NDDB Dairy Services (NDS), a wholly-company subsidiary of the NDDB (National Dairy Development Board) and functioning as a delivery arm of the NDDB for field operations relating to promoting producer companies and productivity services, provides technical and management services to the producer companies under the National Dairy Plan (NDP).
NDS has facilitated the formation of five large milk producer companies in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh and 10 small and medium producer companies in different states. NDS is managing two of the largest semen stations in the country – Sabarmati Ashram Gaushala located in Gujarat and Animal Breeding Centre located in Uttar Pradesh. NDS has also set-up two mega semen stations at Alamadhi in Tamil Nadu and Rahuri in Maharashtra.
Jai Narain, Head IT at NDBB Dairy Services spoke to dynamicCIO, and shared details on how the organisation ensured uninterrupted supply of milk and fodder in villages for the nation in times of Covid-19.
The Anand-headquartered NDDB board asked dairy cooperatives to make suitable arrangements for ensuring uninterrupted collection, chilling, transportation and processing of milk and availability of fodder in villages.
Jai will be completing nine years in with NDDB Dairy Services (NDS) in Sept 2020. He joined NDS when the organisation was in process to create new producer companies. At that time, IT strategy and roadmap were in discussion to make dairy industry as a differentiating factor through digital transformation.
Below are the excerpts of the interview:
dynamicCIO: Briefly tell us how the IT ensured a successful supply chain in times of Covid-19. What steps did you take?
Jai Narain (JN): We have a network of more than 15000 villages with five lakhs plus small and marginal farmer members, 500 plus Bulk Milk Cooling Units (BMCUs) across regions and we procure more than 30 lakhs liters milk per day. Our entire dairy industry staff including farmer members and IT team worked 24×7 to fulfill the demand of milk supply during Covid-19 lockdown crisis. We quickly worked out a strategy to work from home, applied the best available security policies so that remote users can access information without any major challenge.
Payment distribution to farmer members has always been a big challenge, which depends on uploaded and updated data on a daily basis from remote rural areas. The IT team monitors and ensures that milk pouring data from each Milk Pooling Point (MPP) and RMRD (Raw Milk Reception Doc) reaches to central server without fail so that payment to farmers and logistic vendors can be made in time. Proactive approach to communicate with users through Remote Desktop and Video Conferencing tools helped us to resolve many such teething issues that could have been big impediments.
dynamicCIO: What’s the core technology and digital infrastructure at NDDB that helped you scale and serve the users in this moment?
JN: Our critical IT infrastructure runs on Cloud through the world class data centers. We have implemented complete IT automation from remote MPPs up to the corporate office and also at the plant level. Each MPP and BMCU has all required IT equipment to test, receive and send milk collection data automatically through GPRS and MPLS connectivity. Milk vehicles are equipped with GPS system to track and monitor route progress details by a central team.
We have implemented SAP in large producer companies and Dairy Milk Solution system in small and medium companies. Every farmer member has their bank account and we pay them directly in to their account after every ten days cycle without fail to avoid any pilferage. Due to robust IT infrastructure and complete automation, it was easy for us to work from home during the crisis and we were able to manage timely milk supply and payments to all stakeholders.
dynamicCIO: How do you connect with your suppliers, stakeholders and the entire supply chain including your customers?
JN: This is a great question and I’d like to highlight an innovation here. We have a central portal Saarthak in every Milk Producer Company. Data from each MPP and BMCU is updated online without zero manual intervention. This portal acts as a moderator between all stakeholders. We have integrated this portal with our SAP in large Producer Companies where milk prices, masters update and other data controls and checks are directly implemented across thousands of remote rural locations, which saves lots of daily time and effort. Same portal is used to connect other stakeholders like field staff, vendors and customers for accessing their respective transaction details.
dynamicCIO: In times of Covid-19 which forced a lockdown across India, what kind of IT readiness did you have that ensured a robust BCP (business continuity planning)?
JN: There were concerns in area of data connectivity and uptime of servers during the lockdown period as we have a large IT setup. We managed it through the implementation of a robust IT system, which serves six layers data availability and protection controls. Our partners i.e. Airtel, CtrlS, REIL, Everest, JKT, Lorhan etc. who were there to support us, deserve a lot of appreciation.
We also encouraged users and various departments to start using Video Conferencing. We provided regular, extensive training to them. As a result, now the entire group communication is happening through these technologies while maintaining social distancing and remote work.
dynamicCIO: What are the key projects you are working at present in terms of implementing advanced technologies and making the supply chain sturdier?
JN: We are in process of developing our own homegrown end-to-end Dairy ERP Solution based on the latest technologies available. Apart from fulfilling our specific business requirement, this product would bring lots of technology change in field operations. This will remove the dependency on legacy system with increased performance, quality, transparency and flexibility.
We are also working to connect our farmer members through mobile application to save huge recurring SMS cost. Mobile App would provide them online milk procuring details, company’s news, alerts, notifications, farmer member’s earnings, deductions, shareholding details etc. Also, we are taking help from our partner to integrate AI and ML technologies to have two-way communications with minimum manual user interface.
dynamicCIO: What is the work from home (WFH) strategy in your organisation and the steps you have taken to ensure work continued as usual when lockdown was announced?
JN: Our organisation has two main priorities as of now.
First, no employee should lose the job in this crisis and second, safety of our employees and other stakeholders. We have implemented Covid-19 policy in place and are following it religiously.
We have defined department-wise specific targets till Sep 2020. Employees are getting mobile bill reimbursement benefits to use Internet connection, and laptops are equipped with all software and hardware required to dispense the office work. We encouraged employees to work from home in case they suspect or foresee any Covid-19 infection, any other health issue, or if they were in a containment zone.