Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Varghese Kurien - The milkman of India

Not much people wrote their name in the pages of history in golden letters as Varghese Kurien did. Often described as the 'Father of White Revolution' (aka Operation Flood) - world's largest dairy development programme, which converted India from the position of a desperate dairy product importer to biggest exporter.

Born on 1921 at Calicut (now Kozhikode - Kerala), Kurien completed his graduation in Physics from Loyola College, Madras; bachelors in mechanical engineering from Madras University; graduation from Tata Technical Institute-Jamshedpur; diary engineering from Michigan State University-USA. Then he joined Government service at Anand (Gujarat) according to the bond with GOI.


Here he met 'Tribhuvandas Patel', who organized farmers of Kheda district under a co-operative. It is to be noted that, Kheda is one of the shining pages in Indian independence struggle. It was here 'Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel' under the leadership of Ghandi, successfully led the famous ‘Kheda Satyagraha’ against British government.

Team of Tribhuvandas Patel (chairman), Dr. Kurien (General Manager), Dr H.M Dalaya etc pioneered the cause and installed country's then most advanced dairy plant in Anand (Gujarat - Oct 1955). Interestingly the owners of this plant were not government (even at the height of socialism) but common man – small scale milk producers. Amul was probably one of the biggest co-op movements in the world.

Moving towards ‘Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMFF)’

Later Mehsana, Banaskantha, Baroda, Sabarkantha, Surat districts followed the Anand pattern and in 1973 established GCMMF. This new body accepted Amul as their brand. Followed by the success of Anand model 'Lal Bahadur Shastri', then premier of India appointed Kurien as the founder chairman of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).

Today GCMMF is India's largest food marketing organization, with a turnover of USD 1.77bn in 2010-11 and a network of 3.1mn milk producer member families.

Operation Flood (aka ‘White Revolution’)

Operation Flood (or White revolution) started in 1970. The first phase (1970-80) was financed by "sale of skimmed milk powder and butter oil donated by the European Union" then known as European Economic Council; through World Food programme. NDDB was in charge of planning and negotiating the details with EEC. By the end of Third phase in 1996, this 26 year old programme turned out to be one of the most successful programmes in independent India.

Well the story was not so smooth as it seems, in 2006 Kurien was forced to resign from the post of chairman GCMMF. There were arguments and counter arguments about the corporatization of NDDB in which Kurien argued for co-op model.

Kurien also worked as Chairman of National Dairy Development Board, Chancellor of the University of Allahabad, Chairman of Institute of Rural Management etc.  In his long and successful career many awards found its way to his hands. Padma Vibhushan (second highest civilian honour in India) in 1999, Padma Bhushan in 1966, World Food Prize in 1989, Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1963, Padma Shri in 1965, CNN-IBN Life Time Achievement Award in 2011 etc.


Kurien played an important part in White revolution and changing India's position among the producers of dairy products. He also showed how we can achieve success through sound planning and co-opting farmers as shareholders.

We really need more Kuriens' in places like Vidarbha, Waynad etc. Instead of dolling out aid when calamity comes, we need to co-opt farmers, small scale industry etc to develop good institutions. Amul's victory shows it’s workable.

Here I am pasting the farewell message from Amul's web site

“What does it take
To turn barren land
Into a land overflowing with milk

What does it take?
To turn an ordinary farmer
into the owner of India's largest dairy co-operative?

What does it take?
To pursude a farmer
To accept his wife's economic equality

What does it take?
To create a success story so intriguing
That a prime minister spent a night in a village
Just to figure out the secret of this success

What does it take?
To take milk from farmer's single can
and turn it into India's most loved brand

What does it take?
dr Kurien?
Of the farmer, By the farmer, For the farmer
'Thank You, Sir'”

And we all are thanking you...



1. Tehelka
2. The Hindu - Frontline
3. National Diary Development Board
4. Wikipedia
5. Amul

Photo Courtesy: Amul, Wikipedia (later edited to suit this article)

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