India’s White Revolution is a social movement that was spurred by one of its largest dairy producers.
Anand Milk Union Limited, more popularly known by its acronym Amul, is a cooperative Indian dairy company that is based out of Anand, India. The cooperative came together to protest unfair trade practices in the 1940s, a move that prompted what’s called the White Revolution of India. It would mark a turning point in the Indian labor movement and go on to inspire a whole host of workers to fight for their right to fair representation and wages.
Millions of Independents
The way that the cooperative works is that separate, independent milk producers come together to create a single union that can together challenge the milk industry and ensure that everyone gets their share of the profits from the dairy that their animals are producing. It negotiates for them, creates united branding, and handles the advertisements for the products.
Smaller milk producers just don’t have the same kind of pull in the marketplace that large milk producers do. Smaller-scale production also means higher costs in general. When large milk producers run the show, they can drive down prices and force the little guys out of business. That’s not good for anyone, not except the larger farms who are then able to jack prices back up when they are the only people left selling and their rivals are out of business.
Today, there are more than three and a half million independent milk producers in Gujarat that are part of the Amul family. There is strength in numbers.
White, of course, refers to the color of the milk produced by the dairy farmers in question. Revolution indicates the major shift that they brought to the workers not only of their industry but that inspired other industries in India to demand similar equity in their own industries.
Amul has its origins in the Kaira District Milk Union Limited that was formed in 1946. The movement was led by Tribhuvandas Patel along with Sardar Patel. They convinced Dr. Verghese Kurien to come onboard and help them out soon after the co-op was founded.
Amul is credited with greatly expanding the dairy industry in India fivefold over the course of forty years.
Structure and Profits
Amul carries a staff of less than eight hundred people, all of whom are in the marketing and admin departments. The production is all in the hands of the independent farmers.
The total revenue of the co-op is more than five and a half billion dollars per year.
The company is still on the cutting edge of revolution, and its advertising efforts are almost always topical and to the point. This has been the case since 1966 when the managing director created what would become the longest-running ad campaign in history according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Filmmaker Shyam Benegal based his 1976 film called Manthan on the events surrounding the founding of Amul. The film was independently financed by more than a half-million rural farmers who lived in the Gujarat region, with each putting up two crores for its production. The film was heavily attended by those same farmers, who got onto trucks to go into the theatres to see it. That kind of grassroots support made it a commercial success story. The film won the 1977 National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.
The word Amul means priceless in Sanskrit. When the co-op wanted to move out to marketing and advertising, this was the perfect name for it. Expansion of the industry and access to profits for its workers were always central tenets of the White Revolution, and that certainly is priceless.