Tuesday, December 12, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: I too had a dream

Author: Varghese Kurien as told to Gouri Salvi

Price: 395 INR

Translation in Tamil: Mu. Sivalingam

Price: 150 INR (Tamil version)

This is one of the best auto-biographies I have ever read so far. It is about the life and work of Dr. Varghese Kurien. For people who don’t know who is Dr. Kurien is, just think about the famous advertisement: ‘Amul – The taste of India. He is the man behind the Amul brand and the key person who envisioned, carved and executed the blueprint for the ‘White revolution’. This book consists of his experiences, which is truly inspirational, amazing and mind-blowing. I can easily compare his achievements with Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s contributions to strategic and defense sector.

The story starts with Dr. Kurien finishing his Master of Science in Metallurgical Engineering from Michigan State University, which was sponsored by Indian government. As the government sponsored his scholarship, he is supposed to serve the government in return. Because of this agreement he gets ‘accidentally’ posted to a small, dusty, lazy, unknown village called ‘Anand’ (In the Kaira district of Gujarat) and supposed to be taking the responsibility of the government owned milk production department over there. Frustrated with his new job (think of doing masters in metallurgy from US University and doing such a ‘punishment’ job) Dr.Kurien decides to quit his job and move to Delhi to take up another job. In the mean time he meets another visionary personality called Mr. Thirubhuvan Das Patel and he requests him to take care of the co-operative milk society of Anand till he gets his new job in Delhi. This ‘accident’ literally changes his life and this angry, energetic, passionate young man decides to stay in Anand and start building the co-operative society from the ‘scratch’.

In his long journey, he faced innumerous amount of problems from private business houses, government, multinational companies (like nestle) and fought tooth and nails against all these odds. His 35 year effort had literally ‘transformed’ the face of India and today we are number one in milk production. After achieving success by building ‘Amul’, he went on to execute the ‘white revolution’ plan in India which created multiple Amuls across the country. It all started off in 1946 with 200 liter milk production per day to 18 million litters in 2005. The top line revenue is been 2882 crores (roughly about 720 million USD) spanning 24 states, 11,400 co-operative milk societies. This is truly a ‘bottom-up’ revolution.

Even though there are lots of things that can be learnt from his experiences, I would list my top 5 learning's as follows:

Empowerment of farmers: If at all India wants to be a developed country empowerment of farmers is a must. As much as 40% of Indian households rely on agriculture and related areas. Empowering these people to earn basic food, education and healthcare is very vital. This ‘bottom-up’ approach is will result in self employment generation and sustenance which goes in sync with Gandhi’s famous quote: ‘India lives in villages’. No amount of privatization, globalization would help for these folks. Recently this is once again proved with the success of ‘Micro-credit’ concept introduced by Muhammed Yusuf. You can read more about this in my blog on ‘Micro credit and Muhammed Yusuf’.

Professional folks: The young, educated, professional people need to stay in India in order to make something happen over here. Having said that, it is not all that easy because of the way our systems work in India. Dr. Kurien fought against so many bureaucrats, politicians, and private business people in order to achieve his success. This was mainly because he had a good education, which made him to think ‘beyond self’.

Importance of domestic market: Creation of domestic market is extremely important for selling any products. What is the use if we have an array of products lined up and there are no takers? Dr. Kurien understood this right from the beginning and created a domestic market for milk and milk product consumption. He was able to achieve this by offering multiple products like milk powder, child food, pasteurized milk, butter, ghee and sweets like milk peda. He priced those products at affordable prices (failing which you can’t sell products in India) and designed a clear marketing function created the brand ‘Amul’.

Professional management: The ‘professional’ management is the differentiator any organization, which should have a great vision. In his book Dr. Kurien talks about number of individuals who have significantly contributed to the growth of Amul and the white revolution. Time and again he re-iterated that a professional team combined with farmers is really a ‘killer’ combination. The success of Amul and white revolution speaks for itself.

Personal leadership and Innovation: Dr. Kurien has demonstrated personal leadership by ‘leading by example’ which empowered lakhs and lakhs of farmers. I also could see following examples for innovation:

  • For the first time in the world, Dr. Kurien and his team demonstrated that the milk powder can be produced from buffalo’s milk. Since most of the milk we get in India is from buffalos, this created a unique opportunity for Indian milk powders. This I would say a ‘product innovation’.
  • In order to execute the white revolution, Dr. Kurien required huge amount of fund. During the same time developed countries had excess amount of milk powder, which they were giving it to countries like India for free. He smartly negotiated with these folks and started selling the ‘free’ milk powder inside the country for an optimal price. He raised the capital through this internal selling which I would say ‘business innovation’.
  • In 1970s his team invented the ‘milk vending’ machine for the first time and made it work in Indian conditions. In a way this machine is a great grand father of today’s money vending machines (or ATMs). I would say this is an innovation in the area of ‘Distribution and supply’.


I remember six years before reading the book ‘Wings of fire’ by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam which inspired me a lot and I would rate this one is very similar to the former. In short I would say it’s a must read for people who are interested in doing something for the country. At least it would make you think.

7 comments:

www.marchahead.com said...

Sir!I believe it is needed to create more number of jobs to uplift people of rustic India.I will definitely read this book also and try to share my learnings from this book among my colleagues,friends and students.

Regards,

Manas Nayak
Regional Manager,Counselling
IMS Learning Resources Pvt.Ltd
Bhubaneswar-Orissa
http://marchahead-contributeforahealthyindia.blogspot.com/

Jayakumar Balasubramanian said...

Please do that. The achievements of Dr.Kurien needs to be replicated in all departments.

gulnaz said...

Jay a small correction man, "Amul-test of India" nahi hota "Amul-taste of India" hota hai.

Jayakumar Balasubramanian said...

Thanks for pointing it out Sadiqua! I have updated the blog now.

Karram said...

Dude,

Bulls milk ? You sure ? :D.

karram.

Anonymous said...

Good review Jaykumar.

(It should read "Buffalo's" milk instead of bull's milk).

---

Jayakumar Balasubramanian said...

Oops! Updated the blog post with Buffalo :)