The utterly butterly delicious story of Amul

Over the years, Amul, one of the most beloved brands of our country, has become the taste of India, just as its tagline claims. Every Indian millennial has grown up listening to the jingles of its many dairy products, and the Amul girl, the brand’s mascot in the polka-dotted dress, has become a nostalgia-evoking symbol. Amul has truly come a long way since its founding in 1946.

The beginning

Amul was formed as a part of a cooperative movement against Polson Dairy in Anand, Gujarat, which procured milk from local farmers of Kaira District at very low rates and sold it to the then Bombay government. Everyone except the farmers benefited from this trade. The farmers took their plea to Sardar Patel, who had advocated farmers’ cooperatives since 1942. The result was the formation of the Kaira District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Limited in Anand.

The union started pasteurising milk produced by a handful of farmers for the Bombay Milk Scheme and grew to 432 farmers by the end of 1948. The rapid growth led to problems including excess production that the Bombay Milk Scheme couldn’t accommodate. To solve this issue, a plant was set up to process all that extra milk into products such as milk powder and butter.

Amul is born

The late Dr. Verghese Kurien, rightly called the Milkman of India, was Amul’s true architect. His journey at Amul began in 1949 when he arrived in Anand to manage a dairy as a government employee. He went from helping farmers repair machinery to revolutionising India’s dairy industry with the White Revolution (or Operation Flood), the largest dairy development programme in the world.

The new dairy with the milk processing plant was ready for operation in October 1955, the year that also saw a breakthrough in dairy technology —buffalo milk was processed to make products for the first time in the world. The word ‘Amul’, derived from ‘Amulya’, which means ‘precious’ or ‘priceless’ in Sanskrit, was used to market the range of milk products developed by the Kaira Union. It is also an acronym for Anand Milk Union Ltd.

Dr Kurien had a vision. He wanted to offer small-scale dairy farmers quality-control units and centralised marketing, which were missing at the time in the dairy economy. Thus, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF) was created in 1973 to market milk and all milk products produced by six district cooperative unions in Gujarat. GCMMF is the largest exporter of dairy products in India and Amul is the umbrella for all of its products.

Awards, accolades, and a global presence

Over the years, Amul, together with GCMMF, has won numerous awards. Some of these include the Rajiv Gandhi National Quality Award, 1999; the Golden Trophy for Outstanding Export Performance, 2009-10; Best Marketing Campaign, 2014; and World Dairy Innovation Award, among many others. Amul earned recognition all over the world when GCMMF  introduced it on the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) platform, where only the six top dairy players across the world sell their products.

More than a mere slogan

Amul’s famous slogan, which is now a part of its logo, was created in 1994 by Shri Kanon Krishna of a Mumbai-based advertising agency called Advertising and Sales Promotion (ASP). According to Amul, the Taste of India slogan is more than just corporate positioning or advertising jargon. This slogan lends meaning to the brand’s never-ending commitment to taking quality food and products to the rural man, which he otherwise couldn’t have afforded.

The Butter Girl

Amul did not always have the round-eyed moppet as its mascot. The Butter Girl was born in 1966 when Sylvester daCunha, the then MD of the advertising agency handling Amul butter’s account, created her for its campaign. It was a pleasant change from the dull, corporate ads that the previous agency had come up with. Being a seasoned marketer himself, Dr Kurien gave daCunha complete creative freedom to create and release the ads without taking the company’s permission. 30 years later, the Utterly Butterly Girl still wins hearts wherever she is, whether on a billboard or on the packet of butter.

Amul is not just a brand; it is also a movement that represents farmers’ economic freedom. The name is now a household term that is here to stay, and the chubby-cheeked Amul girl will continue to cast a spell on the public.