The 2016 Indian Olympic delegation was sponsored by a group of dairy farmers. Sounds crazy right? But that is the power of Amul, the association that changed the face of Indian dairy forever. In ‘Indigenius: Our Oldest Start Up’, Gayatri Jayaraman tells us of Amul and the revolution it began. Here is their story – 

  1. A Gap to be Filled

In the 1940s, milk was being produced efficiently in Gujarat, but the journey to the customer was not as smooth. Polson, a local producer, took advantage of the disconnect, made profits off of exploitative practices and spurred protests and boycotts from local milkmen. That’s when Tribhovandas Patel and Verghese Kurien came together to produce Amul. 

2. How It Works

More than 75% of Amul’s dairy comes from small and marginal farmers, with whom ownership rests. Cooperatives have 200 members on an average. The district union, containing village societies and an elected board, handles transport. Amul runs the marketing, planning and investment and collects the milk twice a day. They improved the production capacity of 14 million farmers and created a shining example of what cooperatives can achieve if organised well!

3. Ripe for Replication

Amul’s success pushed many others to take up their model. Brands like Nandini and Mother Dairy brought milk and dairy products to the urban sector with rural ownership! But it wasn’t just the dairy industry that used it. Another great example is Lijjat Papad. You may know it as the delicious crunchy snack that accompanies your lunch, but its origins were very humble. It started with 4 women on a Girgaon building terrace. They bought a disused factory and monetised their only skill – papad making. Their first year saw sales of just Rs 6196. Today, the movement is worth Rs6.5 crores, with exports valued at Rs10 crores! Not only that, it employs thousands of women and most importantly, gives them complete control of their financial capacity. 

4. Fear of the Future

Everything may seem rosy for now, but the future brings concerns for all. Rebecca Mushran, manager of Bhuira Jams Pvt Ltd, expresses her worries – ‘What the small co-operative producer needs is support, incentives, tax breaks, ease of licensing’. But with the growing success of these enterprises and the politicians who are bearing witness to it, landlords and former power structures may seek to wrest back control and take it all for themselves. The question is – what will the future bring – growth or destabilisation?

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