Doodh Doodh Wonderful Doodh… Piyo Glassful Doodh…"

If you have crossed your 20s, you’ll remember this ditty by Amul playing on your TV. Today it’s more than likely that your glassful of doodh, or milk, contains everything from contaminated water, urea and milk powder to detergent, bleaching agents and the (banned) hormone oxytocin.

When the father of the white revolution, Verghese Kurien, launched Operation Flood in 1970, little did he realize that 40 years later more than 70% of the milk consumed in India would be adulterated. A 2012 survey by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) painted a grim picture: Samples of milk from 33 states and Union territories were analysed and only those from Goa and Puducherry were found to be free of contaminants. At present, around 350 million litres of milk is produced every day by more than 150,000 milk producers’ cooperatives across India.

A handful of entrepreneurs in Maharashtra are using a back-to-basics approach to dairy farming and milk production, bringing farm-fresh milk to a few thousand homes across Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.

What began as a project for Anmol Trikannad and Rahul Jain in their entrepreneurship course at the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, took the form of Doctor Moo in December—certified organic milk delivered to your doorstep in tamper-proof packaging. Doctor Moo milk is sourced from a dairy farm about 300km from Mumbai on the Pune-Kolhapur highway, where strict quality standards have been maintained—right from producing organic feed on the farm to mechanized milking and processing to packaging.

“Doctor Moo milk is untouched by human hands and air as the entire process is automated and carried out in a vacuum-sealed environment," says Trikannad. The milk is independently tested for more than 100 contaminants in the German laboratory TÜV Nord, and apart from pasteurization and homogenization no other processing is carried out. This ensures that the flavour and quality of the milk remain intact.

A Pride of Cows 1-litre bottle
A Pride of Cows 1-litre bottle

Jaidev Mishra, the spokesperson for Nashik-based Sarda Farms, says, “Tetra paks may be tamper-proof but the milk that goes into it may already be contaminated at source with antibiotics and hormones." He adds, “We started selling our farm-fresh milk in Nashik a year ago and four months ago we launched in Mumbai."

Sarda Farms was set up two and a half years ago as part of the 90-year old Sarda Group, which has multiple business interests. Unlike Doctor Moo, Sarda Farms owns the entire processing chain—from dairy farming to delivery—and has not sub-contracted any aspect. The company is already supplying 1,000 litres of milk in Mumbai in four variants—raw, pasteurized, pasteurized+homogenized and skimmed milk—which is delivered in 1-litre glass bottles.

One of the biggest players in the “farm-to-table" milk business is Pride of Cows, part of Parag Milk Foods, which also owns the brands Gowardhan and Go. From a pilot project with 200 customers in south Mumbai in 2010 to more than 12,000 customers across Mumbai and Pune today, the success of Pride of Cows points to the potential demand for such milk, especially if it’s coupled with customer education. “We have started dairy tourism and more than 10,000 people have already visited our farm in Manchar, near Pune, and seen our processing unit first-hand," says Devendra Shah, chairman and managing director of Parag Milk Foods. Pride of Cows milk is available in 1-litre PET bottles.

All the entrepreneurs emphasize their humane dairy farming practices—free-range cows “pampered" with tailor-made feed free of any pesticides, on-call nutritionists and veterinarians, mechanized milking, no hormones or antibiotics, and the fact that the milk is absolutely untouched till it reaches the customer’s doorstep.

All these brands are, of course, available at a premium: price per litre ranges from 60-85, against 36 for regular Amul Taaza and 52-70 for tetra paks.

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