Yeah, this is a book review.
There is one thing in common between this book ‘I too had a Dream’ by Verghese Kurien and ‘An Autobiography’ by Lee Iacocca – Both of them tell the truth, audaciously. Both are extremely well written, frank and bold autobiographies.
“I have always spoken of integrity as the most important of values – realizing that integrity, and personal integrity at that, is being honest to yourself. If you are always honest to yourself, it does not take much effort in always being honest with others” – Verghese Kurien.
You can see that right from the beginning. The first few pages make you smile at some places and even laugh, at others. The author tells us frankly that he did not choose to head the farmers cooperative and it was destiny which chose him for the job, through a series of unexpected but unavoidable events.
The farmers cooperative is none other than ‘Amul’ which is a house hold name in most of the Indian cities and towns, and perhaps even the neighboring countries! This cooperative was and is based out of Anand, a small town in Gujarat. It was the first and truly cooperative movement of India which was conceptualized as a dream and sculpted to perfection by people like Tribhuvandas Patel. Verghese Kurien, Dalaya and others.
He frequently refers to the fact that he was employed by the farmers, to take care of the welfare of the farmers by collecting the milk they produced and selling it across the country in various forms (liquid milk, milk powder, butter, etc). The main advantage of this system is that the profits go directly to the producer (farmer) instead of middlemen like traders, milk contractors etc, who were exploiting the farmers (by not giving them a reasonable share of the profits) of the region prior to the formation of the cooperative.
“In every crisis, if you look carefully, you will spot an opportunity. My insistence is on finding and seizing that opportunity. I never try to side-step a crisis. Rather, the more monstrous the crises, the more I am tempted to rush at it, grasp it by the horns and man-oeuvre it until it gives me what I want” – Verghese Kurien.
The above quote sums up the book, as well as the life of Dr. Kurien, in his own words. This is because the change that he wanted to see not only empowered a lot of people (farmers), as they were getting a higher share of revenue through the cooperative that was owned and run by them, but also proved disruptive for a few of them (middlemen (traders), bureaucrats, competitors and multi-national companies, politicians, etc).
And all these people were very powerful, trying every trick in the book to spoil the cooperative model of the business. He doesn’t mince words while saying that the biggest enemy he had to fight throughout his life were the bureaucrats. He also conveys his contempt towards the private firms (particularly MNC’s) which controlled those bureaucrats.
But then, where there is bad, there is also good. Mr. Kurien is happy to mention about the support he got from most notable people including Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Maniben (Sardar Patel’s daughter), Jawaharlal Nehru, Moraji Desai, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, various Chief Ministers of Gujarat and Maharashtra, World Bank, etc at various phases of the cooperative and later on NDDB, which made ‘Amul’ the largest food business brand of India.
The ‘Amul’ model of the cooperative movement not only made the farmers earn more, but also brought about a social revolution by empowering women, increasing the hygiene and medical standards of both people and cattle, breaking caste and religious distinctions, and most importantly making the nation self sufficient in milk production and distribution by implementing the famous ‘operation flood’ program across the nation through the cooperative model that he perfected through ‘Amul’.
In fact, he was successful in implementing the cooperative model of production and distribution not only in milk and related products like butter, but also with products like baby food, vegetable oil, etc. When ever a crisis arose in Delhi with import surplus, the Government used to take his help for increasing local production for those commodities! He is also quick to point out his failures as well – not being able to replicate the cooperative model in the salt business, not able to even start the cooperative model for distributing electric power, etc.
“While integrity and loyalty are core values, there are other values which are a pre-requisite to achieve success in any field. For example, the leader has to set a personal example and make others understand in what ways ‘change’ is going to be useful. I believe that professionals working in our organizations must have a clarity of thought combined with a passionate pursuit of mastery of their subject. I also believe that a person who does not have respect for time, can achieve a little” – Verghese Kurien.
He was the son of the soil both by chance and choice, and his brand of nationalism is worth following, or at least knowing! For all the technical and economical revolutions he brought to the country, the last salary drawn by him was just Rs. 5000! His attitude towards money was a true gem and that’s why I have saved it to to the last:
“It is terrible to have too little money because you will not even have enough to eat and appease your hunger. But it is far, far worse to have too much money because then you will surely get corrupt” – Verghese Kurien.
The above quote, is more relevant to today’s generation which is being enslaved by money so much that they forget what their basic responsibilities are, towards their family, community, country and environment.
A timely reminder, Mr. Kurien and I appreciate the message you have conveyed through your Auto-biography. Hopefully, the younger generation would follow your example instead of running away to the US using the faintest opportunity as the faintest excuse! This book needs to be read by all the young people of India, and perhaps even the world.
- You can buy I Too Had a Dream 1st Edition from Flipkart.com if you live in India.
- You can buy I Too Had a Dream from Amazon, if you live in the US.
Actually, this book reading was prompted by a tag by my fellow blogger Vishesh, as I was not able to answer the second question of ‘What are you reading right now’, as I was not currently reading anything! Vishesh, there are too many questions in that tag, and hence I just answered the second question through this review