Verghese Kurien

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Dr. Verghese Kurien
Born (1921-11-26)26 November 1921
Calicut, Madras Presidency, British India
(now Kozhikode, Kerala)
Died 9 September 2012(2012-09-09) (aged 90)
Nadiad, Gujarat, India
Nationality Indian
Other names "Milkman of India"
Occupation Founder of Amul – Ex-Chairman GCMMF, NDDB, Institute of Rural Management Anand
Known for Widely acclaimed as the "Father of the White revolution" in India[1]
Awards World Food Prize (1989)
Padma Vibhushan (1999)
Padma Bhushan (1966)
Padma Shri (1965)
Ramon Magsaysay Award (1963)

Verghese Kurien (26 November 1921 – 9 September 2012) was a renowned Indian social entrepreneur and is best known as the "Father of the White Revolution",[2] for his 'billion-litre idea' (Operation Flood) – the world's largest agricultural development programme.[3] This transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world's largest milk producer, surpassing the United States of America in 1998,[4] with about 17 percent of global output in 2010–11, which in 30 years doubled the milk available to every person.[5] Dairy farming became India's largest self-sustaining industry.[6] He made the country self-sufficient in edible oils too later on,[7] taking the powerful and entrenched oil supplying lobby head-on.

He founded around 30 institutions of excellence (like AMUL, GCMMF, IRMA, NDDB) which are owned, managed by farmers and run by professionals. As the founding chairman of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), Kurien was responsible for the creation and success of the Amul brand of dairy products. A key achievement at Amul was the invention[8] of milk powder processed from buffalo milk[9] (abundant in India), as opposed to that made from cow-milk, in the then major milk producing nations. This led Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to appoint him the founder-chairman of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1965, to replicate Amul's "Anand model" nationwide.[3] He is regarded as one of the greatest proponents of the cooperative movement in the world, his work having lifted millions out of poverty in India, and outside.

Early life and education[edit]

Kurien was born on 26 November 1921 at Calicut (now Kozhikode, Kerala) into a Syrian Christian family[10][11] His father was a civil surgeon in Cochin, Kerala.

He graduated in Physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940 and then obtained his Bachelors in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy[12] affiliated to University of Madras. After completing his degree, he joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur from where he graduated in 1946. Subsequently, he went to the United States on a Government of India scholarship to earn a Master of Science in Metallurgical Engineering (Distinction) from Michigan State University in 1948.[13][14][15][16]


Kurien arrived back from the United States to India after his master's degree, and was quickly deputed to the Government of India's experimental creamery, at Anand in Gujarat's Kheda district by the government and rather half-heartedly served out his bond period against the scholarship given by them. He arrived at Anand on Friday 13 May 1949 and started the work assigned to him the very same day. He had already made up his mind to quit mid-way, but was persuaded to stay back at Anand[17] by Tribhuvandas Patel (who would later share the Magsaysay with him) who had brought together Kheda's farmers as a cooperative union to process and sell their milk, a pioneering concept at the time.[18]

He would brook no meddling from the political class or bureaucrats sitting in the capital cities, letting it be known upfront,[19] though he, and his mentor and colleague, Tribhuvandas Patel were backed by the few enlightened political leaders and bureaucrats of the early Independence days who saw merit in their pioneering cooperative model.

Tribhuvandas Patel's sincere and earnest efforts inspired Kurien to dedicate himself to the challenging task before them, so much so, that when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was to visit Anand later to inaugurate Amul's plant,[20] he embraced Kurien for his groundbreaking work. Meanwhile, Kurien's buddy and dairy expert H. M. Dalaya, invented[8] the process of making skim milk powder and condensed milk from buffalo milk[9] instead of from cow milk. This was the reason Amul would compete successfully and well against Nestle which only used cow milk to make them. In India, buffalo milk is the main raw material unlike Europe where cow milk is abundant. The Amul pattern of cooperatives became so successful, that in 1965 Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, created the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) to replicate the program nationwide citing Kurien's "extraordinary and dynamic leadership" upon naming him chairman.

As the 'Amul dairy experiment' was replicated in Gujarat's districts in the neighbourhood of Anand, Kurien set all of them up under GCMMF in 1973 to sell the combined produce of the dairies under a single Amul brand. Today GCMMF sells Amul products not only in India but also overseas. He quit the post of GCMMF chairman in 2006 following disagreement with the GCMMF management.[21][22]

When the National Dairy Development Board expanded the scope of Operation Flood to cover the entire country in its Phase 2 program in 1979: Kurien founded the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA).Kurien, played a key role in many other organisations, like chairing the Viksit Bharat Foundation, a body set up by the President of India. Kurien was mentioned by the Ashoka Foundation as one of the eminent present Day Social Entrepreneurs. Kurien's life story is chronicled in his memoir I Too Had a Dream.[23] Interestingly Kurien, the person who revolutionised the availability of milk in India did not drink milk himself.[24] Nevertheless, the work of Kurien & his team in India took India from a milk importer to a milk & milk-products exporting nation within the span of two decades.

Personal life, family and beliefs[edit]

Verghese married Molly and they had one daughter Nirmala Kurien and a grandson, Siddharth.[25] He was an atheist.[26] Verghese Kurien died on 9 September 2012 after a brief spell of illness in Nadiad, near Anand in Gujarat, India. He was 90. His wife Molly died on 14 December 2012 in Mumbai after a brief illness.[27]

Film and its use in enlarging the movement[edit]

Veteran film-maker Shyam Benegal, then an advertising executive with Lintas Advertising, produced Manthan (the churning of the 'milk ocean'), a story set in the cooperative milk movement in India. Not able to finance it, Benegal was helped by Kurien who hit upon an idea of getting each of his half a million member farmers to contribute a token two rupees for the making of the movie. Upon its release, truckloads of farmers came to see "their" film, making it a success at the box office. Manthan hit a chord with the audience immediately when it was shown in Gujarat in 1976, which impressed distributors to release it before audiences, nationwide. It was critically acclaimed and went on to win national awards the following year and was later shown on television to the public.

The movie's success gave Kurien another idea. Like shown in the film, a vet, a milk technician and a fodder specialist who could explain the value of cross-breeding of milch cattle would tour other parts of the country along with the film's prints, to woo farmers there to create cooperatives of their own.[28]

UNDP would use the movie to start similar cooperatives in Latin America.[29]


Prestigious awards and distinguished honours[edit]

Year Name of Award or Honor Awarding Organization
1999 Padma Vibhushan[30] Government of India
1993 International Person of the Year Award World Dairy Expo
1991 Distinguished Alumni Award Michigan State University.
1989 World Food Prize World Food Prize, USA.
1986 Wateler Peace Prize Award Carnegie Foundation, The Netherlands.
1986 Krushi Ratna Award Government of India.
1966 Padma Bhushan[30] Government of India.
1965 Padma Shri[30] Government of India.
1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation.

Kurien has also received 15 honorary degrees[31][32] from universities in India and around the world.


  1. ^ "Father of white revolution Verghese Kurien dies". =The Times of India. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  2. ^ "1989: Dr. Verghese Kurien". (The World Food Prize Foundation). Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Singh, Katar (1999). Rural Development: Principles, Policies and Management. New Delhi: SAGE. p. 201. ISBN 81-7036-773-5. 
  4. ^ "India largest milk producing nation in 2010–11: NDDB". Hindustan Times. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Kurien, Verghese (2007). "India' s Milk Revolution: Investing in Rural Producer Organizations". In Narayan, Deepa; Glinskaya, Elena. Ending Poverty in South Asia: Ideas that work. Washington D.C., USA: (The World Bank). p. 52. ISBN 0-8213-6876-1. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Pendleton, Andrew; Narayanan, Pradeep. "The white revolution : milk in India" (PDF). Taking liberties: poor people, free trade and trade justice. Christian Aid. p. 35. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  7. ^ Aneja, R. P. "Life and times of Verghese Kurien". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  8. ^ a b Damodaran, Harish (13 September 2004). "Amul's tech wizard, Dalaya passes away". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 112–115. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  10. ^ Amul brand builder Verghese Kurien: The man who turned India into largest milk producer
  11. ^ Report on Dr Verghese Kurien in Tehelka
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Verghese Kurien, Leader of India's Milk Cooperatives, Dies at 90". Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  15. ^ "Dr Verghese Kurien – From mechanical engineer to milkman". Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  16. ^ "The man who revolutionised white". Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  17. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  18. ^ Misra, Udit (10 September 2012). "V. Kurien: India’s White Knight". Forbes India. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  19. ^ Dasgupta, Manas (9 September 2012). "'Kurien strode like a titan across the bureaucratic barriers and obstacles'". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  20. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 121–127. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  21. ^ Katakam, Anupama (25 Mar – 7 April 2006). "Controversy: Milkman's exit". Frontline (Volume 23 – Issue 06). Retrieved 11 September 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. ^ Mahurkar, Uday (17 April 2006). "A White Evolution: Verghese Kurien quits Gujarat co-operative, diary body faces politicking risk". India Today. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  23. ^ "I too had a dream - on". 
  24. ^ Press Trust of India. "Verghese Kurien: India's cooperative dairy movement founder". -. DNA India. 
  25. ^ "Modi had soured relations with the milkman of India". Times of India. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  26. ^ "I don't surrender if I'm right: Kurien". Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  27. ^ "Wife of late Dr Verghese Kurien to be cremated at Mumbai". The Times of India. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  28. ^ "Amul's Verghese Kurien never suffered fools: Shyam Benegal". The Economic Times. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  29. ^ "How a farmers' servant painted the nation white" (PDF). UNDP quoting Hindustan Times. 9 September 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  30. ^ a b c "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015. 
  31. ^ Indian Dairy Association. "Dr. Verghese Kurien: The Making of a Legend" (PDF). Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  32. ^ Verghese Kurien. "Dr. Verghese Kurien: Honorary Degrees". Retrieved 3 July 2014. 

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