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Yogesh Chander Deveshwar – The man who transformed ITC into a multi-business conglomerate.

Yogesh Chander Deveshwar – The man who transformed ITC into a multi-business conglomerate.

By-Anant Kumar

Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, ITC’s longest-serving CEO, was not just a great businessman, a visionary and mentor for millions of people, who worked tirelessly to build not just business but an inspiring intuition Called ITC. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 72 on May 13, 2019. Today, we will know how his career was. So, without further due, let’s get started.

Introduction.

Yogesh Chander Deveshwar was an exceptional example of an employee joining straight out of college and moving through the rank to become the youngest chairman of Frontline conglomerate in India. So much so, the name YC Deveshwar had become a synonym of ITC Ltd had till he died in 2019. He is the longest-serving one for 23 years. Deveshwar, as he was popularly known in corporate circles, became the board member of ITC Ltd in 1984 in just sixteen years after he joined the company graduating from IIT, Delhi.

Early Life and Education.

Yogesh Chander Deveshwar was born on Feb 4, 1947, in Lahore, British India. After the born, his family moved to Ambala, that’s where he started his schooling. His father had a transferable job, so Deveshwar didn’t stick with a single school. In one interview, Deveshwar mentioned that he must have shifted 5 or 6 schools in different cities.

When he shifted Delhi to Ambala and had an 8th exam board just three months away. The biggest challenge was to write the exam board in Panjabi. His exam strategy helped him to get success in the board exams. He started writing the Panjabi alphabet on a supplementary sheet and began to construct words and sentences to manage to get through. It was his first great accomplishment. Deveshwar was the all-rounder in the schools, where he played many sports in his school.

YC was a very bright and talented student in the school. In order to keep the reputation, the same, sometimes he had to study overnight. Once he was told by his parents – if he studies overnight under artificial light, his eyes wouldn’t work well.

Yogesh Chander Deveshwar was influenced by his two cousin brothers, who were in IIT, Kharagpur. After completing schooling, he went to IIT, Delhi to receive a Batchelor degree in mechanical engineering in 1968. Although, his father wanted him to prepare for the Civil service exam. Later, he attended 6 weeks advanced management program at Harvard Business school.

Careers.

After receiving a Batchelor degree from IIT, in the same year, Deveshwar joined ITC Ltd. Having been something of a wunderkind. Deveshwar was spotted initially by ITC’s legendary chairman AN Haksar and became a board member at 36. In 1984, he was appointed as a CEO and chairman in 1996.

By being the Board member of ITC, he started transforming the Kolkata-based company from being mostly a cigarette maker to a conglomerate with interest in sectors like fast-moving consumer goods, hospitality, paper, and agri-business. If you look at the March 2018 ITC’s gross value, it expanded to 67,081 crores. ITC group recorded a net profit of Rs 11,223 crore. In FY19, this number had increased 11.7%.

ITC was in non-tobacco businesses even before Deveshwar came to position, given the disfavor with which cigarettes are viewed by the political establishment, health activists, and the general public.

But the strong impetus that this part of the business got under him, Deveshar has made ITC synonymous also with luxury hospitality, agri-business, paper and paperboards, branded apparel and lifestyle retail, packaged foods, Agarbattis, and personal care. It is now a multi different product, hugely diverse conglomerate, and tobacco is just a part of it.

He was one of the first CEOs to tap India’s vast countryside, by way of his unique e-Choupal Initiative – connecting directly with farmers through the internet for procurement of products – and by entering the FMCG space in remote areas. It has been difficult and got mixed up the results, although the company takes a long-term view on this.

In fact, dealing with difficult situations has been part of his mental makeup, for example, when he went on a break from ITC to operate Air India in 1991-94 then and his return to ITC, when he got back from ITC when he was appointed as VC before taking the top job two years later. These were very rough times at the company with the largest shareholders, British American Tobacco, at loggerheads with the management led by his predecessor KL Chung. The company had to deal with the allegation that it violated the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act.

With ailing health and handover to the younger executives who he can prepare and mentor to take full responsibility of the complex multi-faceted company, he retired from the role of CEO at ITC in Feb 2017 and was assigned by the board as non-executive chairman till 2020.

Although YC Deveshwar shifted to New Delhi for over a year for his medical treatment, he was keeping eyes closely on ITC, and its senior management would conduct meeting at Delhi. The last few board meetings of ITC were held in Delhi as well.

While the company has retained its lead in the tobacco business accounting for two out of three legal cigarettes in non-tobacco segments. It has created over 50 famous brands, such as Asshirvaad and SunFest to Classmate and Bingo! In FY18, the gross profit of the business was Rs 164 Cr.

Building a successful Indian brand has been the company’s biggest accomplishment in an FMCG market and is dominated by multinationals. He expected to grow ITC’s non-cigarette FMCG business revenue to Rs 1 lakh crore by 2030, in the process becoming the leading FMCG firm in the country. However, the company motioned, we are on the way to meet Deveshwar’s vision despite external hiccups like the implementation of GST and weak monsoon.

Under the Deveshwar devolvement, ITC has got great recognition worldwide for its pioneering work in creating sustainable communities as part of efforts to develop the remote areas of India. Some of its accomplishments have been featured as case studies at Harvard Business School. Harvard had ranked YC Deveshwar the 7th best-performing CEO in the world in 2012, alongside icons like Apple’s Steve Jobs. In 2011, he received the Padma Bhushan Award from the President of India.

Under him, ITC’s is on sustainable growth. It has been carbon positive, water positive, and solid waste recycling positive for over decades years. All its luxury hotels are LEED Platinum certified. Renewable energy constitutes about 48% of ITC’s total energy consumption. It has created 6million Jobs in the country.

YC Deveshwar has ensured ITC is on a firm footing as a truly global Indian conglomerate with a focus on social development. Such efforts, he believes, will enhance the overall economy of the country.

Other contribution.

  • From 1991 to 1994, Deveshwar was appointed as chairperson of Air India by the aviation minister Madhavrao Scindia. During his tenure, Air India recorded a Rs 1-cr profit a day.
  • From 2012 to 2016, He was selected as a director on the RBIs central board. At the same time, he was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian School of Business.

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