From a household brand of dairy products to a multi-product food brand, in the past decade Amul catapulted itself into the league of top 10 global dairy processors. The man at the helm of affairs during that period, Rupinder Singh Sodhi has much to claim credit for the transformation of the dairy behemoth. Sodhi’s tenure as Managing Director, from June 2010, saw Amul foray into newer areas in dairy, beverages and non-dairy segments, the latest being the organic atta, thereby giving a marketing platform for not just dairy producers but also to the newly emerging breed of organic farmers.

The Amul data

In the past decade, Amul (GCMMF) has recorded an impressive average annual growth of over 14.5 per cent in its turnover from about ₹8,000 crore in 2009-10 to around ₹47,000 crore in 2021-22. The Amul Federation’s Group turnover of 18 dairy cooperative unions has crossed ₹61,000 crore (approx USD 7.4 billion). Amul’s investments in augmenting processing capacities also kept increasing. During the decade Amul invested approximately ₹8,700 crore. The installed processing capacity stands at over 390 lakh litres per day across different States.

This was necessitated as Amul increased its milk procurement by 175 per cent from 91 lakhs litres per day (llpd) in 2009-10 to over 280 llpd. The cooperative dairy major has added over 6.5 lakh milk producer members in Gujarat and 7 lakh outside, with a total farmer base of over 40 lakh milk producers across India. It was in 2010-11 Amul started milk procurement from outside Gujarat. Today it procures about 40 lakh litres of milk from places like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi etc. This is in addition to about 210-230 lakh litres procured within Gujarat.

During the past 10 years, the milk procurement prices were increased by 140 per cent from ₹337 per kg-fat in 2009-10 to about ₹850 per Kg-fat now. “If a food company has to become ageless, survive and grow, they have to take care of two major stakeholders of food supply-chain, i.e. grower and consumer. Our strategy is value for many (farmers) and value for money (of consumers),” Sodhi had said in earlier interviews with businessline.

Amul - a global giant

Sodhi led the transformation of the dairy major into a food giant after Amul started expanding its product offerings with an indomitable presence in the diversified food categories such as dairy products, frozen foods, milk-based and non-milk beverages, sweets, honey, organic grains and flours, besides ready to eat bakery and packaged foods. It also launched edible oils under Janmay brand. Notably, the share of non-dairy products in overall revenues has grown from near-negligible to a higher-single-digit. He was elected as the President of Indian Dairy Association (IDA) in 2022, a huge career growth for a rural management graduate who joined Amul as a sales officer in 1982. In his past interactions with this paper, Sodhi had said, “I had the advantage of working under the direct guidance and mentorship of Dr. Verghese Kurien — the father of white revolution.” At a time, when the Indian Government decided to double the farmers’ income, dairy and animal husbandry emerged as a promising bet for small and marginal farmers to rely upon. A vocal advocate for farmers’ interests, Sodhi played a crucial role in stalling the dairy sector’s inclusion for free trade under then-proposed Regional Cooperation for Economic Partnership (RCEP) in the South-Asian trade block.

A graduate in Agriculture Engineering from CTAE, Udaipur, Sodhi belongs to the first-batch of Institute of Rural Management- Anand (IRMA). He was accorded Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris-Causa) from Anand Agriculture University.

Sodhi’s exit

Sodhi resigned on Monday after GCMMF Board of Directors resolved to terminate his services asking him to hand over the charge to Jayen Mehta, Chief Operating Officer. What surprised the dairy sector and other stakeholders was there was no mention by the Board about the reason of his ouster nor a word on acknowledgement of his contribution for building brand Amul.

However Sodhi’s exit was on the expected lines, given that he was on his second extension since December 2020. But according to sources, the Board of Directors, which includes heads of the 18 district milk unions of Gujarat, convened an unscheduled meeting on Monday and resolved to terminate Sodhi’s service as the Managing Director with immediate effect, “without a convincing explanation.”