Rakesh Kumar is a versatile Dairy and Food Professional having over 28 years of exceptional hands-on experience in developing, leading, and managing multiple Operations in MNCs at National & International level. He’s currently heading a Business unit and serving the Best Quality Amul Dairy Products. Sagrika Sanjay from FMT-India Magazine spoke to him about his work and Dairy Industry in general.
Q Tell us about work and contribution to the industry.
With over two decades of managing Operations of varying sizes, serving in various capacities as Plant Head / General Manager and as Director – Manufacturing & Operations with responsibility for multiple country operations, I am currently heading a Business unit, having first vertical dairy with state of art technology at India’s largest co-operative dairy of Mehsana Union and serving Amul (The Taste of India) Dairy Products with a strong concept of ‘Farmers to Customers connect’.
I started my career with GlaxoSmithKline and then moved onto Nestle in various areas of Operations. I have managed businesses and improved top line and bottom line of the business, handled P&L responsibility and developed/trained various cross-functional teams at National and International level.
During my International assignment in UAE, I was a part of the steering committee to transform the loss-making business into a profitable one. I have been able to complete various green / brown field projects in the Dairy, Non-Dairy and Beverages domain.
I have developed & launched various new products & packaging in the market and added new customers including 5-star hotels, Airlines and other MNC institutional clients. It was a privilege to lead the R&D team for developing the welcome drink for Emirates airlines for their European and Asian flights.
During my assignment in New Zealand, I was the key contributor for developing Milk powders for making most stable long life UHT milk.
Q Tell us about the expansion of the dairy project. How did the idea of Commencement of Marketing of Milk products under the Brand name started?
The evolution of the Dairy industry dates back to the early 1950s when the iconic Dr. Verghese Kurien laid the foundation of Amul, a co-operative model, which enabled the farmers in the Anand district of Gujarat to sell their milk at the highest possible price without interference from middlemen. This model, which empowered the farmers, and converted Anand from a milk-deficient region to a milk-surplus region, became a national rage with other states replicating it. The marketing of milk and milk products was started under the brand names of Amul & Sagar by Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF) popularly known as AMUL to provide remunerative returns to the farmers and also serve the interest of consumers by providing quality products which are good value for money.
Q What are the food safety challenges in dairy? What is the importance of quality of raw milk and its impact on processed dairy products?
In India, out of 400 million litters of daily milk production, average 170 million litres is being sold / processed by unorganized sector and so food safety is major concern here. To get clean milk without any adulteration as in many areas, middlemen are involved due to remote locations. In-sufficient Training / awareness at the farm level, detecting all adulterants or below threshold values are still a challenge. Raw material quality for any food is very much essential and particularly milk being a perishable item, its quality affects the shelf life of the final product. Food Quality and Safety is a successful measure for protecting the consumers against food-borne and health risks.
Q New research is going on to overcome microbial and pathogenic problems. How can we overcome such challenges, especially in India? Is our problem unique to other countries?
In order to overcome these challenges, new methods to produce clean milk are already in place like Bulk milk coolers at society level so that milk can be cooled immediately after receiving at the society. By cooling milk, the multiplication of the bacteria gets controlled and so helps in maintaining the milk quality.
In India, we have high population with low productivity animals; moreover, there are challenges at the village level on the power availability, awareness about the proper feed / fodder, which are unique as compared to major milk producing countries. At Mehsana Union, we have a dedicated co-operative services department which takes care of animal health, making training programs at farm level. On the power, solar power is being explored by many companies now.
Q What role does the milk chilling centres play in maintain the safety and quality of the milk?
Milk chilling centres are playing a major role in the areas where processing plants are at a distance. At the MCC’s, milk is being collected from nearby societies and after chilling it is stored at a low temperature to save on the quality of milk till it is transported to the processing plant. Thus, maintain safety and quality.
Q Tell us about your various products such as sterilised milk, powdered milk etc.
We have products and services that spread across vastly. For example, sterilised milk is a growing market in India and it is being explored by many private players also. On the milk powder, currently the prices are lower in the International market; however, with a positive outlook on the crude oil, there is a good possibility of market growth in near future.
Q What are modern techniques that you use in cattle farms? How will you explain that the quality of milk is related to the cattle?
Modern techniques have provided better facilities and made our life easier. We have installed automatic milk collection systems, adulterant detection machines and most of our farms are ISO9001 certified. We are focused to maintain the safety and the standards, and the quality is the prime factor. Also, at the factory level, we use RTPCR machine to detect the milk quality from different cattle.
Q Dairy is an important and fast growing sector in the Country. What is the market share of the Dairy Industry?
Dairy has emerged to be India one of the fastest growing sectors. Dairy ranks first in the world in terms of producing milk and accounts for over 25% of the total Global Milk Production. In value terms, the Indian milk economy is worth Rs 5 lakh crore and as per Central statistics office (CSO), India’s farmers produced milk is no.1 Farm crop by value. In last 15-years, the value of milk produced in India has exceeded the total value of food grains (cereals plus pulses).
Q What is the driving factor behind companies investing in this sector?
India is a growing market and Multinationals are looking at this as India is raising its concerns towards food safety & quality bar to the levels of the advanced nation. Government has started supporting this sector by organizing food shows. The vision of India’s Hon’ble Prime Minister is to double the farmer’s income by 2022, and companies are getting confidence to invest in this sector. Even the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Rs 10,881 crore for dairy development.
Q How much of automation is being used in dairy industry? What do you think is the future for automation in the sector?
Automation is very important for the Processing Industries. If we compare our processes in the 90’s with today, we are quite advanced in the automation. Automation is slowly increasing, and companies look towards better efficient machineries. Now, many dairy factories are quite automated and are being run with good automation level. During my first assignment overseas in 1998, I saw that 15 lakh litres milk factory can be run from a computer in control room with a very few number of employees. Now at Mehsana Union, we have the similar facility where all the operations are being run from a computer in control room.
In India, we are progressing on automation, but it is still a slow process as manpower is easily available, but companies are changing their thoughts. There is still a lot to cover, compared to the overseas.
Q Are you satisfied with machinery and equipment available in India for dairy industry?
We are improving and adapting techniques. The change will come, and as I said, it’s a slow process. We need to be more innovative and quality conscious as most of our machines are still labour intensive and require high energy cost. We have around 1% wastage of food which needs to be minimized for better returns to the farmers and consumers.
Q Recently the “World Food India” happened. How much of your concerns were addressed?
This was the first time when India exhibited such a big show on Food. During the show, Denmark delegation visited our factory in Delhi-NCR and they were quite impressed with the processes being followed at Mehsana Union. They felt the process of bringing clean milk from farms and producing various products under Amul brand very skilful.
$11 Billion investments committed during recent World Food India 2017. We hope that this will bring a positive change in the industry, with a lot of job opportunities.