Thursday, July 1, 2010

“The milk is white but the business is black”, remarks Sulax Shah, founder and CEO of Akashganga. When I sat down with Sulax to better understand the company’s founder and leader, he recounted a rainy morning years ago when he and his three co-founders rode their motorcycles to a village 40 kilometers outside of Anand to install a milk collection system. After a successful installation they headed back to their motorcycles and saw the bikes were four inches lower than they should be; upon closer inspection they realized that the tires had been slashed. With the help of the society secretary, they removed one at a time and carried them to the closest shop. Five hours later, Sulax and his team couldn’t help but feel a big deflated themselves.

Now, Sulax laughs at the story and the twinkle in his eye tells you it was, if anything, only a minor setback and an important lesson early on. Akashganga’s commitment to increasing transparency in the dairy sector is not always regarded favorably. Just ask the disgruntled farmer whose fraud was brought to light after an Akashganga system was installed at his local society. Sulax was called out to inspect the system because the society’s most prolific farmer insisted that the measurement was incorrect. Somewhat concerned that one of his earliest systems was failing shortly after installation, Sulax headed straight to the society to test the system. Admonishing himself for doubting the system in the first place, Sulax was unsurprised yet pleased to determine that its measurement was accurate. When the farmer persisted, Sulax inspected his milk can and determined that the farmer had fixed a large cylinder inside the can that displaced about ½ liter of milk. Since the society measured milk by sight, the farmer was likely getting paid for an extra liter of milk every day for several years. Never again did Sulax doubt the reliability and accuracy of an Akashganga system.

Like any industry, the dairy sector has its share of corruption and manipulation but that won’t keep Akashganga from their mission to build world class systems that improve accountability and efficiency. Just this week they held their annual board meeting in Mumbai and met with Harold Rosen, Executive Director of Grassroots Business Fund, to lay out their plans for expansion to Africa. In an effort to differentiate their offering from the competition, they’re launching a customer feedback survey pilot with local societies this weekend. Electrical wiring, furniture selection and carpentry are all that stand between us and a beautiful new office, the first upgrade for SKEPL in 14 years. In the spirit of the World Cup, Ole!

- Lauren

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