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Verghese Kurien: Showing us the Co-operative Way

September 27, 2013
My learning from the book, I Too Had a  Dream by Verghese Kurien – As told to Gouri Salvi.
What does it take to create a Revolution in a way that impacts a million people?
Taking up Challenges, Building Conviction in an idea, Standing firm for the cause – in times of opposition and criticism, and Being Humble all the time.
Verghese Kurien, who championed the cause of Indian dairy farmers, brought about a White Revolution; taking up technological, political, social and cultural challenges; believed in the idea of co-operative business model; and sustained 5 decades of challenging times; to make India largely self-sufficient in milk and milk products.
Kurien, who originally wanted to study metallurgy and nuclear physics, landed up in Anand, Gujarat as a dairy engineer on government duty. Alongwith Tribhuvandas Patel, he took up the mettle to establish dairy co-operatives, a dream laid by Sardar Patel. He brought in a professional approach and leadership to nurture and replicate dairy co-operatives. This effort over five decades led to the world’s biggest dairy development program, Operation Flood. He challenged contemporary wisdom, and showed the world to make milk-powder from buffalo milk, and thereupon enabling farmers to own country’s most technology advanced dairy. He understood the timely importance of marketing, championing one of the most popular advertisement campaign, that of ‘utterly-butterly delicious’ Amul.

Indigenous Development

Kurien had a particular dislike towards MNCs, where he sensed maligned interests. He gave stiff competition to Nestle (condensed milk) and Glaxo (baby milk products) achieving indigenous production. To combat the messy milk rationing system, he took up challenge for design of milk vending machines.

In the book, Kurien recalls several anecdotes highlighting mutual trust and support he received from all prime-ministers during his worklife, from Pandit Nehru to Narasimha Rao. Some of the major initiatives that Kurien took-up were realized due to his ability to derive accelerated support from the relevant Government structure. Vice-versa, many governments were impressed enough with his abilities to make successful co-operative model, that they asked him to replicate the model in rest of country, and sometimes in other sectors. Having said that, he still had tough times dealing with people in the government machinery, who had personal stake in the milk market.
Social Impact
The unplanned benefits of the co-operative model included gender equation in rural households. The farmer’s wife, who would rear the milch animals, and earn from selling the milk, would now be financially literate and an equal contributor. In a similar way, the caste prejudices were broken through the model. The milk collection centers worked on first-cum-first-serve basis, where a ‘high-caste’ Brahmin would stand behind a Harijan, because he came after; and deposited milk in the same can. The co-operative model also impacted healthcare among the masses. He setup IRMA envisioning need of professional managers needed to run large scale co-operatives in the interests of farmers.
Worldwide Appreciation and Recognition
Verghese Kurien worked with several international agencies, either learning modern techniques in dairy farming or getting support or trading. He worked with dairy institutes at New Zealand, and also dealt with World Bank and UNICEF. He was invited by Pakistani and SriLankan governments to replicate ‘Anand pattern’, where he deeply studied and diagnosed what hindered the co-operative model in those places. Kurien’s efforts were honoured with three Padma awards, Ramon Magsaysay award and World Food Prize.
ImageQuotable Quotes

When you work merely for your own profit, the pleasure is transitory, but when you work for others, there is a deeper sense of fulfillment.

(A family friend to Kurien’s wife) You must always remember that you are Kurien’s second wife. His first wife is the dairy

I have always been an employee of the farmers  

The more monstrous the crisis, the more I am tempted to rush at it, grasp it by horns and manoeuvre it until it gives me what I want!

With our freedom, we had inherited a bureaucracy, which was designed by the British to rule, not to serve.

When you stand above the crowd, you must be ready to have stones thrown at you.

Reposted from Blogger

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