Recently, the largest independent dairy supply chain technology provider in the United States, Dairy.com, purchased a 100% stake in Mr. Milkman, which was their first investment in India. Mr. Milkman – a SaaS platform enables dairies and other industries to manage customer subscriptions and deliveries with unparalleled efficiency. In a joint interview, Samarth Setia, CEO and Co-founder of Mr. Milkman and Ryan Mertes, CSO of Dairy.com discuss the digitization of the dairy market in India and highlight that COVID has opened the eyes of many milk brands that relied on manual processes
India runs on milk. Milk is ‘THE drink’ of choice for our country. How do you see the growth of the dairy industry in India? What market share do you intend to capture?
Ryan Mertes: We believe that the dairy market in India is in a unique position as it has grown exponentially over the past decade, faster than almost any other market in the world. As India’s middle class continues to grow, we see a huge opportunity here. Before talking about market share, I would like to share our growth strategy. To start, we are hiring to serve Mr. Milkman’s existing customers and support innovation. We are doubling the number of employees at Mr. Milkman and expect to onboard more than 2.5 times as many clients in our first 12 months than Mr. Milkman had at the time of the transaction. We are also investing in the sales and marketing team – Mr. Milkman’s rapid growth was achieved solely through customer referrals. Third, the integration of Dairy.com solutions with Mr. Milkman is a critical step that will benefit customers in India and the United States. We provide a unique software solution focused on increasing processor operations through digitization. This increases profitability to allow brands to invest in their own growth while increasing their margins. And finally, we plan to provide a top notch implementation team. Our solutions are not limited to excellent software. The combination of our American dairy expertise with Mr. Milkman’s Indian knowledge will enable clients to unlock opportunities that other software companies do.
What challenges has your business faced during Covid and how are you navigating through these trying times?
Samarth Setia: Luckily for us, we didn’t encounter many difficulties during the Covid. In fact, the biggest problem for us was to manage the increase in milk distribution. COVID has opened the eyes of many milk brands that relied on manual processes. When Covid hit us, the human element in operations was unavailable. There was no data, no staff, or a way to get orders for many brands. Since many milk brands relied on the call from retailers to take orders, it was becoming difficult for them to manage it during the lockdown. That’s when they realized the need for automation and digitization.
We have seen a 400% increase in calls and inquiries during lockdown. Due to a lack of technical intervention and know-how, distribution inefficiencies have caused a lot of damage to milk brands. However, given our technological expertise and ability to create digital factories, we were able to visualize and fix inefficiencies remotely. We are also aware of several examples of maintenance experts remotely reviewing parts and training factory maintenance members on how to repair lines thousands of miles away, saving money. money and time on travel. We believe the pandemic has accelerated technical response and digitizing the plant has reduced operational risk, making plant personnel more efficient with access to the best resources, regardless of location.
Has there been a change in the way you use technology? How do you use technology to build a Covid-proof business?
Ryan Mertes: Like all industries, the dairy had to adapt to Covid. Many low-risk projects became critical when Covid-19 hit. Examples include:
Projects that reduced the number of agencies interacting with customers or products became critical. Mr. Milkman is a perfect example of streamlining delivery staff since stops are now just customers with orders versus a standard route with some customers who don’t need orders. The technology also allows customers to pre-pay for a product, which saves delivery managers from taking risks, improving labor reliability.
Remote support became mandatory: customers relied on experts to resolve issues remotely that would otherwise travel to the factories. This results in the digital factory where everyone can view operations in real time or historically. This results in better operations with cheaper production without skimping on quality or safety. Remote assistance has also embraced technologies such as the use of augmented reality with headsets to allow remote experts to see exactly what is happening in the field and have on-screen training materials. so that the person on site can adjust the operations. This makes training faster and cheaper.
How are your brands different from existing tech dairy brands?
Samarth Setia: In India, the dairy sector and milk brands will need to use technology at all levels, from milk supply to last mile delivery, to grow and succeed. Milk brands in India and around the world operate with low margins. Since milk prices are capped, the only way to be profitable is to become more efficient – which can only happen by implementing technology across operations. We have the edge over the rest with Dairy.com’s proven suite of advanced solutions, which covers the entire dairy value chain.
Dairy.com plans to modify the technological system used in the United States according to Indian needs. Can you tell us about the existing technology platforms and the type of localization you will introduce for Indian customers?
Ryan Mertes: Nearly 50-60% of all milk supplied to the United States is tracked through Dairy.com’s system. We entered Indian marketing impressed with Mr. Milkman’s software solutions and will be fine-tuning the technology we plan to bring to India. We have on-farm solutions including Producer Payroll for payment and a Producer Portal to provide producers with real-time data to optimize quality. Solutions for the plant include dispatching to schedule milk collection, minimizing the distance traveled by transporters and optimizing communications between the cooperative and the customer. In addition, manufacturing solutions that track milk at the component level in both manufacturing execution systems and enterprise resource planning to maximize product yields and minimize losses. We can also provide a laboratory information system to help factories effectively test and document quality. All of these systems are integrated with Mr. Milkman to provide a single integrated solution.
What are your plans to implement unique technologies that will help margins and reduce hidden costs in the Indian dairy sector? Please explain.
Samarth Setia: The main objective for Dairy.com to enter the Indian market was not just to invest or bring technology to the country, but because India is the largest milk producer, accounting for 22 % of world production. We provide a unique software solution focused on increasing processor operations through digitization. This will increase profitability to allow brands to invest in their own growth while increasing their margins.
Besides the dairy industry, you also plan to provide solutions and services for brewing, distillery and ethanol production. Please share more details.
Ryan Mertes: Ever.ag/Dairy.com solutions specialize in solving unique fluid needs. The brewing, distilling and ethanol industries have quality aspects in terms of alcohol volume and gravity. They each need tracking or batch processing, just like dairy products. Moreover, the alcohol market seems to be moving towards the business-to-consumer space that Mr. Milkman supports better than anyone.
Moreover, the connected supply chain is the future. Means of connecting data from farm to factory to final delivery are going to be a requirement. A lot of people talk about field to grass, but our solution solves this problem from the perspective of mixed components. This offers true traceability and accountability. Technologies such as blockchain only automate a solution that handles mixing like ours.
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