Verghese Kurien

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Verghese Kurien
Verghese kurien.jpg
Born (1921-11-26)26 November 1921
( 'National Milk Day')
Calicut, (Madras Presidency)
(now Kozhikode, Kerala)
Died 9 September 2012(2012-09-09) (aged 90)
Nadiad, Gujarat, India
Nationality Indian
Education PhD
Occupation Co-founder, Amul
Ex-Chairman, NDDB and IRMA
Known for White revolution in India[1]
Awards World Food Prize (1989)
Order of Agricultural Merit (1997)
Padma Vibhushan (1999)
Padma Bhushan (1966)
Padma Shri (1965)
Ramon Magsaysay Award (1963)

Verghese Kurien (26 November 1921 – 9 September 2012) known as the Father of the White Revolution in India[2] was a social entrepreneur whose "billion-litre idea", Operation Flood - the world's largest agricultural development programme,[3] made India 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, from a milk-deficient nation, which doubled milk available per person within 30 years,[5] and which made dairy farming India's largest self-sustaining industry.[6]

He was responsible for the creation of the Amul cooperative, today India's largest food brand, where three-fourths of the price paid by the consumer goes into the hand of the producing dairy farmer, the cooperative's owner.[7][8] A key invention at Amul, the production of milk powder from abundant buffalo-milk, instead of from cow-milk, short in supply in India, enabled it to compete in the market with success. [9][10] He found the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in 1965, to replicate Amul's "Anand pattern" nationwide.[3]

He also made India self-sufficient in edible oils, taking on a powerful and entrenched oil supplying lobby.[11][12] 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.[13]

Early life and education[edit]

Kurien was born on 26 November 1921 at Calicut, Madras Presidency (now Kozhikode, Kerala) into a Syrian Christian family.[14][15] He did his schooling at Diamond Jubilee Higher Secondary School in Gobichettipalayam while his father worked as a civil surgeon at the government hospital there.[16][17] He graduated in physics from Loyola College, Madras in 1940 and then got a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, Guindy,[18] Madras. After that, he joined the Tata Steel Technical Institute, Jamshedpur from where he graduated in 1946.

He went to the United States on a government of India scholarship and returned with a master's degree in mechanical engineering (metallurgy), (with a minor in nuclear physics) from Michigan State University in 1948.[11][19][20]

Later, Kurien would say in his own words, "I was sent to the United States to study dairy engineering (on the only government scholarship left) at Michigan State University. I cheated a bit though, and studied metallurgical and nuclear engineering, disciplines that I believed were likely to be of far greater use to my soon-to-be Independent country and, quite frankly, to me."[21]

He did however train for dairy technology later on, on a government sponsorship to New Zealand, a bastion of cooperative dairying then, when he had to learn to set up the Amul dairy.


In 1949, Kurien was deputed by the government of India to its run-down, experimental creamery at Anand, in Gujarat, and began to work rather half-heartedly to serve out his bond period, against the scholarship given by them.. He had already made up his mind to quit mid-way but was persuaded to stay back by Tribhuvandas Patel who had brought farmers together in Kheda under a cooperative union to sell and process their milk.[22][23] Patel's efforts and the trust placed in him by farmers inspired Kurien to dedicate himself to establishing Amul.

He and his mentor Tribhuvandas Patel were backed by a few political leaders and bureaucrats who saw merit in their pioneering cooperative model of farmers willing to associate together for their produce and willing to be lead by professionals even whilst being owners of the cooperative.Then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru visited Anand to inaugurate Amul's plant and embraced Kurien for his groundbreaking work.[24] His colleague and dairy engineer H. M. Dalaya had invented the process of making skim milk powder and condensed milk from buffalo milk, instead of from cow milk, thought impossible by dairy experts around the world.[9][10] In India, buffalo milk was plentiful with cow milk in short supply, unlike Europe where it was abundant. This was the reason Amul would compete successfully and well against Nestle, the leading competitor, which used cow milk to make them. Later research by Dr. G. H. Wilster led to cheese production from buffalo milk at Amul.[25]

The Amul pattern of cooperative dairying became a success and in 1965, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri tasked Kurien to replicate the program nationwide. Kurien was mindful of meddling by the political class and bureaucrats sitting in the capital cities, letting it be known upfront.[26] And so, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was found under Kurien on his condition that it be set up closer to farmers at Anand.[27]

He took on established competitors viz. Aarey dairy of the Bombay Milk Scheme and Polson Dairy, was bold in dealing with donors like the UNICEF for aid,[28] and confronted the New Zealand government and a powerful 'dumping' lobby of countries which wanted to 'convert food aid into trade'.[29][30][31][32]

The 'Amul dairy pattern' was replicated in Gujarat's districts in the neighbourhood of Anand and he set all of them under Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF) in 1973 to sell their combined produce under a single Amul brand.

In 1979, he founded the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). He played a role in setting up similar cooperatives across India and in other organizations like chairing the Viksit Bharat Foundation, a body set up by the President of India.[33] In 1979, Premier Alexei Kosygin invited Kurien to the Soviet Union. In 1982, Pakistan invited him to set up diary cooperatives.

He quit the post of GCMMF chairman in 2006 following disagreement with the management.[34][35]

In Popular culture[edit]

Film-maker Shyam Benegal produced Manthan (the churning of the 'milk ocean'), a story based on the cooperative milk movement in India. He was helped by Kurien who requested farmers to contribute a token two rupees for the making of the movie. Upon its release in 1976, the film was a success at the box office which led to its release nationwide. It was critically acclaimed and went on to win national awards the following year. Kurien suggested that a similar film could be made with a vet, a milk technician and a fodder specialist who could explain the value of cross-breeding of cattle and would tour other parts of the country along with the film's prints to woo farmers there to create cooperatives of their own.[36]

UNDP would use the movie to start similar cooperatives in Latin America.[37]

Kurien's support was crucial in making the 'Amul girl' advertising-with-a-larger-public-message campaign, one of the longest running for decades now.

In 2013, Amar Chitra Katha has published Verghese Kurien: The Man with the Billion Litre idea.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Verghese married Molly and they had one daughter, Nirmala Kurien.[39] Verghese Kurien died on 9 September 2012 after a brief spell of illness in Anand. at the age of 90[40] while his wife Molly died on 14 December 2012 in Mumbai.[41] Kurien who spent most of his life in Gujarat never spoke the language of the state despite understanding it, nor was he used to drinking milk.[42]

Awards and honours[edit]

People nationwide honour Kurien's birthday, 26th November as 'National Milk Day'[43][44][45][46]

Year Name of Award or Honor Awarding Organization
1999 Padma Vibhushan[47] Government of India
1997 Order of Agricultural Merit  France Ministère de l'Agriculture[48]
1993 International Person of the Year World Dairy Expo
1991 Distinguished Alumni Michigan State University
1989 World Food Prize World Food Prize Foundation
1986 Wateler Peace Prize[48] Carnegie Foundation
1986 Krishi Ratna Government of India
1966 Padma Bhushan[47] Government of India
1965 Padma Shri[47] Government of India
1963 Ramon Magsaysay Award Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation

Kurien has also received 15 honorary doctorate degrees from universities in India and around the world.[49][50] The Institute of Rural Management, Anand, has invited eminent persons to deliver their Dr. Verghese Kurien Memorial Lecture, every year.[51][52][53][54][55][56][57]


  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. Archived from the original on 26 April 2013. 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. ^ Ajwani, Deepak (6 October 2015). "Cow to consumer: Beyond profit for Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation". Forbes India Magazine. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  8. ^ "Verghese Kurien". The Economist. 22 September 2012. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2016-08-27. 
  9. ^ a b Damodaran, Harish (13 September 2004). "Amul's tech wizard, Dalaya passes away". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 112–115. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  11. ^ a b Yardley, William (10 September 2012). "Verghese Kurien, Leader of India's Milk Cooperatives, Dies at 90". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Aneja, R. P. "Life and times of Verghese Kurien". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  13. ^ "Milkman of India gets doodled by Google, know why!". India Today. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "Amul brand builder Verghese Kurien: The man who turned India into largest milk producer". Economic Times. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  15. ^ "Report on Dr Verghese Kurien in Tehelka". Tehelka. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Kurien visits Erode". Industrial Economist. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  17. ^ "Varghese Kurien's bust immortalises his association with Erode district". The Hindu. 26 February 2015. 
  18. ^ "Dr V Kurien". Amul. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
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  20. ^ "The man who revolutionised white". Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  21. ^ Obla, Vishvesh. "Twenty-Second Convocation of Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, May 23. 2000". Wings of Fire --> Responses. (Forum Hub). Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  22. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  23. ^ Misra, Udit (10 September 2012). "V. Kurien: India's White Knight". Forbes India. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  24. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 85–127. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  25. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  26. ^ Dasgupta, Manas (9 September 2012). "'Kurien strode like a titan across the bureaucratic barriers and obstacles'". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 September 2012. 
  27. ^ Pandit, Shrinivas (2001). Thought Leaders. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-0-07-049550-0. 
  28. ^ "Civilization Follows the Cow" (PDF). UNICEF. Retrieved 27 August 2016. 
  29. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  30. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 110–116. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  31. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  32. ^ Heredia, Ruth (1997). The Amul India Story. New Delhi: Tata Mc-Graw Hill. pp. 210–211. ISBN 978-0-07-463160-7. 
  33. ^ "Verghese Kurien played key role in dairy movement in Bihar". Times of India. 12 September 2012. 
  34. ^ Katakam, Anupama (7 April 2006). "Controversy: Milkman's exit". Frontline (Volume 23 – Issue 06). Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ "Amul's Verghese Kurien never suffered fools: Shyam Benegal". The Economic Times. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  37. ^ "How a farmers' servant painted the nation white" (PDF). UNDP quoting Hindustan Times. 9 September 2012. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  38. ^ "Visonaries:Kurien". Amar Chitra Katha. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  39. ^ "Modi had soured relations with the milkman of India". Times of India. 11 September 2012. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  40. ^ "Verghese Kurien passes away". Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  41. ^ "Wife of late Dr Verghese Kurien to be created at Mumbai". The Times of India. 15 December 2012. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  42. ^ Damodaran, Harish (2012-09-09). "The man who empowered through milk". Business Line. The Hindu. Retrieved 2016-08-27. 
  43. ^ "National Milk Day celebrated". The Hans India. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  44. ^ "Milma to Celebrate National Milk Day". 24 November 2014. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  45. ^ "India Celebrates National Milk Day". 24 November 2014. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  46. ^ "Verghese Kurien's birth anniv to be held as National Milk Day". 25 November 2014. Retrieved 2016-08-28. 
  47. ^ a b c "Padma Awards". Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015. 
  48. ^ a b "Dr. Verghese Kurien - The World Food Prize". World Food Prize. Retrieved 12 August 2016. 
  49. ^ Indian Dairy Association. "Dr. Verghese Kurien: The Making of a Legend" (PDF). Retrieved 26 October 2012. 
  50. ^ Verghese Kurien. "Dr. Verghese Kurien: Honorary Degrees". Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  51. ^ IRMA. "Institute of Rural management Anand: Dr. Verghese Kurien Memorial Lecture". 
  52. ^ Virendra Pandit (12 December 2013). "IRMA's Dr. Verghese Kurien memorial lecture on Friday". Business Line. Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  53. ^ "Large wilful defaulters are freeloaders, not industry captains: Rajan". Business Standard. 26 November 2014. 
  54. ^ "Saving Credit Talk by Dr. Raghuram G. Rajan". RBI. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  55. ^ "Taxpayers have to pay for promoters' 'riskless capitalism': Raghuram Rajan". Retrieved 26 November 2015. 
  56. ^ "Arvind Subramanian moots 'Amul model' for pulses". Business Standard. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  57. ^ Rutam Vora (20 November 2015). "Arvind Subramanian to deliver Kurien memorial lecture at IRMA". Business Line. Retrieved 25 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Kotler, Neil G. (1990). Sharing Innovation: Global Perspectives on Food, Agriculture, and Rural Development. Int. Rice Res. Inst. ISBN 9789711042219. 
  • Kachru, Upendra (2011). India, Land of a Billion Entrepreneurs. Pearson Education India. ISBN 9788131758618. 

Literary work[edit]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "I too had a dream - on".