Amul: Written in Butter

Maybe you did not know, however, that in India is also the largest milk cooperative in the world called Amul. Amul butter has a strong symbolic connotation in India, which is one of the most important markets for the consumption of milk in the world. In fact, this ingredient is essential in Indian cuisine is found in many dishes and especially in the well-known chai.

Amul's success stems from its distribution system that allows farmers to sell their products directly to retailers, bypassing the expensive middlemen. Amul then combines the economic interests of small producers with the dynamics of a free market of enormous size. A model that has proved not only fair towards small producers but also competitive to the point of winning the competition from giants such as Unilever and Nestle.

Every day, the Amul cooperative collects thousands of liters of milk from more than two million peasants, which are processed into products sold under the Amul brand in small shops scattered throughout the Indian territory. Amul's success derives from its special procurement system that allows products to reach the small towns of the retailer or large supermarkets.

It all started in the city of Anand in the state of Gujarat, when in 1946 the milk became the symbol of the protest against the exploitation of farmers by middlemen who would buy it for a few rupees and to sell it then in larger cities at the more higher market price. A system which benefited only the traders and brokers, leaving farmers in poverty.

Soon discontent spread that led to the farmers of Anand, crushed by this system, to appeal to Sardar Patel, the then most important Indian political figure, particularly active for the cause of independence movements. Patel motivated the peasants to rebel against exploitation by intermediaries. Through the cooperative the administration wanted to create a system driven and managed by farmers themselves, that would allow them to monitor sales, processing and marketing of products.

In 1946 the farmers of this area of ​​Gujarat they decided to go on strike, refusing to be intimidated. Inspired by Sardar Patel, the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producer Union led by Morarji Tribhuvandas Desai and Patel came to life. At that time, the cooperative of what would later become Amul, included only two villages and counted the production of 247 liters of milk daily.

In 1950, Verghese Kurien started leading the cooperative and became the father of Operation Flood and the White Revolution, one of the most important agricultural development programs in history, which transformed the Asian country into the first milk-producing country and improved the lives of millions of farmers.

However, the turning point came during the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. He understood that Amul would have had great success thanks to the cooperative model and decided to use it also for the development of the dairy sector at national level.

The organization of Amul was characterized by a hierarchical network of cooperatives, which still forms the robust body of the supply chain of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation or GCMMF. In order to create competitiveness in selling prices, Amul had to adopt a strategy aimed at making its products accessible to the consumers.

Amul introduced in the market milk and dairy products with great success, winning the competition from giants like Hindustan Lever, Nestle and Britannia. Today the Amul brand has the majority of dairy products from liquid milk, milk powder, butter, clarified butter or ghee, cheese, cocoa-based products, sweets, ice cream and condensed milk. But the most interesting aspect of Amul is definitely the success of combining the economic interests of small producers with the dynamics of a huge market like India.

The cooperative, recognized as one of the most successful in the world, is owned by more than three million small farmers in nearly 16,000 Indian villages. It exports to 37 countries milk powder, fresh cheese and clarified butter, among other products.

Amul's advertising campaign is one of the most intersting in India and has lasted for more than 50 years. Amul have created an avatar of paper billboards, another embodiment of the dairy cooperative that has revolutionized the dairy industry in the early decades of independent India. As the icon of the campaign is a little girl with a bow in her hair and dress with red dots. In the ads, the Amul girl comments sharply on the hottest issues of the Asian country today.