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Meet YC Deveshwar: The 7th Best Performing CEO in the World

Over the past decade and a half, India has seen the business community grow at a rapid pace. Fronting this growth have been a few names who have left an indelible mark on the way we do business in this country. These are people who have shaped the Indian economy. These are people who have changed our lives. These are the Indian Business Icons. As CNBC-TV18 completes 15 years, it gives you the opportunity to select your business icon over the same period. A platform where these leaders will face the verdict that truly matters. Read on and Vote.

YC Deveshwar

In his two decades at the helm, YC Deveshwar has worked towards transforming ITC Ltd into a diversified group of companies with significant forays in FMCGs, paper, hotels, agri business and IT. The Harvard Business Review rated him the world’s 7th best performing CEO in 2013, on the basis of growth in total shareholder returns and market capitalization. ITC’s bold diversification and consistent shareholder returns of about 26% for the last decade and a half are among the key indicators that testify to Deveshwar’s sure eye in the captain’s seat.

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CNBC-TV18 Indian Business Icons (Yahoo India is an online partner) gives you the opportunity to select your top business leader of the past 15 years.

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When Deveshwar took the reins at ITC, the company had already tried to diversify into financial services, commodity trading and edible oils. These ventures were not successful, and much money was lost. Against this background, British American Tobacco, a major stakeholder and parent company, wanted ITC to stick to the tobacco core business and exit other markets. At the same time, allegations of foreign exchange irregularities were shaking the top brass at ITC. One might almost say that Deveshwar had inherited a nest of woes.

However, Deveshwar knew that diversification was the way forward, and he remained firm in his purpose. He contended that earlier diversification projects had run into choppy waters because of insufficient investments. He brought back the paperboard and hotels businesses, within an integrated structure that would ensure sufficient cash flow. At the same time, he created checks and balances to mitigate against excessive risks. He also worked to reducing BAT’s influence over ITC, so that the latter could start finding its own way without having to be answerable to BAT, which had followed a strategy very different from Deveshwar’s, by sloughing off non-core businesses and focusing on tobacco instead.

Five years of focus on systems and processes paid off as the paperboard and hotels businesses turned around, bringing in profits. By the 2000s, Deveshwar was looking into other means of expansion. ITC already had a robust distribution network and brand thanks to the tobacco products business. Deveshwar saw the opportunity to piggyback on this and create an FMCG range. ITC entered the fashion business in a big way with the Wills Lifestyle chain and got into foods with the Bingo brand of snacks. While Ashirwad atta proved to be a lasting success, Deveshwar learned to be careful in future diversification ventures, avoiding the cash-on-tap temptation, where a company like ITC can get trapped in a loop of pumping money from its coffers to chase new business even when the returns have not been sufficient. With these learnings, ITC ventured into the personal care segment and is still working on new offerings and markets.

Deveshwar’s quest to diversify the ITC brand has involved something of a tightrope walk. Tobacco is still the major chunk of ITC’s business, and he has had to insulate that business from the ups and downs of the company’s learning curve in other areas. He has built a significant non-tobacco business, but all the while he has had to ensure that ITC does not jettison its historical leadership in a space that he nonetheless wants to move beyond. The ability to stick to his guns and his mastery of strategy have helped him drive this vision forward. Whatever the future holds for ITC, a major part of it is due to Deveshwar’s ability to look beyond the tried and true and opt for change and growth.

VOTE HERE!

CNBC-TV18 Indian Business Icons (Yahoo India is an online partner) gives you the opportunity to select your top business leader of the past 15 years.

Vote via Facebook

Vote via Twitter

Vote via Missed Call: 18002660929



Click here for more on CNBC-TV18 Indian Business Icons