ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar passes away at 72

PTI file photo

Noted business leader and ITC Limited Chairman Y C Deveshwar, who through his corporate philosophy of 'Lets Put India First', transformed the cigarette major into a diversified player in FMCG,  IT, hospitality and agri-business, passed away on Saturday.

He was 72.

He is survived by wife Bharti, son Gaurav and daughter Garima. At the time of death, he was India's longest-serving CEO.

Deveshwar died in a private hospital in Gurugram near New Delhi. The cause of death was not specified, however, a few years ago, he had been diagnosed with cancer. 

In a statement, ITC Ltd managing director Sanjiv Puri said Deveshwar led ITC's strategic thrust to create an exemplary Indian enterprise dedicated to serving national priorities.

"Deveshwar passionately championed the cause for sustainable and inclusive growth and the transformative role businesses could play in creating larger societal value. This vision drove ITC to pursue business models that today support over six million livelihoods, many among the weakest in society," he said.

Deveshwar transformed ITC into a valuable and admired multi-business conglomerate with a robust portfolio of front-ranking businesses in FMCG, hotels, paper boards and paper, packaging and agri-business.

His vision of making societal value creation a bedrock of corporate strategy made ITC a global exemplar in sustainability, and the only company in the world to be carbon-positive, water-positive and solid waste-positive for over a decade.

During his tenure as executive chairman, ITC's revenues grew ten-fold from Rs 51,582 crore and profit before tax, 33 times to Rs 14,958 crore, and returns of shareholders grew at a compounded annual rate of 23.3%. 

Leaders offer tribute

"Deveshwar was a stalwart of Indian business and a builder of many brands," president Ram Nath Kovind said, in his tribute.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Deveshwar's efforts helped ITC become a professionally-run Indian company with a global footprint.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said: "Yogi excelled as a corporate professional and an entrepreneur, and took his company to great heights."

"Deveshwar was a stalwart of Indian business and a builder of many brands," president Ram Nath Kovind said, in his tribute.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Deveshwar's efforts helped ITC become a professionally-run Indian company with a global footprint.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said: "Yogi excelled as a corporate professional and an entrepreneur, and took his company to great heights."

West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that he was a giant of the corporate world and a distinguished captain of industry.

"His unmatched efforts in building a world-class brand like ITC are worth emulating for industrialists of ages and generations to come," Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu said.

CII said that his death was a big loss to Indian industry. "He was a titan and guiding luminary of Indian industry," said CII chairman Vikram Kirloskar, adding that he was a warm and generous leader who always found time to engage with all.

ASSOCHAM president B K Goenka said Deveshwar was a tall leader who immensely contributed to the Indian industry and society.

Towering Yogi of Indian business

Fondly called Yogi or YCD by friends and admirers, Y C Deveshwar has always been dignified and led from the front.

The story of Deveshwar is the story of ITC Ltd, a century-old company,  that he transformed from being a cigarette maker to FMCG giant, hotel, hospitality, agri-business, paper, printing and packaging company.

Born as Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, on 4 February, 1947 in Lahore, he was conferred the coveted Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian honour, in 2011.

Two years later, the corporate czar was listed as the best performing CEO in India by the Harvard Business Review - and the seventh in the world. He was also recognised by Boston Consulting Group.

A alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Harward Business School, he joined the ITC in 1968. In 1984, he rose to become a director and took over as chief executive and chairman in January,  1996. In 2017, he stepped down as chief executive and started serving as non-executive chairman.

Whether it is the iconic Wills, Gold Flake, Ship safety matches, Mangaldeep agarbatti, Wills Lifestyle, Sundrop, Sunfeast, Bingo, Fiama Di Wills, Welcome Hotel or Ashirvaad, Yogi created and took pride in Indian brands.

The Kolkata-based Yogi often spoke of ITC being the Indian Trademarks Corporation.

ITC started as Imperial Tobacco Company of India Limited in 1910. He looked beyond tobacco and transformed it into a corporate giant, with 30,000 people working in 60 locations and having a market capital of over US $50 billion.

Between 1991-94, he led Air India as its chairman and managing director. He served as director in the central board of the Reserve Bank of India, as a member of National Foundation for Corporate Governance and a member of the National Council of Applied Economic Research. He was also a member of UK-India CEO Forum and US-India CEO Forum.

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