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Explained: The importance of ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar

ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar in 2013. (Express Photo: Subham Dutta)

Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, 72, Chairman of ITC, and a powerful voice of India Inc for many decades, passed away Saturday. Deveshwar, who is survived by his wife and son, was ailing for some time.

The importance of Yogi Deveshwar

* Between 1996, the year when Deveshwar became chairman of ITC, and March 2017 (when he retired from executive role), ITC s annual sales expanded over 11-fold to Rs 55,000 crore, while shareholder returns grew at a compound annual rate of over 23%.

* He was instrumental in transforming the Kolkata-based company from being mostly a cigarette maker to a conglomerate with interests in sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods, hotels, paper and packaging, and agri-business. Now over 50 per cent of revenues come from non-tobacco related businesses.

* Deveshwar was among the first chieftains of a major company to tap India s vast countryside, by way of his unique e-Choupal concept, which hooked up farmers via the Internet for procurement of their produce and by pushing the FMCG products in rural areas.

* Dealt with tough situations, including the turbulence at the company during a fight with its largest shareholder, British American Tobacco. He took a break from ITC to run Air India in 1991-94.

Yogesh Deveshwar’s long stint at ITC

Deveshwar who joined ITC in 1968 was an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and Harvard Business School. Between 1991 and 1994, he led Air India as Chairman and Managing Director when the then government brought in private sector leadership to revive the fortunes of the national carrier. He was appointed as a Director on the board of ITC on April 11, 1984, and became the Chief Executive and Chairman on January 1, 1996.

On splitting the role of the Executive Chairman between Chairman and CEO with effect from February 5, 2017, Deveshwar agreed to continue as Chairman in non-executive capacity and also play the role of mentor to the executive management, recognising the need for orderly transition in a company of ITC’s size and complexity,

Diversification strategy

According to corporate observers, Deveshwar led ITC’s strategic thrust to create multiple drivers of growth that would make a significant and growing contribution to the Indian economy. His stewardship has guided ITC to become India’s foremost FMCG marketer, the country’s largest and greenest paperboards and packaging business, a globally acknowledged pioneer in farmer empowerment through its wide-reaching agri business, the second largest hotel chain in India and a trailblazer in ‘green hoteliering’. The company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, ITC Infotech India Ltd is also a player of promise in the information technology sector.

The ITC e-Choupal initiative is today the world’s largest rural digital infrastructure and is a case study at the Harvard Business School, besides receiving several global awards.

He also served as a Director on the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India and as a member of the National Foundation for Corporate Governance.