Prior to the world’s largest dairy development program, ‘Operation FloodWas launched in India in 1970, the country produced only 21.2 million tonnes (MT) of milk, which then rose to 30.4 MT in 1979-80, 51.4 MT in 1989-90 and 84.6 MT in 2001-02. The operation also transformed India from being a poor milk country to the world’s largest producer of milk, overtaking the United States in 1997-98.
Development was important and it was not an easy task to rationalize the growing demand while maintaining quality standards.
As the sector was still in its infancy in the early 90s, Ahmedabad-based PN Mehta realized that there were opportunities for growth through adaptation of technology. Mehta was already in the making of portable power tools, a business he started in 1978, and so the foray into dairy technology was not as complicated, and in 1992, Fast Equipments Pvt. Ltd was born.
Talk to SMBStory, Son of Mehta and second generation entrepreneur Shridhar Mehta tells how he and his father built the business at a time when the dairy sector was very disorganized and industrial challenges multiplied. He also talks about the way forward.
“For the last 29 years, since the creation of Prompt, we have helped the dairy sector by providing them with technological support. We’ve seen the industry grow from the ground up – from being very disorganized to now big dairy brands like some of our customers. “
Fast Equipments Pvt. Ltd has customers all over India including Amul, Heritage, Mother Dairy, Ananda, etc., and Shridhar claims the company achieved a turnover of Rs 75 crore in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Infusion of technology into dairy products
Mehta’s idea of using electronic scales to measure milk in liters gave the business a boost.
“We have developed an electronic scale to allow farmers to measure the quantity of milk in liters. It was previously carried out in kg, which prevented them from finding an accurate measurement, resulting in significant losses. The machine was first incorporated in a small village near Ahmedabad, ”recalls Shridhar.
The farmers enthusiastically received the new innovation, which created enthusiasm in the founder. He continued to strive to understand the problems faced by farmers, with the aim of finding unique solutions.
In the meantime, Shridhar joined the company after completing his studies in computer programming, which further helped Mehta in the diversification of activities.
Shridhar recalls that in 1995 the company launched the Automatic milk collection system, followed by Fat’omatic, a fully automatic milk fat measuring machine in 1999. He says that at the time, Rajasthan Electronics and Instrumentation Limited (REIL) was making this type of product, but Prompt took the product to the next level by adding more features like measuring the density of milk. This new feature allowed farmers to check the quality of the milk at the collection centers themselves.
Prompt increased significantly between 1995 and 2009.
In 2009, Prompt partnered with a Russian company, which provided ultrasound-based technology to launch a milk analyzer that measured characteristics such as: fat, density, solid-non-fat (SNF) and the amount of water added to the milk. The dairy industry has greatly appreciated this new technology as Shridhar says it has helped farmers identify clean milk.
“Prompt also launched embedded software and application services in 2011. In the same year, we formed a joint venture with FOSS to collectively develop milk analysis tools and devices,” Shyam tells SMBStory.
In 2014, the company launched the Bulk Milk Cooler (BMC) monitoring system, monitoring Automated milk collection system in 2015. The years that followed saw a lot more innovation from the company. “We have launched a Animal breeding software to guide farmers in improving livestock and farm management in 2017. We also launched BovSmart in 2019 – an animal heat detection system designed to detect the onset of the cow’s heat cycle, and MilkoChill – cooling the milk at the source to maintain its quality when it reaches the end consumer.
The various diversifications of its product portfolio have been made possible in parallel with the increasing demands of the dairy industry. Prompt’s customer base includes major dairy brands like Amul, Heritage, Ananda, Mother Dairy and other local players from different states.
According to Shyam, Prompt’s technologies are present in 24 states and 50,000 villages across India.
The challenges and the competition
According to Shridhar, the market size of the dairy technology sector is Rs 10 lakh crore, but he believes that barely a fraction of the activity has been achieved so far. Since the segment is extremely untapped, there are plenty of opportunities for the dairy technology industry in India to witness a multiple leap.
“The difference between the competition and us is our vast experience and our in-depth understanding of farmers’ requirements, which allows us to personalize products and solutions. Our offerings also use the latest technologies which are easily upgradeable, ”he says.
Prompt has an in-house team of R&D specialists and engineers who constantly help the company to develop and innovate technologies.
Shridhar says that despite massive growth in recent years, much of the industry is still unorganized, so the company wants to develop a business model that will help bring order.
The path to follow
In the years to come, Shridhar says the company aims for steady growth, with a focus on R&D and innovations, which will benefit both dairy farmers and the dairy supply chain.
Prompt aims to add at least two new products and one patent each year. In recent years, the company has launched several new products and technologies, “but we want to step up the pace of innovations now,” Shridhar says.