Amul's Verghese Kurien leaves his mark on entertainment, literature

Verghese Kurien introduced an integrated communication model but also left his mark on entertainment and literature
Verghese Kurien introduced an integrated communication model but also left his mark on entertainment and literature
Well before India could boast of a professional advertising segment and a public relation industry, an employee of illiterate farmers was set to create a benchmark in communications. That too, from his vantage point in a little known town with a population of barely 20,000 people.

Verghese Kurien introduced an integrated communication model but also left his mark on entertainment and literature.

"In those days only multinationals knew advertising. Indian companies barely realised the power of communication. However, Kurien knew what he meant and trusted professionals once he assigned them the responsibility," said RS Sodhi, MD of the 11,500-crore Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation that markets brand Amul. The word came from the Sanskrit word 'Amulya' (priceless).

On suggestion of filmmaker Shyam Benegal, Kurien agreed to fund a movie to portray human stories surrounding cooperative dairy movement. However, funds were a problem. Kurien asked all the farmer members to contribute money for the film project. The low-budget venture starred the then new-entrants Smita Patil, Girish Karnad, Naseeruddin Shah, Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and others.

The film won national awards and continues to be considered as the best tool to educate farmers about cooperative movements. Under Kurien's supervision, Amul Group created some of the best documentaries and literature, without assistance from heavyweight consultants, to educate farmers about dairying.

Also Read:

Life & times of Verghese Kurien

Verghese Kurien: The man behind Amul and 'white revolution'

Kurien's quotes from the Economic Times archives and ET Awards for Corporate Excellence

Verghese Kurien deserved a Bharat Ratna, if anyone ever did

Verghese Kurien's thought leadership behind the cult advertising of 'Amul'

Excerpts from Dr Verghese Kurien's speech in 2001 on 'Markets in Motion'

Verghese Kurien never suffered fools: Shyam Benegal

Verghese Kurien: Born in Kerala, made in Gujarat. Now Greek part

Among other film ventures, Kurien backed Rakeysh Mehra to direct Mamuliram - the little big man with Ashish Vidyarthi in the lead role. Both Benegal and Mehra (of Rang De Basanti fame) emerged as major filmmakers of their generations. Kurien also undertook the responsibility to complete movie Sardar when HM Patel passed away and director Ketan Mehta facedchallenges.

Sardar proved to be a transit point for Paresh Raval who until then was known only for his comedy roles. For Doordarshan, Kurien sponsored a cultural programme Surbhi anchored by Renuka Shahane and Siddharth Kak.

Kurien leaves with parting gift: Amul


New Delhi:The Syrian Christian who could not speak Gujarati found it difficult to find a paying guest accommodation when he first reached the city of his destiny, Anand. But soon, Verghese Kurien would turn the small Gujarat town into the heart of India’s white revolution. In the process, Kurien would also stitch together a cooperative movement of millions of women and farmers into owning a brand which generations of Indians would be unable to forget — Amul.
    His model of cooperative dairy development today links over 10 million farmers at 200 dairies across India producing over 20 million litres of milk every day.
    Kurien had left a lucrative job to join a small-time dairy cooperative in Anand in 1949. At that time, the cooperative he joined managed just a few hundred litres of milk a day. By the time Kurien was ready to hand over the baton in 2006, the Amul brand was selling over 90 lakh litres a day. Awarded the Padma Vibhushan, Magsaysay Award besides numerous other accolades, Kurien gained respect and space to run the cooperative movement as he knew best. “His greatest contribution was to give a position of preeminence to the farmer and his or her interests rather than those of middlemen,” PM Manmohan Singh said.
    Kurien, born in Kozhikode in 1921, leaves behind a legacy that outstrips his image as India’s milkman. This extraordinary agent of social transformation as chairman of the
National Dairy Development Board began ‘Operation Flood’ that spanned 26 years and eventually ushered in the white revolution. He began it all by turning buffalo milk into milk powder: a feat that experts worldwide at that time thought was not possible.
    His model of cooperatives spun networks of farmers that first brought milk from Guja
rat to Mumbai and then hooked up farmers across several states. The business multiplied in areas beyond milk — bringing a sense of ownership and control to farmers.