The Milkman of India

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June 30, 2016

Honoring Verghese Kurien ('48, ME), the father of India's 'White Revolution'

A display on Verghese Kurien, who engineered the world's largest agricultural development program, is on display in the lobby of the International Center.

MSU’s most impactful graduate of all time - Verghese Kurien, the Milkman of India -- was honored during a ceremony in the International Center on Thursday, June 30.

MSU International Studies and Programs, along with the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, dedicated a bust of the entrepreneur that is on display in the International Center lobby.

Kurien (1921-2012) received a master’s degree in 1948 from the MSU Department of Mechanical Engineering. He returned to India and became the architect of India’s “white revolution,” which transformed the nation from being a milk-deficit country to the world’s biggest milk producer. 

MSU officials sharing comments during the celebration were:

  • Steven Hanson, associate dean and director of International Studies and Programs;
  • Satish Udpa, executive vice president for Administrative Services;
  • Leo Kempel, dean of the College of Engineering; and
  • Doug Buhler, associate dean, professor and director of MSU Ag Bio Research.

Kempel said Kurien is an excellent example of Spartans Will. 

“No graduate from the College of Engineering, or maybe even MSU, transformed more lives than Dr. Kurien, and he used a mindset of breaking up a problem and solving it piece by piece,” Kempel explained.

Udpa said as a little boy in India - he would wake up early to retrieve water and the family's daily ration of milk. By the 1980s, milk was available everywhere and the need to ration milk was gone, thanks to Spartan Engineer Verghese Kurien. "India becoming the largest producer of milk in the world was made possible entirely by this individual," Udpa added.

During Thursday’s ceremony, two Kurien enthusiasts shared stories on some of his most important contributions. 

Manche Gouda, who was associated with Kurien for more than three decades, said India benefitted from his good judgment and ability to spread his message. “The daily production he created redefined the meaning of milk and economic redevelopment,” he said. 

Engineering Dean Leo Kempel and Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair James Klausner celebrated the renowned accomplishments of Verghese Kurien, '48 mechanical engineering, during a ceremony in the International Center.

Mallikarjuna Devapur Veerabhadrappa, a dairy engineer with SHIMUL, KMF, spoke on behalf of 15 million grateful farmer families of India and milk cooperatives. 

“When Dr. Kurien returned to India from the USA, he was touched by the discouraging state of monopolized milk production at the time. He decided to dedicate his life not only to the empowerment of the farmers producing it, but also to make India the world’s largest producer of dairy. 

“His billion-liter idea, Operation Flood, transformed India from a milk-deficient nation to the world’s largest milk producer, surpassing the United States in 1998. He made the country self-sufficient in edible oils, too.” 

Kurien founded 30 institutions, which today are owned, managed by farmers, and run by professionals, Mallikarjuna explained. Kurien was responsible for the creation and success of the Amul brand of dairy products, including the invention of milk powder from buffalo milk as opposed to cow’s milk. That success led to Kurien’s appointment as the founder-chairman of the National Dairy Development Board in 1965 and a charge to replicate Amul’s model nationwide across India. 

Mallikarjuna said Operation Flood also emerged as India’s largest rural employment program. 

India increased its milk production from 22 million tons in 1970 to 66 million tons by 1996. Since then, milk production has increased to 160 million tons per year supported by 15 state cooperative dairy federations, 189 district milk unions, 156,000 village dairy cooperative societies, and 15.2 million milk producer members. Women represent just under half of all producers. 

Cash income from India’s “white revolution” is estimated at more than $5 billion dollars annually. 

To thank him, Kurien received many prestigious awards during his lifetime. MSU presented him with an honorary PhD in 1965. It is one of 15 honorary degrees he received from universities around the world. 

His birthday, which is Nov. 26, is celebrated each year as National Milk Day in India, in remembrance of the Spartan Engineer who became the Milkman of India.

Acknowledgements: Mallikarjuna expressed his appreciation to those who assisted in the bust dedication ceremony, and he offered sincere thanks to Ashwin Maurya, reseach scholar at MSU, and Gowri Shankar for helping to coordinate the event. He also offered personal gratitude to Vikram and Smitha, his son-in-law and daughter, for arranging his visit to the USA for the dedication ceremony, and to Nirmala Kurien, daughter of Verghese Kurien, for her continuous cooperation and support. "And to R.S. Sodhi, MD GCMMF Anand and Dr. Swami, MD SHIMUL, KMF, for their encouragement, and to my wife and son, Suvarna Mallikarjuna and Sumith for their support and cooperation."


Mallikarjuna D.V. presents a bust of the renowned entrepreneur to Satish Udpa, MSU executive vice president.