App Dev3 min read

“Grass to Glass”: How Chitale Dairy Brings Agility to Milk Production

What is more essential than milk? As the world’s largest producer and consumer of dairy products, India accounts for more than a fifth of global milk yield, producing more than 200 million metric tons a year. This prodigious output depends on hundreds of millions of cows, 80 million farmers, and more than 700 commercial and cooperative dairies.

Between an ancient history of dairying traditions—evidence of milk consumption in India dates back 8,000 years—and its indigenous zebu cattle and buffalo, India understands milk. And nowhere is this expertise more evident than at Chitale Dairy—producer of milk, ghee, milk powder, paneer, butter, cheese and shrikand, and other traditional milk products—one of the country’s most respected brands.

The family-owned company traces its roots to 1939, when Babasaheb Chitale opened a small milk collection center in Bhilawadi. His early efforts transformed farmers into entrepreneurs at a time when milk was produced primarily for home or hyperlocal consumption. By empowering farmers to take their goods to market, Chitale helped establish milk as a commodity product for retail sale.

Making more milk with fewer cows and less land

Seven decades later Chitale Dairy comprises a network of state-of-the-art facilities processing half a million liters of milk a day. Four generations of the Chitale family have built and diversified the company, expanding from dairy products to food production to livestock genetics. Today the dairy is led by the founder’s grandson, Vishvas Chitale, CEO & CTO of Chitale Dairy, with key positions held by three of his sons.

“Our motto, inherited from my grandfather, is ‘do more with less,’” says Vishvas Chitale. “Operating from a rural area of western Maharashtra, we have always been forced to adapt to challenging conditions. And it’s made us more innovative.”

Chitale Dairy eagerly embraced technology from its beginnings. Adopting modern dairy processing technology enabled the company to qualify for one of India’s earliest ISO certifications for food science management. And its “cows to cloud” solution, developed in concert with VMware and Dell Technologies, uses IoT solutions to help farmers improve the health and productivity of their herds. By fitting more than 50,000 cows with RFID tags, the dairy gathers information on the health of each animal, analyzes the data and sends the results back to farmers via SMS. The “cows to cloud” helped farmers increase milk production by a factor of ten, with fewer cows and less land.

“We use technology to help farmers become more efficient and productive,” says Vishvas Chitale. “By monitoring the health and reproductive cycles of the animals we can help our farmers maintain their economic viability.” From farm to dairy to market, operational excellence and innovation are a given.

Innovating to a delightful consumer experience

The company’s ongoing commitment to innovation emerged in a big way during the COVID-19 pandemic when lockdowns prevented consumers from visiting newly shuttered shops. “In the early days of the pandemic, our customers couldn’t go to the market to buy our products,” says Vishvas Chitale. “They wanted to order from home and have products delivered. We had to make changes quickly to give consumers the experience they expected.”

When retail outlets closed and the company needed to serve customers directly, Chitale Dairy redesigned operations to include a business-to-consumer delivery model. Shifting to direct-to-consumer delivery rapidly and at scale might have discouraged some, but this company confronts challenges courageously. Vishvas Chitale recognized that creating modern apps to delight its customers demanded the company modernize its application stack. “If you are not agile enough to provide modern apps to consumers,” says Chitale, “you’ll be out of business in a short span of time.”

Modernizing apps to scale for the future

Working with Sunfire Technologies, a VMware Premier Partner, Chitale Dairy employed a set of VMware solutions—VMware Tanzu Standard Edition, VMware Cloud Foundation, VMware Tanzu Service Mesh, and VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer—to create cloud native apps, modernize existing applications and develop a hybrid cloud environment to host them.

The success of efforts to modernize and become cloud-ready encouraged Vishvas Chitale to move with greater urgency to digitize every aspect of the company’s operations, launching an initiative the company calls its “Grass to Glass” program, an initiative that infuses digital technology at every step of production.

“We are transitioning all our software to modern, containerized apps,” says Vishvas Chitale. “With VMware, we have progressed quickly on that journey, and transforming our software has helped us become a more agile business moving in the direction consumers want.”

“It was a major challenge for us to redesign how we delivered our products during the pandemic,” he says. “Embracing new technology and changing our processes enabled us to adapt fast. And VMware solutions have improved efficiencies and given us a solid roadmap for scaling up in the future,” says Vishvas Chitale.