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At The Helm

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The Utterly Butterly Taste of India
B.M. Vyas (MD, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation) tells Prasun Kumar about how Amul, the cash cow of Indian dairy development, is owned by the farmers
 
AMUL - the word means ‘priceless’ in Sanskrit, but the acronym is said to stand for ‘Anand Milk Union Limited’. The organisation, that runs under the guidance of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), is India’s largest food products marketing organisation. While GCMMF is the largest exporter of dairy products in India, the objective of the company remains the upliftment of Indian farmers. In this exclusive interview with The Human Factor, Mr. B.M. Vyas, the MD of GCMMF, talks about the greatest challenges facing the company today, and how they are ready to recruit those who have lost their jobs in the recent rounds of layoffs at India Inc.!

Q. Please tell us about your early career experiences.
A.
My only experience has been here with Amul. I had spent two months working with a company called Elecon Engineering as a Design Engineer before I joined Amul. But since then, I have only been with this company.

Q. What would you say are the greatest challenges for companies in the Indian food market at present?
A.
As the food industry deals with the basic necessities of life, there remains huge scope to flourish in the marketplace. However, the biggest challenge is to maintain a supply of high quality products at affordable prices.

Q. How will Amul compete with players in the private sector, like Kraft and Britannia?
A.
Well, there is no competition for us. We do not feel that Kraft and Britannia are competition, they are the ones who feel like they have to compete with us! We cannot be compared to these private players as they are much smaller in size and volume. It would be incorrect to compare.

Q. What is the vision of Amul?
A.
The vision of Amul is to develop rural India by uplifting the farmers, empowering women and poor labourers, and in the process, improving society as a whole.

Q. Tell us about the work culture at Amul.
A.
It is very difficult to describe the Amul culture in words. One has to experience it or live it in order to truly understand it.

Q. What is the greatest strength of Amul as an organisation?
A.
Farmers make up the greatest strength of Amul as the organisation is owned by them.

Q. What role has the ‘Utterly Butterly Girl’ played in the company’s progress?
A.
The ‘Utterly Butterly Girl’ is only a symbol or means for achieving the goal, much like our national flag, the Tiranga. The betterment of the lives of Indian farmers remains our goal.

 
Q. GCMMF received the APEDA Award from the government for Excellence in Dairy Product Exports 11 years in a row. Please tell us about this, being the biggest exporter of dairy products in India.
A.
We received the award because our so-called competitors have not managed to reach where we have. And export is not even our objective; rather, it is to serve the nation. We want the citizens of India to consume more milk and milk products, so that they can live long and healthy lives. We want Indians to be strong and live for 100 years. We want our children to be tall and strong.

Our focus is not on exports. We should be ashamed if we focus on exports at a time when there are millions of unhealthy Indians who are living below the poverty line. Having said that, we export only to keep prices under control.

Overall, our objective is not to earn or maximise profit. Farmers come first and their well-being holds the most importance. Unlike at other companies, money does not drive us.

Q. Tell us about the HR initiatives at Amul.
A.
Like I said, Amul is owned by the farmers and we only cater to them. Whatever Amul is today, it is because of the farmers. The Amul brand is owned and has been built by them. We, the professionals, work for them as mere facilitators.

We do not have anything extraordinary in HR. All policies have been designed keeping the betterment of farmers in mind. People who work in Amul are unique; they are passionate about catering to the farmers’ cause. The job at Amul is not just about earning your bread and butter, it is about building the nation. Our employees realise this, and this is why they stay with us for a lifetime.

In fact, I have been with Amul for over 40 years now, and I have never thought about changing my job!

Promotions and increments are being used by MNCs and I am afraid that this may reduce men to machines and cause them to lose their vitality. As a result, they may lose originality and creativity; their own goals will become just another subset within the company’s goals. We do not follow such a system here - we want people who are passionate about their jobs.

Q. What kind of eco-friendly business practices does Amul believe in?
A.
All that we do is eco-friendly only. After all, our job is to look after cows and buffaloes!

Q. How has the global downturn affected the way you recruit your employees?
A.
Well, those who are losing jobs in IT and other sectors can come and start looking after our cows!

Seriously though, we do not hire too many people. Our needs are very specific when it comes to scouting for talent. We visit our own B-school, called the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA). We also have the SMC College of Dairy Science at Anand which takes cares of our recruitment needs.

Q. What are the best practices that private players can learn from the Amul business model and operations?
A.
In the past 60 years, the Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers Union has had only 5 MDs. In the last 38 years, GCMMF has had only three MDs. What you see today at Amul is not the result of a job done overnight. It is a result of the hard work and dedication shown by our people over many decades.
          
 
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