Mara ad

download10. 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.

Amul Satyam Sharam Scandalam ad

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.amul-girl_650x400_81430995551


Bonus: A mosaic of the Amul moppet made up of 1,432 individual Amul ads


(With inputs from various sources)