Thank you for your invitation to share my memories of Amul, on the auspicious occasion of the 75th anniversary of this esteemed organisation.
Incidentally, I had joined Amul in June 1971, and that was the time Amul was celebrating its silver jubilee. It fills me with joy to see the growth, influence, and real impact of this organisation on our country.
Before I joined Amul, I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Kurien when he visited my engineering college Birla Vishwakarma Mahavidyalay (BVM) as a chief guest on an annual day. He was an impressive orator. Later, when I visited Amul Dairy, I saw a clean dairy plant, well maintained gardens, and people behaving very professionally. I liked the place, the cleanliness, the discipline, and it reflected Dr. Kurien’s values.
I was only 20 years old at that time, but I decided to apply for a job at Amul Dairy. I sent my CV and after a written test, multiple interviews by different Heads of Departments, and by the General Manager – I formally received a selection letter.
In all this, I had very little idea that Amul is a co-operative organisation! I joined because the salary was good, and I was keen to make the best of my engineering degree!
Surprisingly, soon after we joined the Board decided to grant two salary increments, including to all new officers. This was great, as my colleague and I, who had started together, both received an unexpected salary increment and an invitation to attend the silver jubilee celebration.
Now we believed that as Officers, we should present ourselves formally and that we would be looked after at this function. So, here we were, in our neatly ironed shirts and ties, at the main gate of Amul – hoping that someone would be there to look after us.
Just as we reached the dairy main gate, we saw a sea of farmers – men and women from villages, coming in waves from the parking spaces and surging towards the venue. At that moment, after we managed to deal with the disbelief of what we had just witnessed, we turned around and removed our tie – never to be worn again.
As we both walked to our seating area near the stage, we truly realised the size of this mammoth organisation. Working in a modern dairy plant, in neat buildings and with other officers – we had never realised who we were really working for.
This event truly opened our eyes.
Tribhovandas Patel spoke with vigour and in his speech, he emphasised that in this cooperative, we the Board members, leave our political cap outside at the main gate and our purpose is only the well-being of dairy farmers. Dr Kurien spoke in English, and Shri V H Shah translated his speech in Gujarati. Dr H M Patel also spoke and then finally, the Hon. Finance Minister Shri T A Pai took to the stage. This event is still etched in my memory, as it changed by understanding of what and who Amul is.
Many years later there was a workers strike in Amul, and as officers we stepped in to ensure the dairy went about its business. I remember unloading cans on the dock along with my fellow officers from the Department. The very next day, a large number of young farmers came to the plant and were assigned some key areas to help the team as the Dairy negotiated a solution with the workers. This was a sense of ownership the farmers had for their Dairy, and they were going to look after it.
These incidents made me realise that Amul is a different organisation. It removes poverty, emancipates women, gives people ownership of their own destiny and economic progress. It breaks the caste system, and it builds a new India. It provides health and nutrition to a growing nation. There is no development model, as comprehensive as Amul!
I stayed on and worked at Amul Dairy and then GCMMF for forty years and had the opportunity to lead as the Managing Director of GCMMF for 17 long years. This included the transformation of our organisation to break out of a mindset of operating in an early protected environment, to thrive in a liberalised economy full of competition.
This certainly wasn’t easy, but I was standing on the shoulders of giants – Sh. Tribhovandas, Dr. Kurien and Sh. H M Dalaya and great engineers such as Sh. V H Shah, Sh. G R Shridhrani and Sh. J J Baxi of GCMMF.
Amul has always given freedom and unstinted support to professionals. Allowed them to take daring measures without fear of failures. For me, it’s my karma bhumi. Amul always allowed me freedom to operate, freedom to question existing paradigms, experiment and adopt change for good.
Amul is a model. Brand Amul protected farmers of Kaira until 1970, but as GCMMF was formed the Amul brand umbrella was extended to all milk producers who were welcome to join GCMMF and benefit from brand Amul.
But the changes to liberalisation, policies on privatisation and globalisation were rapidly changing the Indian society. Consumers of India are changing. Expecting these changes, we have moved out of Gujarat, and successfully captured big metro markets like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Pune and so on.
This ensured that brand Amul was available to consumers of India, and to the farmers across India!
Even today, Amul is the single largest entity that protects the future of Indian farmers and agriculture. Farmers and the Board of Amul, have a huge responsibility to not only protect the interests of the Kaira Union, or GCMMF, but of entire Indian agriculture. Amul is the soul of Indian white Revolution and Indian agriculture. Without the incentive and income from milk, will our agriculture be viable?
Kaira Union is the owner of the brand Amul, and it is your foresight and sense of Gandhinian trusteeship that has made it formidable! I am very proud of the Amul Board of Directors, the farmers of Kaira Union and of Indian agriculture to have nurtured this unique model.
Amul today is a Rs. 55,000 crore brand and is destined to cross Rs. 100,000 crores in a few years. But as Dr Kurien told me once, it is not the revenue turnover but its purpose that is most important! It must serve the farmers first and through that, this great nation.
The Board of Amul has a huge responsibility and carries the reputation of 75 years of trust and heritage. They are the trustees of not only Amul dairy, but in true sense the entire white revolution. Amul is watched by the whole world, and I have faith that the leaders will maintain the highest quality, high moral standards, and dynamism to stay miles ahead.
Future will judge you more critically now, and I am sure you will do the best for Amul and Indian agriculture.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Sh. Tribhovandas and Dr Kurien, and congratulate our farmers, the Board of Directors, including managing director on this historic milestone.