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INTERVIEW

“Combination of people, tech key to optimising dairy supply chain”
Monday, 24 January, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dairy.com is the leading provider of technology, services, and intelligence platforms to the dairy industry. Their mission is to enable the supply chain to feed a growing world. It services 80% of the Dairy Foods’ Top 100 dairy companies with over 100 billion pounds of milk moving through its systems every year. They serve over 15,000 farms across the US. The company recently acquired Mr. Milkman, India’s largest last-mile dairy supply chain technology startup. With Mr. Milkman, we plan to optimise and digitise several areas of the agriculture supply chain in India, North America, and Europe, stated Ryan Mertes, chief solutions officer, Dairy.com, in an email interaction with NanditaVijay. Excerpts:

What led Dairy.com to acquire Mr. Milkman?
Dairy.com is the largest dairy software supplier in the United States.  It was natural for us to seek growth into India, as the largest dairy producer in the world.  We realised we needed a local partner for the new market.  Mr. Milkman was a logical choice.  With over 60 customers in India and growing, we believe Mr. Milkman customers will benefit from Dairy.com software solutions which, we believe, are the only ones worldwide to truly provide the Connected Supply Chain.

How do you view the growth prospects of the India market?
The India market has grown for the last decade faster on a percentage basis than almost any other market worldwide. We believe the dairy market is uniquely positioned as the Indian middle class continues to grow.

What is the game plan that you have chalked out to expand the business?
We have several plans to grow the product:  First, we are hiring to serve Mr Milkman’s existing customers and support further innovation. We are doubling the number of employees at Mr. Milkman to serve their existing customers and onboard more than 2.5x customers in our first 12 months than Mr. Milkman had at the time of the transaction.

Second, we are investing in the sales and marketing team – Mr. Milkman’s rapid growth has been solely accomplished based on customer referrals.  We’ve started hiring sales and marketing personnel to get the Mr. Milkman message out to the broader market inside India and other markets.  

Third integration of the Dairy.com solutions to Mr. Milkman will benefit customers in India and US. We provide a single software solution that is focussed on increasing processor’s operations via digitisation.  This increases the profitability to allow brands to invest in their own growth while increasing margins.

Fourth, provide a best-in-class implementation team.  Our solutions are about more than great software.  Combining our US dairy expertise with Mr. Milkman’s Indian knowledge will allow customers unlock opportunities that other software companies can’t match.

What are the tech solutions that you will bring to the table for Indian dairy companies?
We have solutions for the farm including Producer Payroll for payment and a Producer Portal to provide producers with data in real time to optimise quality.  

Solutions for the plant include: Dispatch to schedule milk collection and minimise the distance driven by haulers and optimise communications from the coop to the customer. Receiving to track liquid receipts to the silos received, Manufacturing solutions that track milk at its component level at both the Manufacturing Executions Systems and the Enterprise Resource Planning level to maximise product yields and minimise shrink.  We can also provide a Laboratory Information System to aid plants in testing efficiently and documenting quality.  All these systems are being integrated with Mr. Milkman to provide a single integrated solution.

Do you see the India dairy market receptive to supply chain technology?
Yes – we’ve had several brands reach out to us to partner in leveraging our existing supply chain, manufacturing, and quality systems for the Indian market. We believe this partnership and the local support the Mr. Milkman team can provide will help us grow faster than if we started on our own.

What are the visible trends you see in India?
There are two important trends of note:  

We believe as the Indian market grows, dairy processors face consumers demanding cost effective, safe and environmentally proven solutions.  This will increase the move from the unorganised sector to the organised sector. This movement will create opportunities for more brands that can utilise technology.  

The second trend is the move toward value-added dairy products. Value-added products such as cheese, ghee and UHT beverages are all growing faster than the fluid dairy market. This will continue and eventually the Indian market will become a large exporter of these solutions. The export market focusses even further on the ‘prove your quality’ message that equates to digitisation.

What are the challenges that you have gathered about the Indian dairy industry?
The unorganised sector is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time.  The unorganised sector is larger in India than in any other market we serve. The Indian unorganised sector requires unique solutions at a lower cost point, and we are working to achieve these solutions.

Globally how have you fared with your offerings in technology, services, and intelligence platforms?
Our first investment outside the US market was with Orbis MES from Ireland.  We have found great success to date doing cross marketing of our solutions. Each market requires thoughtful investment of time and money and having a local presence.  

What is the future of this sector?
Customers want to use their phones to connect with their suppliers at the plants and the farms. This will cause the supply chain to be more transparent and efficient.  To the industry’s benefit technology is becoming cheaper and easier to adopt. We envision the entire market capturing more data via IoT devices in new ways to streamline operations from the farm through the dairy plant and to delivery.

How would technology support workforce shortage on dairy farms?
There are robotic milking machines being used by large farms. We believe this will become more commonplace as costs come down and farms in India become larger.Other options include drones to check on the herd.

Would you also look at dairy processing sector with technology, services, and intelligence platforms?
We provide this in US market today and are bringing it to India. With the Mr. Milkman team we provide the Indian market with solutions that work from the farm through the plant and the last mile to the consumer.We believe the combination of people and technology is the key to optimising the dairy supply chain and embracing the future. 
 
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