Remembering Verghese Kurien- an article by Tushaar Shah in Economic and Political Weekly

India's dairy cooperatives today present a rare success story. This story is best represented by Amul which is today one of India's most trusted and loved brands, and also one of its most valuable, comprising a Rs.12,000 crore farmer-owned business. This extraordinary revolution was spearheaded by Verghese Kurien, who passed away on 09 September 2012. Tushaar Shah, who had the privilege of working with him for nearly two decades has written about this remarkable man in an article 'Remembering Verghese Kurien' published in the Economic & Political Weekly on 29 September 2012.Poster showing the Amul girl flanked by milkmaids and saluting Kurien

Kurien's death caused the iconic 'Amul Girl' to weep for the first time in nearly 5 decades

Tushaar Shah begins by stating that Kurien's legacy is in 'the institutions he built, the ideas he propounded, a dairy industry the country can be proud of, and a deep imprint on our thinking about development and democracy'before expounding on the various facets of his personality.

Man, manager, leader: This pays a warm tribute to Kurien's humour, dedication, sense of fairness, management skills, interpersonal skills, and his gift of inspiring others. Shah narrates several anecdotes that illustrate these characteristics and bring alive a man most others only know of through his acheivements alone.

Impact on Indian dairying: This section speaks of his success with the White revolution. Amul, the brand Kurien built, is today an organization of nearly three million small dairy producers with a total value of  Rs 12,000 crore. Amul pattern dairy cooperatives today operate a business of Rs 33,000-35,000 crore annually and are growing at a steady 12-15% annually. One of the reasons for this success is Kurien's campaigning to keep multinational dairy companies out of India till the fledgling national industry was stabilised.

Cooperative movement: Kurien strongly believed in the cooperative model, with the producer in full control of operations. He created a set of design principles for replicating the Amul model. These are:

  • A stable and remunerative market is a precondition for surplus milk production
  • The market must be captured before cooperatives are formed
  • Externally sourced milk supplies may need to be used to capture the market
  • Later, milk needs to be supplied to the newly formed cooperatives by forcing extant trade to withdraw.
  • Cooperative unions must have a powder plant to acccommodate seasonal fluctuations
  • The structure needs to be managed by professionals accountable to the producers.

Nation buiding: The many institutions built around the National Dairy Development Board owe their existence to Kurien and his goal of building a strong Indian dairy industry. He also founded the Institute of Rural Management at Anand (IRMA).

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