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ITC's Longest-serving Chairman YC Deveshwar Passes Away The man who transformed the cigarette business into India's leading FMCG brand

By Aastha Singal

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Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, the man who led ITC's transformation to an FMCG giant succumbed to cancer at 72. The company has confirmed the news in a statement, addressing his long bout of illness as the cause of his demise. A thorough believer of Indian brands and backward integration, Deveshwar envisioned making ITC India's number 1 FMCG company.

Among the longest-serving corporate chiefs of India, Deveshwar led ITC from the front for over two decades as the executive chairman & chief executive officer before moving to a non-executive role in 2017, leaving the realms of the business into the hands of Sanjiv Puri. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, Deveshwar was the proud recipient of Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award.

Fresh out of the Indian Institute of Technology, Deveshwar began his tryst with ITC in 1968, or rather Imperial Tobacco Company of India Limited. He has been instrumental for shaping ITC from being primarily a cigarette manufacturer into a conglomerate with diversified interests. His penchant for diving into new opportunities marked the brand's presence in varied spaces.

The Real Transformer

Ranging from FMCG, hospitality, paperboard and packaging, IT and agribusiness, ITC has ventured into multiple spaces under his leadership. The brand's revenue grew from INR 5200 crore to over INR 51,500 crore under his leadership, generating the shareholder return of 23.3 per cent compounded annually. ITC's market capitalization at the end of 2015-16 was $45 billion, almost 50 times its market value in 1996.

Not only a visionary but a shrewd businessman too, Deveshwar proved his mettle when he staved off British American Tobacco Company's takeover attempt. He has shaped and implemented a "strategy of organization' to effectively manage multiple businesses whilst retaining focus on each one of them, in the process deriving unique sources of competitive advantage from ITC's diversity.

The Art of Empowering the Team

A noted industry leader, Deveshwar was popular among his peers for his art of keeping his employees satisfied. In an interview with CNBC, ITC's Managing Director Sanjay Puri had lauded Deveshwar for enabling and empowering the team while giving each one of them the right inputs for their success.

His ambition of taking ITC's non-cigarette business to INR 100,000 crore has provided a driving force to the company's employees. Deveshwar has also championed the cause for Sustainability world-wide bringing into focus the need to innovate corporate strategies that not only enhance shareholder value but add significantly to the development of natural and social capital.

Contributions to the Economy

Deveshwar has played an influential role in the transformation of India's retail and FMCG ecosystem. Articulating a Vision to put Country before Corporation and serve larger national priorities, he has led ITC's strategic thrust to create multiple drivers of growth that would make a significant and growing contribution to the Indian economy.

The Company's businesses generate livelihoods for around 6 million people, many of whom represent the poorest in Rural India. The pioneering farmer empowerment initiative, ITC e-Choupal, is today the world's largest rural digital infrastructure and is a case study at the Harvard Business School, besides receiving several global awards.

Many Roles He Played

Having spent his entire career at ITC, Deveshwar has 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. Former President of CII, he has been a Member of the Board of Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

He was also a Member of the Governing Council of the Central Manufacturing Technology Institute, Ministry of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises, Government of India and an Independent Director on the Board of Air India Limited. He was serving on the National Executive Committees of some of India's premier trade and industry bodies.

Aastha Singal

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Features Writer

A business journalist looking to find happiness in the world of startups, investments, MSMEs and more. Officially started her career as a news reporter for News World India, Aastha had short stints with NDTV and NewsX. A true optimist seeking to make a difference, she is a comic junkie who'd rather watch a typical Bollywood masala than a Hollywood blockbuster. 

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