Verghese Kurien transformed a small-scale household activity into the world’s largest milk producing enterprise
Much has already been said and written about the monumental contributions of Verghese Kurien to the development of the Indian dairy industry, rooted on the Gandhian Principle of production by masses. I met Dr. Kurien soon after his return from Michigan State University and his taking up residence at Anand. From then on, we shared ideas and experiences in the area of rural transformation through agriculture and dairying. Among the very many unique contributions of Dr. Kurien which led to India becoming the leading milk producer of the world, I would like to highlight a few.
First, he rightly concentrated on the processing, pricing and marketing aspects of milk production. He knew that if dairying became profitable, farm women and men would automatically care for the animals and look after breeding and nutrition. He also knew that in our country, only a decentralised production of milk, done by women, supported by key centralised services in the fields of animal nutrition, health care and processing would help to ensure both the income security of rural families and the production of the necessary quantities of milk for the country. He therefore saw great merit in the power of cooperative milk societies in conferring concurrently the advantages of production by the masses and the benefits of modern centralised dairy processing technology. He developed a “one stop” method of meeting the needs of over 75 million women engaged in milk production. Thus, the Amul cooperative units not only purchased milk but also provided breeding, health care and nutrition support for the animals, to the great benefit of the milk suppliers. Thanks to Dr. Kurien’s emphasis on payment based on butterfat content, the buffalo started getting attention once again. The survival of milch buffalo breeds and their dominant role in the dairy industry today is primarily because of the milk purchase and pricing procedures introduced by Dr. Kurien.
Processing and marketing
His other major contribution was the diversification of processing and marketing channels. Thus, milk became available through bulk vending machines, as well as through direct home delivery procedures and distribution through sachets. Such a multiple delivery channel made it easy for consumers to get milk whenever and wherever needed. Dr. Kurien ensured the economic viability of milk processing plants by deputing multidisciplinary spearhead teams to assess the quantity of milk available in an area and the capacity needed for the optimum functioning of the processing plant before it was established. When milk became available in plenty, he diversified the product mix by converting milk into milk powder. He also ensured a steady supply of milk throughout the year by the judicious combination of milk powder and raw milk. Above all, he developed a unique system of training potential dairy managers through the organisation of a Siksha Dairy at the Anand Agricultural University, designed to impart training in all aspects of the dairy industry, ranging from milking the animal to processing, value-addition and marketing.
A lasting contribution of his was the establishment of the Institute of Rural Management at Anand to provide the country with well trained and competent managers for handling rural enterprises including dairying. I was the Principal Secretary in the Union Ministry of Agriculture when the inspiring report prepared by Dr. Kamala Choudhary and Dr. Kurien came for approval. This was the first time that a serious attempt was being made in our country to professionalise rural cooperatives. Looking back, it is difficult to believe that one person could have achieved so much in his lifetime, transforming a small-scale household activity into the world’s largest milk producing enterprise. More than for any one else, the following description of an extraordinary individual by Rainer Maria Rilke fits Dr. Kurien.
“Again and again in history some special people in the crowd wake up. They have no ground in the crowd, and they emerge according to much broader laws. They carry strange customs with them, and demand room for bold actions. The future speaks ruthlessly through them.
They save the world.”
(M.S. Swaminathan is Member, Rajya Sabha.)