Polson vs Amul butter: a battle that travelled all the way to Patna

A dynamic young Parsi named Pestonji Edulji Dalal, aged 13 in 1888, started a small shop in Bombay to roast and grind coffee. According to Ruth Heredia’s ‘The Amul India Story’, Dalal’s nickname was Polly, which he adapted into the British sounding Polson’s as brand name.

Polson’s coffee soon got regular customers among the British and by 1910 Pestonji was well established and looking for new opportunities. So when a customer in the Supply Corps told him of the problems the army had in getting its supply of butter, Pestonji found his mission in life. He set up a dairy in Kaira, Gujarat and used his army and railways contacts to ensure that Polson’s was so widely supplied that it became synonymous with butter.

By 1930 Polson’s had opened the most advanced dairy plant in India and dominated the butter business. But as Heredia’s book points out, it was his ruthless dominance that caused Polson’s downfall, since it provoked a Gandhian called Tribhuvandas Patel to organise a co-operative in Kaira in 1946. The cooperative idea was also supported by Vallabh Bhai Patel, the Congress stalwart. This cooperative eventually turned into Amul. But that’s another story!

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