Sunday, May 12, 2019

Y C Deveshwar, who steered ITC away from tobacco, dies

Kolkata: Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, the man credited with transforming tobacco major ITC into one of India’s most diversified companies, passed away on Saturday morning at a private hospital in Gurgaon after a protracted fight with cancer.
YCD or Yogi, as he was popularly known, oversaw the company’s push into sectors as diverse as food (ranging from biscuits to pasteurised milk), stationery (from pencils and compasses to notebooks) and personal care products (from body wash to deodorants) during a 21-year tenure as ITC’s executive chairman. He was also one of the longest serving professional head of a leading company.

One simple statistic summed up his contribution to making the Kolkata-headquartered firm fit for the next, more healthy generation of consumers: over 75% of the firm’s revenue came from tobacco in 1996, when he took over; by the time he stepped down from the executive chairman’s perch in 2017, tobacco contributed only 41% of the firm’s revenue.

Only a little less significant was the change in the company’s nomenclature — from “Imperial Tobacco Company” to only “ITC” — which, too, occurred during this tenure.

Another major success that Deveshwar notched up was with Air India when he was its chairman-cum-managing director between 1991 and 1994, a period remembered for a turnaround in the national carrier’s fortunes. He went to Air India from ITC and came back again to ITC.

The IIT-Delhi and Harvard Business School alumnus was 72 and is survived by his wife, Bharti, son, daughter and grandchildren. Friends recalled a man with “a robust outlook to life”, which was undiminished even when he was fighting cancer and travelling between Kolkata, Delhi and the US for treatment.

He even attended ITC’s last annual general meeting in Kolkata on July 27, 2018; the only concession he took — and was readily granted — was a request to remain seated as he read out the (non-executive) chairman’s speech and answered share-holders’ queries.
12/05/19 Times of India

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