India Inc. Remembers YC Deveshwar
Yogesh Chander Deveshwar, non-executive chairman of consumer goods maker ITC Ltd., died on Saturday aged 72. Deveshwar, the longest-serving chief executive officer of an Indian company, headed the tobacco-to-hospitality conglomerate for more than two decades. He was instrumental in expanding ITC’s business beyond tobacco, and warding off a takeover threat by British American Tobacco.
Here’s how India Inc and political leaders remember Deveshwar...
“A friend, a titan of corporate India and doyen of Virginia House passes away leaving big shoes to fill.”Harsh Goenka, Chairman, RPG Enterprises
“It’s a great loss. He was the architect of the entire transformation of ITC. His (YC Deveshwar’s) contribution to ITC has been immense. Everybody is going to miss him. He was a role model for a lot of CEOs.Saugata Gupta, MD & CEO, Marico
“YC Deveshwar was an absolute icon. He was one of the people we looked up to. He turned ITC from a cigarette company to an FMCG company. He will be greatly missed by the industry.”Sunil Duggal, CEO, Dabur India
“He (YC Devershwar) has made ITC a multi-brand company and had a great vision for the organisation. He set a target of Rs 1 lakh crore turnover for the FMCG business.”R S Sodhi, MD, Amul
“It’s a sad day for corporate India as an outstanding professional passes on.”Suresh Narayanan, MD, Nestle India
The Many Battles Won From The Hot Seat
Gita Piramal, Business Historian
Yogesh Chander Deveshwar never gave ground. Whatever the challenges. Perhaps the toughest was being hauled up by the Enforcement Directorate for FERA violations by ITC. The infractions took place during the chairmanship of Krishan Lal Chugh but ITC was raided in the early days of Deveshwar’s leadership. Deveshwar was led into an interrogation cell in Kolkata on November 13, 1996 – and led out a mere two hours later, while Chugh was grilled for over eleven hours. Here, let me clarify, that a large part of the mess was generated in the effort to prevent British American Tobacco, the parent company and ITC’s single largest shareholder, from taking control of the Indian company.
The FERA episode showed Deveshwar’s ability to manage a situation and protect ITC.
Deveshwar used all his skills to fight the messy battle with BAT, rebuild ITC’s reputation among the media and the investor community, get out of the financial services business, and refocus management’s attention to actually running ITC. Promising businesses like hotels, and paper and paperboards had begun to suffer badly from lack of attention.
The problem partly lay in the way the group’s top management was structured. The board was directly responsible for executive decisions. For instance, there was a director in charge of tobacco, one in charge of finance, another in charge of financial services, one for paper and printing, and one for IBD. This led to serious turf battles.
Since tobacco was the main earner, the director in charge obviously wielded fair clout. As it happened, he was also close to BAT.
ITC was Deveshwar’s first and last employer. As he moved up the ranks, Deveshwar developed as a creator of multiple legacies. As a strategist and suave negotiator, he knew how to pack a punch, and that is visible for all to see today.