At a dairy farm in Manchar on the outskirts of Pune, a fourhour drive from Mumbai, about 200 cows await their

turn to be milked. They wait like shoppers in the billing queue of a supermarket, quiet and orderly. One by one, the cows step onto a 20-feet rotating circular platform and rubber hoses are attached to their udders. Once milked, the cows themselves kick away the hoses. "Minimal human effort, maximum milk produce," gushes Devendra Shah, Chairman, Parag Milk Foods, which started its operations in Manchar in 1993. The company has spent over Rs 4 crore on its rotary milking parlour, the first in India. The 3,000-plus Holstein cows, purchased at Rs 40,000 apiece, are treated to a special diet of calcium-rich feed and mellifluous bhajans in their sheds. "The music increases their milk produce," claims Shah, citing that each cow produces 25 litres of milk a day. "It's total cow comfort technology. These are the standards we need to adopt if we need to compete with international players in products like cheese," he adds. And cheese is where Shah's immediate ambitions lie. With a turnover of about Rs 550 crore, Parag Milk Foods has been selling milk and ghee in Pune and Mumbai since the mid -90s. But in the last one year, the company's focus has shifted to products like cheese and flavoured yogurt. It has invested Rs 110 crore to build what it claims is Asia's largest cheese plant (with a capacity to process 40 tonnes of raw cheddar daily). "Cheese from this plant is right now being sold in South Korea. With in a few months of our launch, we have cornered a 30 per cent market share of cheese sales at modern retail outlets in Mumbai. Our competitors are the Krafts and Laughing Cows of the world. With our superior product quality, we are not even competing with the Indian dairy players," says Shah. Some 450 km away, lounging in his spartan office in Anand in Gujarat, the mecca of the Indian cooperative movement, B.M. Vyas would be tempted to disagree with Shah's claims. After all, as MD of India's largest and onl y billiondollar cooperative dairy player, the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF), Vyas has seen competitors make more audacious claims in his 16-year tenure as MD. GCMMF sounds like a mouthful, but the

and huge. Amul was viewed as a brand that would not survive the pressures of competition in the post-liberalisation era. GCMMF's turnover was a little over Rs 1.700 crore. unlike Parag Milk Foods' state -of-the-art dairy farm. "Amul has seen competition in the past. there's Amrit Group in Kolkata. Today. Amul. Other than Parag.000 crore." says Vyas. but fast growing flavoured milk market.brand name under which the coopera tive sells its products.7 million farmers wake up early each morning to milk their cows and then give it to us is our biggest strength." Sanjay Khosla. MD. With Cadbury's distribution strengths. President (Developing Markets). This despite the fact that. Amul's milk is collected by dairy farmers every morning largely by hand. Groupe Danone is looking at tapping into the small. Vyas has managed the cooperative since 1994. across every category it operates in ²right from pouched milk and butter to cheese and ice creams. when it dethroned Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL)²then Hindustan Lever Ltd²from pole position). Vyas and Amul have not just survived the onslaught of competition. It really does not worry us. Back then. that has increased over six times to Rs 6. Amrit Group: "We are coming up with various value -added . recently told BT. "The fact that 2. Taking on competitors in a category or two at the same time is something Amul has done before. perhaps. we can push some of these brands in India. Kraft. too. "We hope to bring some of our big brands like Kraft Cheese and Oreo cookies to India. thereby getting a passage into India) and Groupe Danone are beginning to flex their muscle. Regional players. But the threat today is differen t. is. Says Harish Bagla. A mildmannered. Other than HUL and Nestle. When he took over Amul. which plans to launch valueadded milk products. multinational giants like Kraft (which recently acquired Cadbury globally. portly man of 59 years. are upping the tempo. the most recognised and revered dairy brand across the country." he says matter-of-factly. That's because never before has Amul been buffeted by as much competition as it is today. It's currently testing a chocolate -flavoured fortified milk in Hyderabad. but have often taken the fight to their territory (as it did in ice creams a decade ago. He is no stranger to pretenders challenging Amul's dominance.

Amul. butter. Quiz him about why then did Amul choose to drop the "milk drop" symbol (which is owned by NDDB but which both cooperatives willingly shared for years) from all its pouched milk packets and the answer is a wry: "Amul is Amul." says Paul Thachil. don't forget Johnnies-come-lately like Zydus Wellness²which has carved a niche for itself in butter alternatives²that are opening up new markets." says Vyas." Bagla's also exploring tie-ups with international companies. lassi. Finally." he adds rather diplomatically. In mid-February. dahi." chuckles Sodhi about the game of oneupmanship. Sodhi. ." says R. Amul made a bold clai m when it declared itself as the #1 player in the branded packaged milk segment. Mother Dairy was set up by Dr Verghese Kurien. the man who transformed GCMMF from a struggling dairy in Anand into India's largest foods producer. a subsidiary of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). Incidentally. The biggest threat to Amul. cheese.45 million litres daily. Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable.products like flavoured milk." Incidentally. "We will grow the market when we compete. The dairy farmers in the region are not complaining as milk prices have gone up. though. could well come from its one -time friend but now a bitter rival. "These little things happen in marketing. We were born before every other droplet. a traditional stronghold of Mother Dairy. paneer and ice cream.S. Amul's counter: "We do not operate in the loose milk segment and our figures are only for the pouched milk category. "Mother Dairy sells approximately 29 lakh litres of milk per day in Delhi NCR. Within a day. both NDDB and GCMMF have been battling each other for milk procurement in the Saurashtra-Kutch region after GCMMF started procuring milk there earlier this year. "Amul and Mother Dairy are both different sides of the same coin. which is about twice as much as that of the nearest competitor. Mother Dairy is the leader in the loose milk segment. with sales of 1. in the Delhi market. Chief General Manager (Marketing). Mother Dairy. the New Delhi-headquartered Mother Dairy shot back. CEO (Dairy & Foods).

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