The breakthrough that powered India’s White Revolution

I recently came across an article in the Times of India newspaper featuring Verghese Kurien, the father of India’s white revolution.

He says in that article:

When noted dairyman and director of dairy research in New Zealand Professor William Riddet visited Anand, he told me that he was happy to know that I had made a significant name in the dairy industry at such a young age. Then he asked me: “But, why are you such a bloody fool? Why are you working on a project that is bound to fail?” I told him that I would make it. He asked me if there was anything on earth that could dissuade me from embarking on a project that was bound to fail and I replied “nothing.”

I started wondering about why converting Buffalo Milk into powder is so important. It turns out that India has amongst the world’s largest populations of Buffalos – we have close to 50% of the total population of buffalos.

By extension, we also produce a lot of buffalo milk whereas most other countries mainly produce cow’s milk. During the lean months, when milk supply is not high, it is common practice to mix in milk reconstituted from milk powder to supplement the supply. Because, we could not convert Buffalo Milk into powder, we faced a serious issue of over supply in peak months and under supply in lean months. If the White Revolution had to take off, we absolutely needed to figure out a way to convert Buffalo Milk into powder.

This is what drove Verghese Kurien and H.M. Dalaya to figure out a way to do the impossible. Here is an article that was written when Dalaya passed away in the Hindu Business Line.

IF there is one technological breakthrough that truly revolutionised India’s organised dairy industry, it is the making of milk powder out of buffalo milk. And the man who made this possible defying prevailing technical wisdom — Mr H.M. Dalaya — passed away in Pune on Sunday, aged 83.

It is not clear why the scientists thought that buffalo milk could not be converted into milk powder. After reading several articles, it appears it is due to the fact that Buffalo Milk has amongst the highest fat content. Perhaps, the high fat content somehow interferes with the spray drying process used for producing milk powder.

If there is some dairy expert out there, please let us know the real reason.

The White Revolution or Operation Flood has been so successful that India was transformed into the world’s largest milk producer in 1997 and has retained its leadership since – one of the few areas in which we are ahead of China.

We have to thank Amul for playing the key role in this epochal accomplishment under the leadership of Dr. Verghese Kurien.

By their pioneering efforts, Kurien and Dalaya proved an old Arabic proverb – “the difficult is done at once; the impossible takes a little longer.”


  1. Anonymous said September 9, 2007, 9:21 am:

    Mark Twain said that those who are crazy enough to think that they can change world are the ones who really count because they are the ones who make a difference.

    It makes me feel proud to read this article. Its realy inspiring to know that there are real people who work against great odds and succeed. It doesn’t take take 1000s of people to bring about huge change. One man with a vision will suffice.

    Have you seen the Amul ad. It brings out how the White Revolution has empowered poor rural women of India.

  2. Anonymous said September 9, 2007, 10:29 am:

    Thanks Archana. You’re right, massive change is usually brought about by a few persistent change agents.

    I haven’t seen the Amul ad you are referring to. Is it on TV? Or is it a print ad? Please give me a pointer. – Sukumar

  3. Anonymous said September 9, 2007, 12:39 pm:

    It is on TV. It has clips from Smita Patil’s movie. She is milking the cows and brings them to the cooperative society with many other rural women, thats how the ad progresses.

    There is also another ad (Some power company I think). It is a tribute to people who have made a big difference like Baba Apte who rehabilitated 100s of leprosy patients, Sai Baba in whose hospital many poor people are able to get surgery’s done which would otherwise be beyond their reach. Its nice ad.

  4. Anonymous said September 9, 2007, 9:52 pm:

    I was one of the fortunate lot to be closer to Dr Kurien when our ad agency was the creative arm of Amul chcolates (remember the old ads “you are too old for…. too young for….”) He was such a pious and humble person, I felt too good to meet such great people in my life. Our group met him a few times and I still treasure those moments.

  5. Anonymous said September 9, 2007, 11:36 pm:

    Thanks Archana. I’ll look for that ad. I haven’t seen the power co ad as well. I will keep a watch.

    Thanks Mahesh. The amul ad you refer to is one of the memorable ads from yore. You’re so lucky to have worked with Dr. Kurien up close.

    – Sukumar

  6. Contrarians usually succeed more than conventionalist s. Earth is flat until it is proven otherwise. Overall great reading of this breakthrough innovation.

  7. Thanks Vamsi.

  8. Anonymous said September 11, 2007, 9:43 pm:

    Thanks for the link Sukumar. Very inspiring.


  9. Thanks Ganesh. – Sukumar

  10. Anonymous said October 18, 2007, 1:43 pm:

    In economic perspective, this is a great task. But, i have seen many health reports, discouraging use of milk powder for infants & babies.
    It would be interesting to note how people managed their milks, before milk-powder was advented.
    The remaining milk after sale would be made in to curd, and after local consumption, the remaining curd would be stirred to produce ghee & water curd. (In tamil, moar).. Now, the ghee would last for few months, and most probably would be sold right away. The water curd part is the best alternate to use in summer instead of cooldrinks. Now it has also become a commodity.
    One reason, why milk production varies a lot is due to pattern of inseminisation of cows. Most people do it all at a time, and so that, all cows deliver at the same time. This means, all will stop milking at the same time. Normally, a cow delivers its calf in nine months, and stops milking in 6 months after delivery.
    If this practice can be re-aranged, we can serve the customer with fresh milk through out the year. (ofcourse, the quality of the milk lies in its freshness)

  11. Anonymous said October 20, 2007, 4:32 am:


    You are right, people would convert milk into curd or cheese and preserve it. But milk powder technology is essential for preserving milk as milk.

    Interesting point on the insemination of cows. I guess that is also one reason. I think the main reason is seasonal variations – perhaps due to different grazing patterns in summer and winter giving rise to differing production of milk. Do you not see this as a reason for variations in milk production?

  12. Anonymous said October 22, 2007, 7:54 am:

    Senthil – Sure, infants and children can be given whatever fresh milk is available and the adults could consume the powder right? This way, the demand-supply chain would be under control right?

    Just my two cents! ~Ravi

  13. Anonymous said October 24, 2007, 11:03 am:

    Thanks Ravi. I think the point is, modern dairies reconstitute milk powder into milk all the time. The milk that you get every day from the dairies does include reconstituted milk in the mix. the proportion would vary depending on the time of the year and the availability of milk.