ITC Chairman Y C Deveshwar passes away

YCD was awarded Padma Bushan by the Indian Government in 2011. Photo: PTI

Noted industry leader and ITC Chairman YC Deveshwar passed away on Saturday (May 11) after a brief illness. He transformed the cigarette major into a diversified player with interests in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), hospitality, IT and other sectors.

Deveshwar, 72, who stepped down from executive role as chairman and CEO in 2017 but remained non-executive chairman, breathed his last at a private hospital in Gurugram.

“We deeply mourn the passing of Y C Deveshwar, Chairman ITC,” said ITC managing director Sanjiv Puri in a statement.

“Deveshwar 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 6 million livelihoods, many amongst the weakest in society,” Puri added.

He leaves behind his wife and two children — a son and a daughter. Deveshwar joined ITC in 1968 and was appointed director on the company’s board on April 11, 1984. He rose to become its chief executive and chairman on January 1, 1996.

One of the longest serving top executives of a corporate entity in India, he was responsible for transforming ITC from mainly a cigarettes maker into a diversified entity with interests in FMCG, hospitality, paper, agricultural business and information technology, among others.

When Deveshwar took charge at the helm of the company in the mid-1990’s, ITC was confronted with formidable challenges, with diversification efforts either failing or languishing. The company’s revenue was less than ₹5,200 crore and Profit Before Tax (PBT) stood at ₹452 crore.

In 2017-18, the company posted revenues of ₹44,329.77 crore and net profit of ₹11,223.25 crore.

An alumnus of IIT Delhi and Harvard Business School, Deveshwar had also led Air India as chairman and managing director between 1991 and 1994. A recipient of Padma Bhushan — one of the highest civilian awards in the country — in 2011, Deveshwar also played his part in nation building, taking up various roles in several institutions.

He served as a director on the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India, as a member of the National Foundation for Corporate Governance and member of the governing body of the National Council of Applied Economic Research.

“Inspired by a patriotic fervour, manifest in his clarion call of “Lets Put India First, he led ITC’s strategic thrust to create an exemplary Indian enterprise dedicated to serving national priorities,” Puri said.

Deveshwar was also a member of the Board of Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and a member of the National Food Processing Development Council, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India.

Well respected by his peers in the industry, YCD, as he was popularly known in corporate circles, was also a former president of CII, besides being on the National Executive Committees of some of India’s premier trade and industry bodies. He also served as a member of the UK-India CEO Forum and US-India CEO Forum instituted by the respective governments.