Thursday, March 01, 2012

From butter and ice creams to everything in the milky way

Growing out of a cooperative movement, the home-made brand has been the lynchpin of dairy revolution in India and spawned a branded dairy foods industry

Even when fighting for Independence from the British rule, another struggle was being waged to own an indigenous milk federation and to free our dairy farmers from exploitation at the hands of the British. It took a man of grit, Tribhuvandas Kishibhai Patel, to revolt against the British milk brand Polson and urge farmers in Kheda district of Anand, near Ahmedabad, to form their own cooperative dairy and later their own cooperative milk society. With the support and guidance from Sardar Vallabbhai Patel and Morarji Desai, Kishibhai was able to set up India’s first Milk Producers Union in Kheda district in 1946. What was unique about this union was its composition, which comprised farmers irrespective of their caste, creed or economic strata. The union not only led to the collapse of the ‘firangi’ Polson milk brand, it also zipped the mouths of those who had doubted the ability of desi villagers to run a cooperative.

Within four years of setting up the cooperative, Kishibhai hired a young manager who is now popularly known in every Indian household as the Architect of the White Revolution in India. Varghese Kurien joined the cooperative union in 1950 and five years later the same district (Kheda) had its first ever milk producing and milk product manufacturing plant in place. On April 3, 1965, the second dairy of the Kaira (Kheda) District Co-operative Milk Producers Union Ltd, Anand, was inaugurated to process milk and milk products. The same year Kurien established NDDB (National Dairy Development Board). It was done in order to aid dairy farmers from outside Anand, Gujarat, so that the rest of the nation could also benefit from the developments in Gujarat.

Till 1965, the story of Amul was all about the inception and establishment of the dairy plants and the setting up of the cooperative unions and the dairy board. The next year saw the dairy get a face of its own and a brand name ‘Amul’ (short for Anand Milk Union Ltd) for the two products (butter and ghee) that were processed at these dairy plants. Subsequently, the account for Amul was handed over to a Mumbai-based ad agency, ASP (Advertising & Sales Promotion). The creative people working on the account were Sylvester da Cunha, Eustace Fernandes, Usha Katrak and Marie Pinto. Recalls Sylvester da Cunha, now CMD, daCunha Associates, “Eustace, my Art Director and I had sat down to create a mascot for Amul. I had already thought of the catchphrase, ‘Utterly Butterly’ but we were yet to figure out how the mascot would look like. We were sure we wanted a child who was both vibrant and funny. The next morning, he was ready with this marvellous little creature – and the public has adored it ever since.” R. S. Sodhi, MD, GCMMF (Gujrat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, Amul) recounts: “When we decided to advertise Amul butter and ghee, there was no medium available other than the press and outdoors. Even radio was not quite popular, so we decided to go for outdoor advertising and that’s how the idea of Amul Butter topical ads came up.” These ads have been so successful that even the Guinness Book of World Records acknowledges Amul topical ads as the longest-running campaign in the world.

During the early ’80s, Amul went for diversification within the milk products category and stressed on strengthening its distribution channels. By the ’90s, Amul had a bevy of milk products under its brand. The next best thing to do was to utilise the power of the booming TV medium for launching a corporate campaign. That led to the creation of an eternally ethnic Amul through The Taste of India campaign. It portrayed Amul as an umbrella brand with all its sub brands reflecting the real taste of India. On the influence of this campaign, Dhunji S. Wadia, President, Everest Brand Solutions says: “The Taste of India campaign resonated with our emotions. We have all grown up with the Amul brand playing a role in our lives through its different offerings. And it continues to do so even today. The ‘doodh doodh, piyo glass full doodh’ campaign had an endearing quality to it”. Agrees Sanjay Arora, Managing Partner, Shells Advertising, “Amul’s advertising has been what legends are made of, especially its outdoor campaigns.” But Amul to this day has butter as its sheet anchor cash cow brand, while there have been quite a few failures like pizza, chocolates etc.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2012

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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