Posted by: pgprm08 | December 6, 2009

Review of the book ‘I too had a dream’ by Verghese Kurein-by LG 6

The book begins with the background of Dr Kurien. It also briefly tells how a sleepy and dusty little down transformed itself into the Milk Capital India. After a few pages of his eventful early years it describes the circumstances under which he went to Anand which is very interesting given the circumstances like the Bombay milk scheme and the protest by the dairy farmers. When many would wonder how Kurien could achieve such great heights, the book slowly unravels how the glorious history began. Later in the book, we find how Dr. Kurien involved himself with the cause of the Kaira milk cooperative. The revolution would not have been possible but for Tribhuvandas Patel who is introduced in the book with his noble qualities.

Several incidents in the book validate Kurien’s point that with every challenge comes an opportunity. He also points out that how cooperative model has been tailor made for dairy sector. He also explains how through perseverance they were able to produce milk powder from buffalo’s milk though it was considered as impossible. His courage and openness sparkles when he writes about the neglect of Maniben Patel by the Congress. It is really exciting to read how they managed to commission the milk powder plant in one year and got it inaugurated by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the then prime minister of India.

He was compassionate to the workers and also believed that the asset of our country is its people and every government must try to unleash the energy of it s people. Book also speaks of an incident about Nestle that reflects Kurien’s pride in being an Indian.

During the conversation with Gouri Salvi, Mr Kurien revealed how he handeled Mr. Polson, another dairy product manufacturer, very meticulously to bring Amul to new height. There was continuous threat from Mr. Polson in respect of unhealthy competition, dispute over division of operational area (Division of Koira district) etc. Mr. Kurien was absolutely against imported dairy products as he wanted to make India self sufficient in dairy products with the empowerment of farmers in democratic way. In doing so he received generous help from many ministers like Krishnamachari (TT), Mr. Subhramanium. Being impressed upon Kureian’s model and tangible benefit, Mr. Krishnamachari, then commerce minister, ordered to cut down import of butter to protect Indian dairy industry and at the same time healed the chronic problem of shortage of foreign exchange reserve.  ‘Value for money’ is the message of Amul for its customer. Despite other market players’ scrupulous way to market products produced with undesirable ingredient formula, Amul stick to its quality norms and succeed to withstand threat from its rival. To kurein it is the customer’s satisfaction that does matter most.

What Mr. Kurien thought that Amul is beyond just milk products. It is all about building an institutional framework. An institution where people have their identity, they decide what to do how to do. In doing so Kurein had to sacrifice his association with family. But being with Amul was his passion which led him to keep away with many lucrative offers.” I got wholehearted support from my family, people around me that facilitated the success of AMUL” the milkman of India added.

The Kaira Union’s new cattle-feed compounding factory sponsored by Oxfam at Kanjari was to be inaugurated by the then Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri on the occasion of Sardar Patel’s birth anniversary. The Prime Minister visited Ajarpura without any protection and stayed in the houses of Ramanbhai, a villager. HE then visited the milk cooperative society and then left for Anand, followed by Dr. Kurien’s house. Shastriji was overwhelmed at the success of the dairy and wanted Kurien to replicate the same across India. Kurien said that he will operate from Anand, without a single paisa from the government. The Prime Minister, having agreed to these requests, asked him to meet the officials.

However, Kurien found that the bureaucrats of Delhi were not happy with him nor his idea and kept postponing his files and proposals. So, he decided, along with his Kaira Cooperative Union, decided to set up NDDB with their support.

He, along with H.M.Dalaya and Michale Halse, proposed Operation Flood, which was referred to as ‘the billion-litre idea’.

Mr. L.P.Singh, the Home Secretary gave Dr. Kurien a chance to present his proposal in his house and it was immediately sanctioned without involvement of any politician.

This proposal was sent to the World Food Programme and Dr. Kurien visited Rome to present the same to a 24 nation executive committee of the WFP. The presentation was well appreciated and he convinced the gathering that the food aid would be handled differently and would not satisfy the political needs. He also stressed on the impact of this aid since it gave an opportunity to replicate Anand pattern at national level. The Indian Govt nominated him as the Chairman of NDDB and in July 1970, the ‘billion-litre idea’ was officially launched.

Marketing was a major area of concern and so was procurement. The bedrock of this system was the cooperative system and it was completely decentralised. NDDB, also took the role of a canalising agency, wherein it canalised the import of the commodity and the distribution too.

Dr. Kurien exhaustively describes some of the moments which posed hurdles to the project, like the denial of govt to import dairy vending machines for a lot of reasons, and how this project is not in favour of poverty alleviation etc.

The way of handling criticism by NDDB and IDC is praise worthy. There have been instances where a long lost foe after getting a bureaucrat position takes on the oath of revenging against Dr. Kurien and thus harming OF.  It also narrates how in times of difficulties, some important people were key in the sustainability of the project. Through all this, Dr. Kurien emphasised on one theme that OF has been an important factor in the success and removal of unfair practises by middle men in dairy industry. There have been multiple cases where Dr. Kurien has offered his resignation where anybody has pointed a finger at the working or the motive of the OF; only to be rejected by the prime minister.

Political and beurocratic support is always needed to move forward with any kind of organization and Mr. Kurien realized it very well. For his beurocratic support he managed to retain his chairmanship of NDDB after being dismissed by Jagjivan ram for refusing to set up a private dairy for the minister. Inspite of belonging to a small town, he had access to all the prime ministers of India and he got his works done by leveraging upon these relationships. While replicating the ANAND pattern for oilseeds, he got a tremendous amount of support from  Govt. of India i.e. 700 cr. For reducing the import of vegetable oil and thereby reducing the outflow of foreign exchange, he started vegetable oil mills marketed under the brand name of Dhara, a low cost high quality domestically made products.

After ‘operation flood” Mr. Verghese Kurien got to visit many countries especially the countries which were developing like India. All these countries wanted that Kurien should do something for them as well, as he had done in India. During these visits he met many interesting people, with whom his experiences have been shared. One such personality was Mr.  Alexei Kosygin soviet premier, who remarked that Kurien’s work, had taken a long time and failed to bring revolution in other dimensions such as cotton, other agricultural products. Kurien was invited on state visit to Russia and after seeing the dismal condition there he was convinced that whatever he had done in India was really tough to achieve and is far better than what Soviet was doing at that point of time. He also talks about his experience in Pakistan and why the cooperative model couldn’t be replicated there. In Srilanka “Amul” was invited to start up its subsidiary there. There were many other countries who wanted Verghese Kurien to start organizations like AMUL in their country. From all these experiences kurien learnt that corruption was one of the major reasons as to why such organizations couldn’t be set up everywhere. Then there was also lack of political will in these countries. Multinationals were also playing all their might to avoid any such cooperative model coming up anywhere.

Success is a sum total learning from failures. Dr Kurien speaks of some such instances which highlight the humility and perseverance that goes into making such a great man. Speaking of his stint at Gujarat Electricity Board, he expresses his anger and frustration about the structured corruption and ill hand which are at helm of affairs in many government run institutions. He suggests the time tested policy of co-operatives for power reforms. A civic structure managed by villagers where the electric power is generated by the corporation and last mile delivery and distribution is handled by village bodies. His ideas go through waves of acceptance and reluctance by officials and ends up being a superb idea yet to be implemented.

NDDB had pioneered a programme to create a procurement opportunity for the farmers, helping them establish direct market linkages to sell their produce for a fair price to the consumers. He explains the need to liberalise agriculture before industry. Looking back one realises the significance and the fore sightedness of this great man where he truncates the erstwhile finance minister and present Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh for his policies.

Dr Kurinen  ends the chapter with anecdotes showing a glimpse about his lifelong beliefs and ideals, which shaped him , people around him and also the organisations which he was associated with such as the Institute of Rural Management, Anand. The inception of the institute came due to Verghese Kurien  strong belief in the need of managers who understand the rural temperament and the agricultural virtues. Similarly he speaks of hsi take on money, bureaucracy and the succession struggle which took place post his retirement from NDDB. He ends the book with his “dream” about cooperatives and his love for fellow men and women, which he attributes as the greatest source of inspiration, even accidentally though.

In nutshell the book “I too had a dream” shows us how a community driven organisation can be developed by beating all the odds and sustain in present globalized environment by overcoming political, social, economical and organisational bottlenecks.



  1. […] details on XIMB Blog on Social Entrepreneurship […]

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