An Amul kiosk at a railway
station. The Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation
has brought 10,000 village diary cooperative societies
throughout the state under the Amul umbrella, revolutionisng
the dairy movement.
What started as a small cooperative
movement over six decades ago in a mid-sized town in the western
state of Gujarat has now become an icon of rural empowerment,
fashioning in the process what is called the white revolution to
catapult India as the world's largest producer of milk. In 1946 a
bright youth was sent to study dairy engineering at the Michigan
State University on government scholarship but he came back with a
masters in metallurgy and nuclear physics instead.
Even so, nothing could change what destiny had in store for Dr. Verghese Kurien - whose efforts towards the white revolution
earned him the World Food Prize and the Magsaysay Award, apart
from numerous other recognitions within and outside India.
A Syrian Christian born in southern Kerala, Kurien moved to the
dusty town of Anand to set up a milk cooperative and his
achievement made people revere him as the milkman of India.
The best testimony to his work, perhaps, is the varied range of
products that now line shelves in shops all over India and abroad
- going way beyond just milk to pasteurised butter, cheese, ice
creams, chocolates, clarified butter, sweets and other products,
including probiotic milk and sugar-free ice cream.
So much so that this brand name, along with its iconic mascot - a
cute little girl in polka-dot skirt and catchy slogans -has even
overtaken its parent, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing
Federation, in terms of both name and fame.
"Amul is the brand name of over two million farmers, members of
10,000 village dairy cooperative societies throughout Gujarat.
This is the heart of Amul," said Kurien, who has since retired.
"This is what gives strength to Amul, and this is what is so
special about the Amul saga."
Drawn from the Sanskrit word "amulya", or priceless, the Amul
journey began in the tumultuous days before India's independence
when the dairy cooperative was set up under the directions of
Vallabhbhai Patel, then Congress leader who went on to become
India's first home minister.
Two years later, Kurien returned from the US and in 1949 left his
government job to help the newly-formed cooperative, Kaira
District Cooperative Milk Producers' Union.
This led to the birth of Amul - the rest, as is often said, is
In 1966, Amul procured just 1,000 litres of milk a day, but today
this has gone up to as much as 8.4 million litres. The $1.5
billion cooperative has 13,328 village societies as members,
covering 2.79 million milk producers.
In the current financial year, the cooperative is expected to have
crossed a turnover of $1.8 billion and expects to log $2.2 billion
by the next fiscal.
"Amul is the symbol of the achievements of dairy cooperatives over
the last 65 years," said B.M. Vyas, managing director of the
"Simply put, Amul symbolises the genesis of a vast cooperative,
the triumph of indigenous technology, the marketing savvy of a
farmers' organisation, a proven model of dairy development, high
quality products at reasonable prices - to sum it all up, a
confident nation on the move."
According to Amul chairperson Ramsinh Parmar, the first effort to
organise dairy cooperatives had actually started after the
enactment of the Cooperative Societies Act, 1912.
"But it was in the 1940s that farmers of Kaira district organised
themselves into a dairy cooperative and decided to process and
sell milk directly after collecting it from its own members,"
Statistics show that though steps to improve the quality of milch
cattle began in the 1st Five Year Plan (1951 to 1956), the absence
of a stable and remunerative market for milk saw production
Between 1951 and 1970, milk production grew by barely one percent
annually while in fact per capita availability declined by an
Then came "Operation Flood".
"It was Operation Flood, implemented for the National Dairy
Development Board from 1970 to 1996 by founder-chairman Dr. Kurien,
who had an uninterrupted spell of 33 years, that radically
transformed dairy development in India," said his close aide P.A.
This programme ensured milk producers' cooperatives get well
entrenched in villages and made modern technology available to
them. It also increased milk production and augmented rural
incomes, which went to the milk producer and not the middlemen.
More importantly, the programme empowered small rural producers,
providing them with employment opportunities at their homes with
Marginal landholdings make up 57 percent of rural households in
India and thanks to such cooperatives dairying is a viable option
even for the landless. Nearly 70 million Indian households hold a
total of 98 million cows and buffaloes.
A majority of milk producers have one or two milch animals and
these small producers account for some 70 percent of the milk
production. On an average, 22.5 percent of the income of rural
households is contributed by milk.
"Operation Flood essentially replicated the Anand pattern
countrywide, joining village-level cooperatives to form
district-level unions, which in turn joined in state-level
marketing federations," said Joseph.
"The primary milk producer thus governs this entire federal
The dairy major has also emerged as a role model of sorts, which
many developing nations want to emulate. Earlier this year,
Ethopian Ambassador to India Gennet Zewide visited Amul and
expressed a desire to replicate the white revolution using the
same model in their country.
The cooperative dairy movement is impacting lives in many other
ways as well. The Banas dairy, for example, a member of the Amul
cooperative, started a unique initiative called the Internet Sewa
Project in Banaskantha district in Gujarat.
This is a village-level effort at bridging the digital divide by
providing information kiosks at the village cooperative level.
Official forms, educational applications and local market prices
are provided at the information kiosk so that people do not have
to travel all the way to the district headquarters for this
From Banaskantha to IT capital Bangalore, Amul has branded itself
on the lives of every Indian. Begin your day with Amul milk and
pasteurised butter on toast. Lunch on Amul curd, have a snack with
Amul cheeses and round off the day with some Amul chocolate.
It's all about Amul, and also about India.
As Kurien puts it: "Amul's mission was the development of farmers,
nutrition to the nation and, heart in heart, the real development