Leadership dichotomy: Compassionate Vs. Ruthless

Let us start with two case studies.

Case-1: Consider a situation where one of your top performing members (person A) in the team is going thru a serious personal problem. The problem could come in many forms (love/affair failure, wife pregnancy complications, parents/kid having serious illness, perennial conflicts at home etc.) which make the individual disturbed because of which his focus on work might come down, due to which his intermediate deliverable may not be up to the mark. However he has earned his credibility in the team by consistently delivering on the expectations.

Case-2: Consider a situation where another member (person B) in the team, is not delivering on his business commitments where results are way below the expectations due to lack of ownership. Every other time, he comes up with some or other excuse for not doing the work, where proper effort is not spent let alone the results. However this individual has necessary capability to complete the work.

As a leader of the group, you end up facing cases mentioned above very frequently, which needs to be handled totally differently. With person A you need to be in ‘compassionate’ mode by understanding humane aspect of an individual by understanding personal issues/challenges faced. By considering the past record of this individual he needs to be given certain flexibility to sort of the personal problems. As a leader you can also offer solution or suggestion for him to come out of personal problem. But in simple terms, the leader has to take the ‘high on people, low on business’ approach by taking humane view into perspective.

In case of person B, you need to pass on a clear message with sharp feedback for not delivering on his commitment. If the situation prevails you need to quickly switch into ‘ruthless’ mode  by taking some strict action (ex: providing a performance improvement plan) or ask him to leave the organization if the situation worsens. When individuals are not delivering consistently, resulting in lower performance it should be treated very strictly. But in simple terms the leader has to take the ‘high business, low people’ approach by taking the business perspective into consideration. After-all organization and people are here to get things done and deliver on business commitments.

But the real challenge comes when you as a leader face multiple cases where you need to switch between ‘compassionate’ and ‘ruthless’ mode. Sometimes the mode switching has to happen in back-to-back meetings with hardly few minutes interval in between them. Based on my experience, the success of the leader depends on how seamlessly the leader is able to handle switching between these two modes, which is not an easy task at all. Also when it is not executed properly it may create disaster situations. For example, being ‘ruthless’ to the person A will create a ‘Hitler’ image of the leader to the individual (and eventually to the team) where the individual might feel his human aspects are not taken care. Also being ‘compassionate’ to person B will result in him enjoying paid vacation as a part of his job!

It really takes a lot on the leader to read the situations day-in-day-out and take decisions accordingly. Given the fact that leaders also human beings that have emotions, it is likely possible that leaders fail to switch between modes, which is normally known as ‘getting carried away’ by the situation. Achieving right balance between people and business is always challenging, which also makes leadership an ever evolving and ever learning journey as far as individuals are concerned. After all when it comes to leadership nobody can say ‘I am done’.

Who is the real “top” performer?

The performance management or appraisal system is one of the most debated topics around the globe, irrespective of the organization. After seeing different systems in different organizations, I come to a conclusion that most of them operate with same fundamentals. It can be summarized as follows:

  • What an individual has done in terms of given responsibilities (ex: Work volume)?
  • How an individual has gone about doing his responsibilities (ex: Behavioral aspects)?
  • What results (ex: Quantified) did an individual produce against given set of responsibilities?

While there may be minor differences in implementation among organizations, some of the members in a team or group need to be selected as ‘top’ performers, who did well in all the three dimensions mentioned above. These individuals are showered with higher salary raises, bonuses, perks, plum assignments etc. Sometimes these people are also regarded as ‘role models’ by giving rewards and recognitions. There is absolutely nothing wrong in doing this. High performing individuals need to be celebrated and showered with all possible benefits that organizations can provide.

However, there is a catch in identifying ‘real’ top performers. In my opinion these are the individuals who demonstrate strong character during adverse situations, which often goes missing in many evaluation methods. Given a team or group dynamics, things do change in terms of opportunities and situation. In such cases, there is a possibility where some of these top performers fail to meet the expectations, because of which their performance rating might come down a little bit. This is not because they have done really badly (after all they are high performers) but there are some other external factors (like somebody else in the team is doing better than him/her, other individuals are getting better opportunity etc…) which might have caused the situation.

The real litmus test starts when a high performance individual comes to know that his performance result has come down. Given the fact that we are all human beings, it is highly likely possible for those individuals react by saying – “No! I didn’t expect this”, “This is highly demotivating” or the most popular one “manager is biased; It’s all BS out there”. In some of the cases I have seen extreme cases where this “top-performer” becomes negative and starts spreading negativity in the team. In some cases we tend to wonder “Is this the same guy whom we rated high last time? Is this the same individual for whom we given so many awards in the past? Is this the same individual who was considered as role model one year back?”

The bottom line is very simple. Real top performers are the ones who not only do well when given higher performance ratings, but also accepts feedback in challenging situations and work for better performance next time. These individuals have a strong character which comes out during difficult times which is the sign of the “real” top performers. In fact I would rather bet on a guy who takes lesser performance rating and ready to work on it than a guy who just simply fails to accept the fact that he cannot be rated low.

BOOK REVIEW: You don’t need a godfather

Author: Elango R

Price: 250 INR

Success is one of the key items that each of us wants for sure. Be it personal or professional sphere, succeeding and winning given immense feeling of accomplishment to individuals or teams. In the corporate world success, especially in the long run depends not only on skills but also in other key aspects like situational leadership, moral authority, managing dynamics of the organization and building a brand for individuals. While there are many books that take deep dive in each of the items mentioned above, the book ‘You don’t need a godfather’ provides a very pragmatic blueprint creating success.

There are three unique things about this book. First the way it is written is very different from others. Author Elango takes his example conversations with his little son Agastya and maps them to corporate environment by taking some of the key learning’s from his son. As a father of three year old I can understand this viewpoint, mainly because we tend to learn so many things from our children provided we are having deeper listening to what they are saying. For example Agastya, while watching a cricket match between India Vs. Ireland makes a statement ‘Appa I hate Ireland’ mainly because the opposition take the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar, thereby calling the opposition bad. When things go wrong we seem to blame that problem is ‘out there’ whereas we as individuals might be root cause of the whole issue.

Second uniqueness of the book is its simplicity. Author conveys some of the key messages in a very simple manner. In my article about ‘Fill = 200 INR, Bill = 2000 INR’ I called out some examples on how professionals compromise on moral values in the name of making some silly money. In the similar lines author gives examples of people with very high academic qualifications losing their jobs mainly because their integrity related issues are found and asked to leave the organization. As professionals it is very critical not to compromise on such items which plants critical seeds for success.

Third uniqueness of the book is about real time case studies he used for explaining some of the key messages. Some of them include — How individuals should see constraints as opportunities, how individuals should build a brand for themselves by doing small things correctly and differently and how to learn from many of the mistakes we do in professional careers etc. I am also glad to see one of my college seniors story is mentioned as a case study, where many of his early constraints (Ex: Learning in regional medium school and difficulties faced to learn English, Missing out on initial set of opportunities faced for traveling abroad but still hanging on, Switching over to an internal sales job which was considered as inferior initially but later creating wonders in the job etc.). As I know this individual for the past 15 years, it’s really heartening to see his story getting mentioned in a book like this.

If you are looking for a light weight, yet powerful guide for navigating thru the corporate jungle, You Don’t need a Godfather is highly recommended. Backed up with real life case studies and drawing experience from his HR profession, author Elango provides great insights into creating success by you own. After all we don’t need a godfather to succeed in life.

The importance of hanging in there when things dont necessarily go your way

Nothing succeeds like success they say… There is an incredible “High” that success brings to you and your team. Everyone has a spring in their stride, the energy levels are high and there is spotlight that your team is basking on. Even as a manager, you are able to more easily keep your team motivated and also get better cross functional support for your initiatives.

However, things don’t always go or remain hunky dory in business. The best strategized and executed products do sometime fail, best planned projects sometimes don’t get delivered on time. The team starts feeling the pressure, there could be growing cynicism, dropping shoulders and an executive team that is focusing on your initiative more than you really care for.

How efficiently leaders and teams respond when they have their backs to the wall is a critical quality. As a Product Manager you need to be able to communicate though words, and more importantly, your body language that of you and your team are in charge.

In a Yoga course that I once attended, the teacher taught me the ability to say, and more importantly feel, “So what! What next?”. If you can truly get into that mode, the “What next?” allows you to divert your thinking and therefore your energy on exploring the next set of opportunities. The idea is to basically compartmentalize the “So what” and the “What next”. The former bringing to a realization that you are where you are – basically screwed; and the latter letting you focus on the steps to move ahead – do we need to pivot / do we need to re-look the strategy for this product / should we put in better processes. ALWAYS look for the next set of opportunities. They are around, if only you can compartmentalize and look hard.

Even in your hiring of critical positions, its a good idea for you to check how the person responded to an adverse situation and what it taught her. A recent very popular blog on Harvard Business Review was a good one on these lines – http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2011/12/why_i_hire_people_who_fail.html

Interestingly this holds as good in sports as in business. We have all seen crickets teams that drop catches / miss run out chances / show fraying tempers when the chips are down and then we have seen teams that are keeping up the pressure even when things don’t go their ways and show a spirit which conveys, “We just need to break THIS partnership, and we’ll be back in the game”. The second mentioned team might still not break that partnership and possibly go on to lose, but that very attitude of always backing themselves puts them in a great position to get right back into the game.

– NWritings

A meditator called Rahul Dravid…

Rahul Dravid, one of legends of world Cricket, announced his retirement yesterday. Even though I admire many cricketers, Dravid reserves a special place. It’s mainly because of the way he approached the same and lessons I could learn by looking into cricketing career. For him, being in the cricket ground and playing for India is similar to doing meditation. He did almost anything and everything that the team wanted – batted at different positions (being an opener to batting at seventh),kept wickets, bowled on few occasions, captained the team — even though most of them would put him out of his comfort zone. The sheer joy derived from his ‘uncomfortable zones’ is the key differentiation point for Dravid from other players. While there are definitely a lot of lessons one can learn from Dravid, here are my top three.

Aggression, in his own way: It’s been told that players need to be aggressive to win matches, which is true for Cricket as well. When it comes to Dravid, the definition of aggression takes a different meaning than what we generally perceive. Being a batsman, it’s mainly about competing fiercely against world’s toughest bowlers even in pitches that are favorable to them. Especially test cricket (which I believe is the true form of Cricket) is all about keeping the wicket intact. Dravid played multiple critical knocks in adverse conditions (ex: century scored against WI in 2011 tour) just by staying in at crease, thanks to his sheer concentration. Aggression is not only about taking on bowlers, playing attacking shots, scoring quick runs or sledging. It is also about keeping the wicket intact, beating the bowlers and opposition with patience, making them do mistakes and eventually capitalizing and winning on it, which Dravid successfully demonstrated in multiple occasions. It is not required to hit (or even touch) each and every ball to win test matches. Dravid has faced 31258 balls in his test career which is the highest ever faced by an individual in the history of test cricket, talks a lot about his own definition of aggression and winning test matches.

Continuous improvement: Dravid is definitely not a batting genius like Sachin Tendulkar. He had his own limitations when he started playing One day internationals, some of them being — poor strike rate, not so effective in rotating strike, not a quick scorer, not an entertaining player etc. Over a period of time he continuously and consistently improved on each of his limitations by giving acute focus for improvement areas. This can only happen when an individual admits ‘there are more things to learn and improve. Let me acknowledge and work towards it’, rather than wearing ego in shoulders. It took more than three years (1996-1998) for Dravid to get his career going in ODIs (see picture on the right), but he kept his consistency intact over the years, thanks to his continuous improvement mindset.

Glamor vs. Effective: In order to be effective, result orientation is the key. Unfortunately in India there are many factors that take a player way from the focus. Players are seen as glamor material some even regularly occupy page-3. Dravid remained in his own cocoon by completely keeping away from the glamor game. He was hardly known outside cricket (except few commercials) never been a popular guy, most wanted by media. Often his game is also perceived as boring or not so interesting to watch, but for him it is all about winning matches for India by being as effective as he can. Compared to his greatness he enjoyed relatively less media/press coverage, which talks a lot about the mark of this man. Even his retirement announcement came like a corporate package – No frills, no emotions but job done!

I am so humbled to see a great player sign-off on such a high note. There are definitely many things I can try and learn from this great individual. Hats off – Jammy!

Focus on the effort… as much as the result

A few years back, my team was preparing for a big product release which was widely anticipated across multiple regions of the organization. Many customers had committed that the product would be available on a certain date. One advantage that many Indian companies are grateful for is that IST is almost 13 hours ahead of pacific time (where many of the customers we had promised to were based out of). So, if you had committed delivery on 15th April to the customer, you could deliver it at end of day IST. In fact you could even deliver it before end of day pacific time 🙂

At 2 pm IST on the release date we realized that a few components that would make up the release had not yet converged. I got the entire team into a war room and it was all hands on board. The whiteboard listed out the pending items and were being ticked off as and when things moved ahead. The list at 2:00 pm looked pretty long for comfort. We also put in place a process of hourly updates on the rush towards the release that I as the PM would send out to the functions that were anticipating the release. It was all hands on board and the team was pretty pumped up to do the release that day, Whatever it took. I was convinced that the team would go for it even if it took well past dinner that day, or even after breakfast the next morning!!!!

The activity over the next several hours was pretty hectic and by close to midnight  the hourly updates showed good momentum towards the finish. the next day 2:00 am update announced that it was all ready to ship and the final builds would be available in the next hour or so. But trouble was right around the corner!!!

One critical use case broke minutes after the 2:00 am update I decided that we would not ship it with that bug – we would fix it. The team, weary as they were after more than 17 hours of non stop slogging, was no mood to back out – not after all the effort. We chalked out the plan to fix the stuff. No one from the team had left.

My CEO who was around that day at 2:30 am for some other meeting strolled into the war room and asked, “So, we’re all set???”. I said, “We are not!!! We have identified a critical bug that I would want to release the product with and have turned the release status from GREEN as of 2:00 am to YELLOW sometime back. I’m confident we will fix it in the next hour or so”. I will never forget his response, “AWESOME!!!! Go for it guys” and walked off. I knew he didn’t not mean it sarcastically.

The fixes converged over the next hour or so and we did make the release at 4:45 am (still early afternoon in bay area), but the CEOs response was interesting. No trace of disappointment, no lectures about why things were left to the last minute (even if there were, its best addressed another day). The commitment of the team, right from PM to the newest intern, was good enough for him to be convinced that this set of guys would make it happen.

As the CEO of my earlier company often said, “You cannot assure success… but you can sure deserve it”

NWritings

Gandhi and strategy of procrastination

Recently I was in a conversation with one of my friends about ‘doing right things at the right time’ in our careers. Interestingly he made a statement ‘Procrastination is also a very important factor. While in some cases procrastination is considered to be a delaying or lazy act, it is important for us to spend quite a lot of time on few critical roles, develop deeper understanding about right things’. Upon pondering deeper I started asking few questions to myself — Can procrastination be a strategic act? If yes, what are the benefits of that? Has anybody done it successfully in the past? Has it yielded significant results? Accidentally I started connecting this thought process with many of the key events happened in Mahatma Gandhi’s life. Let me delve into few historic facts and derive some interpretations.

For most of us, who understand Indian history to a decent extent think Gandhi and his Satyagraha strategy is key behind India getting independence from the British. After being ruled by British for more than a century (by foreign rulers for more than one thousand years), India has become the largest democracy in the world. However very few of us understand the roots of Satyagraha and how Gandhi stumbled upon this strategy. The root of Satyagraha traces back to 1893 when Gandhi, a young barrister from India travels to South Africa being employed by an immigrant Indian to fight a civil case. The same year another very significant incident happened Gandhi’s life, when he was thrown out of the train at Pietermaritzburg station, citing his skin color as the reason. As a shy barrister with so much of self-doubts, Gandhi couldn’t digest this incident. At the same time he didn’t take any immediate decision (say complaining to the local police station) to address this issue. Rather he procrastinated and wanted to understand the deeper aspects of the ‘skin-color’ issue.

Upon deeper discussion with Indian immigrants (who were mainly labor class) in South Africa, Gandhi understood the discrimination issues of fellow Indians. Even though he understood the issues relatively better, he was not sure about launching fight against the British that too in an alien country. The only option left with him was to unite all immigrant Indians (with support of some locals) under one umbrella, device a strategy and then fight against the British. This lead Gandhi to another logical question – How to unite all Indians, who are so different by design? Just by looking into the smaller chunk of immigrant Indians he could clearly see multiple religions (mainly Hindu, Christian and Muslim) and languages (Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu) which differentiated them at elementary level. However Gandhi considered them all to be Indians, taking a lifetime view that ‘Indianness’ transcended religion and caste, before which the concept didn’t even exist in most of the people’s wildest dreams. He believed he could bridge historic differences, especially regarding religion by taking care of the broader ‘Indian’ view. The South African experience also exposed handicaps to Gandhi that he had not known about. He realized he was out of contact with the enormous complexities of religious and cultural life in India, and believed he understood India by getting to know and leading Indians in South Africa.

Gandhi came across multiple such issues and challenges during his stay in South Africa. It took him a long period of 21 years (1893-1914) to systematically strategize, experiment and implement various aspects of Satyagraha. Since his vision was to find out a sustainable yet effective fighting mechanism with diversified set of people (as mentioned above), he felt nothing other than taking the non-violent approach could help. Before taking every small step, Gandhi deliberated a lot, internalized many key points and then went ahead executing them. For most of them it looked like Gandhi was wasting his time (rather procrastinating) by not taking a few critical decisions on time. However, over a period of time the Satyagraha strategy manifested as a mammoth civil rights moment in South Africa, which made the all the difference to immigrant Indians.

In summary it took 21 years for Gandhi to find out the ‘right thing’ for Indians where he developed his political views, ethics and political leadership skills which were critical for him to re-build Indian National Congress from the scratch back in India. After returning back to India in 1915, he implemented the same approach which eventually resulted in Indian independence in 1947. In total Gandhi spent 53 years for Satyagraha, which almost occupied his whole life. By looking into Gandhi’s life and his political struggle clearly indicates me that what is perceived as procrastination from many of us, can very well be a powerful strategy. The very fact that India exists as a single piece, in spite of so many issues talks the power of Satyagraha’s effectiveness.

BOOK REVIEW: The new age of Innovation

Author(s): CK Prahalad and MS Krishnan

The context of innovation has been over the years. In the world of business (especially the ones which are consumer centric) providing superior ‘customer experience’ has become the core, on which organizations build their competitive advantage. However building this customer experience (which varies from one customer to other) is not easy to build from the organization point of view, as they may not have all the necessary resources to do that. This is precisely where leveraging global networks (thanks to the power of Internet) and co-creating value along with customers become very critical, thus forming the new age of Innovation. In the book titled ‘The new Age of Innovation’ authors CK Prahalad and MS Krishnan provide a framework for building this new age of innovation in organizations, which is essential to stay competitive.

Before jumping into details of the book, let us understand the concept with a simple example: The iPhone ecosystem. Given the fact that Apple iPhone (and Apps) are used by millions of customers worldwide, they will have unique set of application requirements depending on their need (ex: App for a local eCommerce site). However Apple alone cannot achieve it by developing millions of applications as they may not have the necessary resources to do that. In order to address specific customer needs, releases a Software Development Kit (SDK) using which can be used by any individual for developing applications and host it as a part of the App-store. This is precisely what authors call it as N = 1, R = G model of innovation. In order to address a unique requirement of a customer (N = 1) firm can leverage Resources (R) that are available globally (G).  In the similar lines of Apple, many organizations are innovating around this N =1, R = G model, some of the examples being Wal-Mart (retail) and ICICI (Banking).

After introducing this new model of innovation, authors dive deep into intricacies in subsequent chapters by taking various aspects and case studies. The first aspect talks about having robust business processes, which lay foundation for innovation as it integrates business strategy, business process and operations. The very process of doing a business activity differently can act as a competitive differentiators, thereby enabling innovation. ICICI Bank in India is a classic example where they transformed the face of Indian banking system by being successfully executing the business process innovation. Also by consistently building on the process they are able to introduce services like internet banking, online trading account, cost-effective support system etc. The subsequent chapter talks about deriving useful insights (ex: customer behavior and expectations) with data analytics by listening deeper into customer transactions. The analytical information derived can be used to take specific actions (ex: Dynamic configuration of resources, continuous improvement, strategic redirection) in order to meet customer/market expectations. Especially for organizations like UPS or FedEx, deriving useful intelligence information from global supply chain becomes critical.

Third aspect of innovation is about having robust Information and Communication Technology (ICT) architecture where building scalable and intelligent systems for responding to unique customer demands.  For example, Google accesses 40 billion distinct pages to create unique personalized experience (N = 1) for its customers, which is aided by strong internal ICT architecture. All the above mentioned three aspects (business process, analytics, ICT architecture) cannot be successfully implemented if organization and its people are not flexible and adaptable enough to cope with changing business environment. In order to achieve the desired results, strong organization commitment should be there in terms of senior management evangelism, strong accountability with alignment and clear understanding of ICT architecture, which is covered in subsequent chapters.

The people goal can be achieved only when the organization evolves by taking real time decision backed up with strong data-points, strong yet flexible organizational structure and pro-actively addressing customer issues. The other key point is to improve the capability of the organization by understanding and continuously making competency improvement in the organization. Authors explain various case studies (ex: Madras Cements) and how they have leveraged the people part to gain business advantage out of it. The final chapter of the book talks about a list of agenda those global managers to adapt for making the innovation work in their teams and organizations.

In my opinion, the context of Innovation has changed to a larger extent recently. What was initially considered as a “cool product” may not necessarily innovative in business sense as it may not make the organizational business successful. Taking customers and their unique experiences into account is a very important for innovating in business today, where many aspects mentioned in the book can be handy. Another very interesting observation is to see many case studies from various Indian companies and their innovation models, which is quite inspiring.

When Tendulkar drops a catch, Dhoni doesnt have to tell him to focus

Its a big Test match and India are desperately looking for wickets to tighten the noose around the Aussies. Ishant is streaming in and bending his back on a wicket that is providing the assistance needed for a determined bowler – bounce and movement off the seam. The Rainas and Kohlis have been doing their best with their constant yellings of encouragement. Hussey, or Mr Cricket as hes known, has been the lone source of resistance from the Aussies and they will surely go down in this key test match if hes gone. The ball is pitched outside the off and angling away and the otherwise cautious Hussey pokes it at tentatively. Ninety nine times out of hundred Hussey would have left this alone, but not this time. The ball takes the shoulder of the bat and flies off towards the waiting hands of Tendulkar in second slip for a straight forward regulation catch. Ishant has already sensed a wicket and is almost ready for his celebratory leap when the great man fumbles and the ball loops off his fingers – he had grabbed at it too early. Ishant is distraught and every Indian fielder has his hands on the head. The camera zooms in on Tendulkar and he knows he has screwed up – his face says it all. Numerous replays from different angles ensue. Dhoni and Dravid in first slip just walk to Tendulkar, pat his shoulders and unruffle his hair with a possibly a “take it easy…. come on” and move on to focus on the next delivery.

Now, this is exactly what most managers DONT do. The typical manager reaction to a screw up is long monologue, a dressing down and a stern warning of a “you better not do this the next time around”. They view this as the appropriate time to “educate” the employee on how things are done. Now, I’m not asking managers to turn a blind eye to screw ups or accept incompetence. However, In most cases the person who screwed up is already aware of the seriousness of his error and what he needs is a dose of confidence and being reminded of his achievements of the past. Back him!!! Help him remember the great slip fielder that he usually is and restore his confidence to be prepared for the next ball – unless this was the third catch hes dropped that day… in which case you want to move him to fine leg and pray that the ball doesn’t go there. Even if there are issues with the “catching technique” of Tendulkar, it is best addressed at the end of the day’s play.

Managers should look at themselves as “Coaches” who are vested in bringing out the best in people rather than “supervisors” who are trying to tell people how things are done.

 

– NWritings

Innovation – Type6 – Product system [Case: Amul]

As a part of Innovation series, let us take a look into the brand Amul under the ‘product system’ innovation category.  By taking the basic product (milk in this case), Amul is able to innovate by creating a suite of food products around it. We all know, today Brand Amul stands much beyond milk!

Amul - Taste of India
Amul - Taste of India

Let us take a sip of history before considering the innovation aspects.  It all started 65 years ago in the state of Gujarat a bunch of angry farmers wanted to do ‘something’ against the malpractices followed by middle-men in the milk supply chain. Like in many industries the middle-men were creating a ‘loose-loose’ situation for both milk producers and consumers by manipulating around the system. Strongly supported by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, they decided to get rid of the middle-men by forming their own co-operative society which will own the complete milk production chain, ranging from procurement to marketing. Thanks to strong leadership provided by visionaries like Verghese Kurien the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF) was formed in a small town Anand during 1946.

From this humble beginning, GCMMF created incremental innovations around milk, which eventually lead to ‘white revolution’ in the country. The Amul brand name strongly emerged out of this revolution, which a house hold name in today. Eventually the Amul model was replicated in different states in different names – Nandini (Karnataka), Aavin(Tamilnadu). This co-operative model has multiple innovative aspects, let us take a systems perspective.

As the milk production increased significantly over the years, the direct consumption of milk is a single dimension of the whole market and it’s potential. As the milk processing also saw multiple innovations, Amul introduced whole lot of bi- products which created a whole new system of products:

  • Butter (Cooking & low-fat varieties)
  • Cheese (Processed cheese & Paneer varieties)
  • Sweets (Shrikhand, Amrakhand)
  • Flavored milk (Kool milk)
  • Ghee (Cooking and Infant varieties)
  • Milk powders (Amulya Dairy Whitener)
  • Curd products (Masti Dahi, Lassee, Spiced butter milk)
  • Ice-creams
  • Chocolate (Milk, Fruit & Nut)

Amul introduced new channels to sell the above mentioned products by creating  ‘kiosks’. These kiosks, created in a franchise model come in five different sizes (preferred outlets, ice-cream parlours, railway parlours, kiosks and Café Amul) depending on the investment size. For an end consumer a suite of products available from a single kiosk which is of high quality and low cost. Looking from Indian context, Amul is a great innovative example for creating a system around milk.

Related link:

BOOK REVIEW: I too had a Dream [Autobiography of Dr. Kurien]

[Introduction to ten types of Innovation] [Innovation – Type 1 – RangDe] [Innovation – Type 2 – RedBus] [Innovation – Type 3 – Narayana Hrudhayalaya] [Innovation – Type 4 – Mumbai Dabbawalas] [Innovation – Type 5 – Reva Electric Car]